Top Critic Average
The Shrouded Isle is the perfect game for anyone who wants to praise the almighty Chernobog and also get a taste of the management side of running a cult. Sure, sometimes the randomly generated odds are stacked against you and the game becomes significantly trickier to beat, but that’s just how life is.
The Shrouded Isle is a cult-simulator game that deserves your attention due to its interesting virtue and vice system, and its fascinating story. However, be wary that if you’re not into death and gloom, this may not be the game for you.
You’ll be hard-pressed to find anything like The Shrouded Isle. It’s not meant to question your faith, but be satirical. You can see the three years pass by in about forty-five minutes to an hour if you’re deeply thinking about things, or thirty minutes if you’re hasty. All in all, each successive replay is different that you’ll need to think how you Inquiry, Appoint, Sacrifice, Repeat. I do wish there was more event variety and more to do, but all-in-all, is a carefully devious game where you truly are the monster.
“The Shrouded Isle” keeps its grit through replay-ability, due to its random regeneration of NPC sinners, requests from the mighty Chernobog, and random events threatening the cult from the inside-out.
The Shrouded Isle did not feel like a game for beginners to the genre. The premise, the world-building, and sound all made the game into a wonderful sensory experience. But for some time, it also felt like a beast to wrestle with, and an experience that felt more Sisyphean than Lovecraftian. Perhaps that’s just on me to “git gud” in managing my damn cult.
It captured me for a while though, as I tried to go through many runs to learn the ins and outs of these villagers as I planned out my sacrifices strategically to keep them all in the dark of the true machinations of my charlatan cult leader's goals. That is, if the cult leader is lying. I mean, the Chernabog isn't real, right? Right?.
As a combination of both political strategy and Lovecraftian drama, The Shrouded Isle takes this idea and provides a comfortably tense experience whereby every choice should matter but with enough leeway that inexperienced players can still make mistakes. Fans of classic horror literature may be drawn to this game through its distortedly gothic art style and otherworldly premise, but the large difficulty curve may be too complicated for them, even if the repetitive gameplay structure can feel rewarding once you get the hang of it.
All being said, The Shrouded Isle is so razor-focused on its darkly original theme that it comes across as quite brave. This isn’t a necessarily uplifting or relaxing game. Nor is it particularly rewarding. It is, however, genuinely clever with how it works within an established genre, and it’s uncompromising in its vision. We need more games that are willing to do that.
I fully recommend The Shrouded Isle for anyone wanting an unconventional, horror-led take on the sim management genre. It really does go to some messed up places if your imagination is willing to back up the writing. The caveat here is that it's hard to recommend this Switch version if you're planning on playing it on the go. It's just about worth persevering with if that is your choice, but it's an unfortunate oversight nonetheless.
Whether or not you feel The Shrouded Isle is worth your time mostly depends on two considerations: the first is how much mileage you’ll be able to get out of viewing the same ten or twelve screens and playing the same style of simulation, the second being how much of your time you feel like taking notes on your video game. The game itself does very little to keep individual family member information transparent, and once you’ve learned the ins and outs of each of its relatively few mechanics, the rest of the game is attempting – and failing – to make things work out for as long as you can, with the eventual hope that you’ll get a winning combo. There are important choices to make, but the game lacks depth in characterization and variety too much for me to recommend it.