Another game that came and went from the mobile scene without drawing too much attention, Shadow Quest has been de-listed from both the Play and Apple stores and even appears to have had its official website removed some time ago. The game had a shaky start that saw the initial release plagued with login errors that prevented players from progressing properly, and saw a re-release in multiple countries with Magicindie Softworks getting support from Nova Games.
This isn’t to say that the game was poorly produced or badly made. Rather it serves to show that even indie developers who have strived to create the most polished of products can fall into the same traps in terms of server issues and bugs. ‘Pokemon GO’ was plagued by these at launch and it didn’t deter its vocal fan-base, and with the issue fixed it certainly didn’t prevent the game from pushing forward and making a small mark on the mobile scene before its discontinuation.
Graphically, Shadow Quest uses some beautiful art assets that are painted in a western fantasy style and semi-animated in 2D. This gives the game an extremely high-quality feel and allows many of the monsters you encounter to show a great deal of personality. The studio’s past with interactive adventure games and hidden object style titles shines through in this regard. Characters in your party appear only as static artwork on cards that you collect throughout the experience, and these range from imaginative to more traditional western fantasy staples. The whole product has a very Tolkien inspired fantasy edge, with the world taken seriously in its tone. Screens feature large, friendly buttons to tap, easy and intuitive cards to swipe between positions and clear text, making the UI extremely approachable.
Loading screens (which can be frequent) are greatly eased by the presence of an excellent soundtrack that shares a lot in common with the ‘Chronicles of Narnia’ film score, conjuring up a sense of magical wonder and adventure with a slightly dark twist. A variety of instruments are used here, making the whole soundtrack feel distinctly high-quality. Dungeons use sound effects and ambient noise on short loops to give a sense of place, though these loop too quickly and sometimes have an audible click when they do. Individual effects are brilliantly recorded and carry with them a real-word feel with a heightened sense of drama and weight. The games battle theme is particularly strong, driving sometimes over-long combat sequences with drama and pace.
There’s not a great deal of story to be had in Shadow Quest, and this may be because of its rather large roster of characters that makes plotting a convincing narrative overly complicated. In truth there’s little past the opening cinematic and tutorial dungeon, though flavour text is provided on most missions. Needless to say, this is not a game aiming for an epic plot, nor is it one you should hunt down if your enjoyment of a game hinges on a gripping narrative.
The game refers to itself as having ‘Mine Sweeper’ style gameplay mixed with a deep turn-based combat system, and this feels like the best way to describe its core concept. Each dungeon is a single screen of blank tiles which you as the player tap one at a time to uncover new ground, a chest, traps or monster encounters. Finding the boss and engaging it successfully immediately ends the dungeon but you can choose to stick around to search for bonus rewards should you care to. Monsters block their surrounding tiles from being explored, forcing you into multiple battles as you progress. There’s an energy system in place that dictates how many expeditions you can take on in a single session, and successful completion of a dungeon yields rewards which can be boosted by watching advertisements. It’s all deceptively simple, with new areas unlocking a batch of dungeons creatively ‘chained’ to a key event dungeon that when cleared adds a new character to your arsenal. Loot can be crafted and items are plentiful, with higher level chests available through a key system that sees bronze traded in for silver and then gold, etc, all to unlock a corresponding chest in varying rarity. Combat is where the most tactical gameplay is found, and these are turn based in nature. Encounters can come in groupings of up to six enemies and these shift around and shuffle position as you play, all the time counting down turns till they attack. You have a party of four heroes (picked from a much larger pool) that you can shuffle between left, right, front and back rows. Left and right can only target enemies on their side of the screen or at its centre. The Central character can attack anywhere, and the rear position character gets access to a secondary move. Attacking with a character causes a three-stage bar to fill that eventually unlocks their special attack, which is considerably more powerful. Your party members have their own cool down periods too, meaning that you can’t spam attacks to build a special move faster.
Overall, Shadow Quest was a fun, if unoriginal mobile RPG that had an extremely pretty visual style and the advantage of playing portrait mode in one hand for long journeys. It’s was certainly the type of title you’d boot up occasionally for a quick 1-3 dungeon romp before tucking away again instead of a sustained gaming session. Sadly a sequel never saw the light of day, and being de-listed this falls into the pit of RPGs no longer able to be played.