Shade: Wrath of Angels

Snap30It’s easy to get one’s hopes up when first hearing about Shade: Wraith of Angels. If anything, because you don’t get all that many competent Resident Evil-style survival horrors these days, especially ones with added swordplay. Shade starts off with your character convulsing in his bed as he is suffering through a dreadful nightmare which turns out to be the game’s tutorial. You’re predictably thrown into this dream world, and must listen to a poorly-read script spelling out how to jump, crouch, run and use items as if you’ve never touched a computer game before.

The game fares little better once the story goes into first gear and you begin the actual first level. Apparently your brother has made a breakthrough at an archeological dig in Eastern Europe, and has sent for you to share his discovery. Having been several years since you last spoke with your brother you hop aboard a train and arrive in your city of destination. You arrive at an abandoned town, however, and the sinister silence only makes you suspect that something has gone wrong. But rather than capitalizing on the Silent Hill concept of slowly exploring the town and finding things out at your own pace, Shade shoehorns you through painfully linear levels with zero wiggle room.

There is both melee and ranged “real time” combat and it took me a few trial and error battles to get it down right. You do receive a magical sword that is good for hacking up monsters and will show you new moves as you get better with it. But the cleverest note on the sword is that when equipped, you can drive it into the ground when certain areas are found and it will heal you. But the camera angle is certainly not your friend. With the third-person camera, the view jitters do occur and that led to some frustration. There’s an optional first-person view as well, but neither angle really make for comfortable navigation. Perhaps the worst part of the ranged combat is that there is no proper aiming system.

Snap26Along with the combat there is a fairly comprehensive Prince of Persia-style reliance on navigation puzzles. The game will have you hanging from ledges, sliding down ropes and climbing ladders quite a lot. But unlike Prince of Persia’s silky smooth navigation and excellent swordplay, Shade is just clunky and boring. Even the added ability of shapeshifting into a demon can’t save the game. It’s a special timed power that gets unlocked later on, although it has more of a box-pushing, puzzle-solving element to it to begin with.

And if this laundry list of bad design wasn’t enough to help you make up your mind regarding Shade, then its checkpoint-based save system definitely will. Since it’s a console port, it will only let you save in certain sections. Again, if the game were entertaining and exciting, this wouldn’t be a horrible limitation, but with the entirety of its faults combined makes it the final nail in the coffin. Don’t bother with this game.

System Requirements: Pentium III 1 GHz, 128 MB RAM, WinXP

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