Peace Has Come To the Federation. You know the kind of thing: trade agreements, free passage throughout all the known systems, a notable lack of huge fleets of starships blowing each other to bits, and absolutely no signs of any ex-farmers zooming around the place with overgrown laser scalpels screaming "You're not my father!" at every asthmatic in a black cloak they come across. In other words, the sun is shining in happy bunny land. Pretty boring, this peace stuff.
However, there is a small group of people with a more American view: while this peace thing is all well and good, it might not last forever, and although everyone's signed lots of treaties banning weapons research, a little bit wouldn't do anyone any harm. In another life they were most likely to be insurance salesmen. American insurance salesmen.
Photoscap is a system first seen in Shadowlands. the precursor to Shadoworlds. and is used to deal with the lighting in the game. The majority of the base is in darkness: Each of the meres wears a hostile environment suit (space suit), rwith lights set into the helmet (a la Alien), and flares can be found once inside the building. Photoscape deals admirably with using these light sources. The helmet lights are particularly effective - you can direct individuals to look around, and the cone of light moves around, up and down corridors, scanning across walls - it's all very atmospheric.
he guns in the game come in two types: pistols and rifles. The pistols are self-contained. The rifles work slightly differently. They come in two parts, a stock and a barrel. The stock contains the power source and defines the type of shot fired (eg. laser, flame or bullets.) The barrel defines the power of the weapon (eg. cannon, auto or shot.) By combining the different stocks and barrels different weapons can be made, with varying ranges, power and rates of fire. It's a neat idea.
The control (?) system
hadoworids is a real-time game. I'm not averse to real-time games, but they've got to have a control system that's simple, clear and quick to use. Shadoworlds' isn't. To control a character you click on their face at the bottom of the screen, then on a part of the figure in the centre. Where you click defines what the character does - to open a normal door you click on the character you wish to use. then on the left arm of the figure, then on the panel that opens the door. While this seems fine as an idea, in practice it doesn't work. It's hard to see which mere you're controlling, it's easy to get confused as to which limb does what, and it's very slow to use. It also means that you can't for example.move and fire at the same time, and that controlling more than one character in a fight is virtually impossible. The problem is compounded by the complete lack of computer intelligence. Your supposedly highly trained meres are mind-numbingly stupid, and will quite happily shoot each other, walk into obvious holes in the ground and stand in the line of enemy fire without doing a thing. There's no way to control the team as a group except for movement. You can't, say set someone on 'guard', so that he'll automatically fire at any enemy that comes in range. And things often happen so fast that you have no time to react, given the form of the control system. Basically it's frustrating, awkward and hard to use.
Unfortunately there seems to be a teensy little problem. Nothing really. It's just that the top secret and completely illegal weapons research facility has missed a few of its daily transmissions. Well, all of them for the last couple of months. A casual phone call to the Federation. "Oh er excuse me. but we seem to have lost contact with our top secret and completely illegal weapons research facility. We were wondering if you could send a ship to investigate, just before you come around and arrest us for breaking about 500 arms treaties. Thanks ever so much" is out of the question. So that only leaves the old standby: hire four of the meanest, hardest, toughest mercenaries around and send them to take a covert look.
Of course, don't tell them that the place is completely impregnable, and nothing at all could possibly have disturbed the place. Nothing that anybody knows about anyway. It'd only make them worry, after all.
Enter, stage left
So there you have it. the story behind Shadoworlds. Predictably enough you are in charge of the four meres and their attempt to find out exactly what has happened to the base. The instructions describe it as a "science fiction role playing action strategy game". In reality it's a little bit of each. Just not always the best little bits. But there are a couple of things that stand out - see the panels on the left.
Walk across the stage with a purposeful air
The format of the game is very much along the lines of'kill the baddie. solve the puzzle, find the key open the next door, repeat'. Along the way you find various pieces of equipment and weaponry to distribute amongst the team. and. according to the inventory screen, get better at killing things, not that this seems to have any noticeable effect. There are also various appliances, such as weapon rechargers, food dispensers and a rather handy 'resurrection device' that brings back a team member from the dead by using the dna pod that's left behind when someone suffers from a bout of severe kinetic energy poisoning. It's nothing new really, but it's not that bad.
Exit, stage right
Shadoworlds is yet another game that's a sad case of missed opportunity. Graphically it's adequate, with the odd nice animation. The sound is less impressive: a few spot effects that are okay but nothing special. But where it's really a let-down is in the playability stakes. The concept is fine, there are some really neat ideas, and in places it's very atmospheric. But it's all spoilt by an impractical control system and an apparent lack of thought by the game designers. This is the first pc game I'd recommend playing on a slow machine, just so you have a couple more seconds to realise what's happening. That way at least you'll know what killed you before you could do anything. Thumbs down.
- PC compatible
- Operating systems: Windows 10/Windows 8/Windows 7/2000/Vista/WinXP