Monday, October 31, 2016

Microreview [video game]: Shadow Warrior 2 by Flying Wild Hog

You've (Almost) Got The Touch

Shadow Warrior (2013) was an enormously successful remake of the original Shadow Warrior, in that it retained the fast action, gave it a modern look and feel, and ditched most of the obnoxious racism. It was a lot of fun, even if the enemies could absorb an amazing amount of ammunition before they died violently. The memories I had of Shadow Warrior made Shadow Warrior 2 a must-buy for me, and I love the game, but I'm not certain it's all that great.

After the events of Shadow Warrior, demons now live in the real world. Lo Wang no longer works for Orochi Zilla, but he's got some new friends and he's sent to rescue the daughter of a Yakuza boss. After he finds that Zilla is experimenting on her, her soul is transferred into Wang's head, and they're off on a mission to get her out. 

Shadow Warrior 2 is still a FPS with great graphics and fast paced action. However, it ditches the linear progression of Shadow Warrior for a quest system, loot, and a structure closer to Diablo. There are story quests and side quests, with some story quests closing off unfinished side quests until your next playthrough. The loot system generates a steady flow of enhancements you can apply to your weapons. Some will modify the simple stats on the weapon, others will apply elemental damage, and some will even change the function such as allowing you to drop it as a turret or dual wield. Appropriately, enemies come in multiple variations on a form, increasing in toughness and having different weaknesses and resistances. Most non-standard enemies and bosses will be weak to only one type of damage, so you have to switch up to a weapon that deals damage of that elemental type. Most weapons will let you freely change its elemental damage. I spent most of the game with a melee and ranged weapon of each of the four damage types. On top of all of this, the game still has an experience point based progression, unlocking some chi powers through quests and some through purchasing them from shops. On normal difficulty, I rarely used chi powers except for the self heal. 

Despite the extensive customization options, I found myself relying on a relatively small number of old faithfuls. I'd find a weapon I liked and use it for just about everything. Even with the changes in resistance and weakness, few of them seemed insurmountable even if they're being resisted given enough hits. I dumped a ton of my early experience points into self healing because I was dying a lot. Often, enemies dropped health when they died, but it wasn't so frequent that I felt like I could rely on it. I could've put more points into an ability that increased that health drop chance, but I felt it was more effective to build up my self healing skill. The problem with that was that I spent a lot of the game hacking and slashing with the same weapons until I was low on health, then I run away and self heal, then I jump back in and keep whacking away with the same weapons. Despite the enemy variety and options, I fell back on the same tactics over and over because it was the most efficient way to play for me. 

There are other, less structural weaknesses in the game. The story is incomprehensible nonsense. This is no change from Shadow Warrior, as I learned when I had to remind myself with Wikipedia who all of these characters were and what happened in that game. Shadow Warrior 2 also doesn't set up its world very well. You're dropped face first into it, and I had to look up the Shadow Warrior 2 official website to find out what the hell was going on. Other annoyances included some misspelled words in load screens and subtitles, and instances of some quirky animation. Anything with Ameonna had an awful lot of polygon clipping, and Kyokagami twins often looked unnaturally posed.

This is the rough part of an enthusiast's life. I had a lot of fun with Shadow Warrior 2, but I don't know if I can call it a great video game. Shadow Warrior 2 succeeds at being worth playing despite an awful lot of problems. Some of them are easier to fix than others, but recommending Shadow Warrior 2 requires a number of qualifications. Come for the fun, but don't think too hard about any of it.

The Math

Baseline Assessment: 6/10

Bonuses: +1 fast, beautiful action, +1 tons of unique weapons, +1 some of the best video game dismemberment, +1 great at making you feel like a bad ass ninja

Penalties: -1 lots of minor annoyances, -2 gameplay loop doesn't really promote variety of action

Nerd Coefficient: 7/10 (an enjoyable experience, but not without its flaws)


POSTED BY: brian, sci-fi/fantasy/video game dork and contributor since 2014

Reference: Flying Wild Hog. Shadow Warrior 2 [Devolver Digital, 2016]