Shattered – Tale of the Forgotten King Review
Shattered – Tale of the Forgotten King takes the classic souls like experience, wraps it in decoration Tim Burton would be proud of and throws the player in the deep end. Let’s do the same.
Gameplay and weapon feel are great. Anyone coming from a dark souls background will instantly understand how the combat system works, as it’s more or less a one for one replica. You upgrade your health potion over time by progressing through the game and picking up items for it, use a forge to increase the power of your weapons by finding metals. Death drops ‘essence’ (souls) used for levelling your character, and sends you back to the last ‘bonfire’ you rested at to have another go.
Killing the enemy that killed you gets your essence back, but interestingly merely dealing damage gives you portions of the essence you lost in return. The narrative is told through items picked up in the game as well as unlocking shards of information with ‘eibon fragments’ if you so choose. And you drive across the map using an energy jet-powered skateboard All classic souls like tropes. These familiar elements are blended well into the world of Shattered and help create a rich, engaging experience.
The world design is excellent and shows clear inspiration from Shadow of the Colossus. Once you get past the initial linear corridors, the overworld is huge and sprawling and allows for interesting terrain traversal (on the aforementioned skateboard). I would find myself pushing to find far off places and was frequently rewarded with items and secrets. Lastly, the musical score is extremely atmospheric and relaxing, pairing well as it changes from environment to environment.
Unfortunately, the audio falls flat when it comes to weapons. All of your arsenal makes the exact same metallic slapping sound no matter what surface it hits, or enemy it collides with. It’s a minor note but considering the game has been in development for so long, one worth addressing. More important issues abound in the overworld and terrain.
Are you lost?
While it is great that the game rewards you for exploration, too often, I was able to put myself in areas I was clearly not meant to be. Sometimes this led to entertaining looks at the world, like standing on top of a mountain to see the whole map below. More often, this would result in me having to reset my character back to the last spawn point because I had become trapped in a pit of supercilious design, my arrogant exploration leading to my own downfall. Combat is sadly clunky, and easily avoided.
Unlike most classic ‘soulslikes’, pushing through and rushing past enemies is often punished. Here, it is all too easy to race past the enemies and take what loot is desired before pushing on to the next area. The combat mechanics have some variation, but by around halfway through the game, you will have seen most enemy types outside the core bosses. Once you have the basic combat figured out, there just isn’t much left to learn as all weapons play out pretty much the same.
Respecing comes at no cost, and you can freely do it with an item that can be found relatively early on. This, unfortunately, revealed the games shallow nature as there isn’t much variety to a character build. Most egregiously, the platforming can be extremely frustrating at times. Forcing a user to go from an open control camera to a 2d side-scrolling platformer is an odd choice and traversing 3d space with a fixed camera leads to some frustrating deaths, especially in a soulslike game.
Shake it off
Thankfully falling to your demise doesn’t remove souls acquired which comes as a small relief to the myriad of potential death laden 2D areas that plague Shattered.
As a final thought in my 24-hour playthrough to the end of Shattered something came up that I have not experienced in any other souls like. I met a trader that traded in items I never saw or found. I also picked up multiple items that I found no purpose for, despite retracing steps to try and understand why they existed.
These may be legacy concepts, gone on the full release. But it was interesting and added a level of bizarre mystique that left me to retravel the game’s path once I had seen an ending, in search of something more. And that appeal to go back despite the games flaws says something more than I can put into words.