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And so, our story begins...

X-13 Reviews - Path of Shadows

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by , 6th November 2013 at 01:25 PM (9841 Views)
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Path of shadows is a game made by 5 students at IDEC - Universitat Pompeu Fabra.

It is a short stealth based demo released for free on PC [download link on their site.]


Character design

The game is set in a nondescript, unnamed, seemingly ancient Japanese town, which has been presented in cell shaded visuals. It looks beautiful and goes to show that hyper realism isn't the only option. The game is split into 3 sections; the graveyard, the tutorial and the infiltration.

The only downside is that, while it does look good, it's dark. It makes sense for the game play, but I would love to see these settings during the day.

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The character you play as is completely covered in a dark blue ninja suit which changes to black in the shadows, so you know if you can be seen or not. And the markings glow, even in shadows, when your powers are charged... which sort of breaks immersion. Useful for the player, but not for the character.

How do you do a thing?

Standard WASD movement with the mouse being used for camera control and aiming powers. Space to teleport, shift to run, right mouse to aim, left mouse [in conjunction with the right] the create shadows, click to take out guards.

Not hard to get to grips with and pretty intuitive. If you couldn't guess something, there are stylised tutorials to show you what to do.

Sometimes the powers won't go where you want them and the camera angle makes it so you can't see round corners, but in a game like this there are ways to compensate for dodgy controls.

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The tutorials... oh, God the tutorials. After playing games like Skyward Sword, which even on Hero Mode STILL holds your hand, the ones in this are a breath of fresh air. The tutorials can be ignored completely as they are presented as white textures on buildings or the floor, plus getting stuck [and not even seeing the tutorial in the first place] gets you used to paying attention to surroundings, which is useful for a stealth game.

While I was playing this I completely missed a tutorial, and the game didn't feel the need to beat me over the head for it or even block my progress until I read, acknowledged and successfully completed it multiple times.

Don't try to remember anything...

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A few seconds into the game, a mysterious deity gives these words of advice to the player. And considering the way most modern games present your options, they couldn't ring more truly.

While most games allow you to run in, guns blazing, that will only force you to start over again from your last checkpoint here. Getting caught and overcoming guards just isn't an option. And for that I'm thankful. It pays to take your time and think things over before moving.

The game introduces the teleporting powers, which only have a limited range [so no teleporting all the way to the end] and the game play introduction is under way.

There's not much to say about the game play, it's what you would expect from a stealth game. A single button press makes the character shake the bells on their arm to attract guards, which is useful for getting stationary NPCs to move. It also introduces the fact that you can't create shadows with your power near lights.

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True to video game trope, you get presented with an order to go and do something [I'll leave it to you to find out what] and you don't really get a reason for it. Nor do you get an option to refuse.

Right at the start to the main part of the demo you're given the power to summon a crow to show you the way. The crow... well, it looks rough. Compared to the rest of the visuals, it looks unfinished. It also seems to hate you... or maybe it's just me. When summoned it will fly off in the direction you should be going, but the path finding itself should really be done by the player. At this point in the game, just as you get the ability, it seems to always attempt to lead you into a trap.

Making your way through the level, skulking in the shadows is fun. As is figuring out how to get past seemingly unavoidable guards.

Some sections require patience and planning, while others were easy to figure out and get through quickly.

Final opinion

Despite the sometimes dodgy controls this is a good game. There's talk of the possibility of a kickstarter campaign to get this completed, so I would suggest downloading the demo and checking it out.

Even though it's short, around 30 minutes depending on how good you are, the way it's presented allows you to replay it to try out new methods.

This is definitely something to keep your eye on.

Updated 6th November 2013 at 02:03 PM by X-13 (Grammar corrections courtesy of @Witch.)

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