Shadows: Awakening

Game review by
David Chapman, Common Sense Media
Shadows: Awakening Game Poster Image
Unique role-swapping tale limited by bugs, skill management.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this game.

Positive Messages

Classic "good vs. evil" theme gets tarnished by the unfolding story, which includes consuming the souls of heroes to make use of their abilities, skills, etc. Players do have some choice as to which end of the good-evil spectrum their characters fall.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Players are essentially bound to a demon whose purpose is to seek out and consume the souls of heroes, absorbing their memories and personalities in the process. From a gameplay perspective, that leaves the player open to either follow the darker path of the demon's nature to rule humanity or be influenced by the heroes and fight to save it.

Ease of Play

Lots to learn, between swapping out characters in your party while also shifting between the Shadow Realm and the mortal world. Switching realms becomes key to defeating certain enemies and solving some environmental puzzles.

Violence

Players are constantly fighting against fantasy creatures, monsters, humans, etc., using wide arsenal of melee and ranged weapons, spells, other special abilities. Enemies often collapse or explode, with some splashes of blood left behind. There are occasionally some corpses that can be stumbled across in the environment.

Sex

Some lines of dialogue have sexual references and innuendo, and many female characters are shown in revealing outfits.

Language

"Bastard" and "bitch" occasionally appear in dialogue.

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Players are given the opportunity to drink with other characters, causing the screen to blur and triggering certain lines of dialogue to simulate being drunk.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Shadows: Awakening is an action/role-playing game available for Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and Windows-based PCs. Players control a demonic entity that consumes and controls various heroes to gain their memories, personalities, and abilities, adding those characters as party members in the process. Players can choose to either follow a heroic path to save humanity or follow a darker path to help bring about its doom. Violence is fairly constant, with players fighting against waves of different creatures. While blood does appear regularly, there's nothing particularly gruesome or gory. The game's dialogue does include occasional swearing like "bastard" and "bitch," as well as some sexual innuendo, and players are given the option to get drunk at certain points in the game.

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What's it about?

SHADOWS: AWAKENING is the latest chapter in the Heretic Kingdoms saga, retelling the events of 2014's Shadows: Heretic Kingdoms. It's combined with new, expanded story elements to continue the adventure, completing the epic tale of heroes and demons and the fate of humanity. You're a Devourer, a demonic entity that eats the souls of others, giving them substance once again in the mortal plane as your puppets. After being summoned by a mysterious mage, you find yourself bound to the soul of a long dead hero tasked with defeating a looming danger that threatens to wipe out all of humanity. Faced with a common threat, you must build enough power to eradicate your foes in both the mortal plane and the Shadow Realm. But who's the real puppet master pulling the strings? Is it you, the Devourer, with the power of all those souls at your disposal? Is it the heroic souls, gradually gaining influence and bringing a sliver of light to your dark nature? Or could someone else be responsible, making you all pawns in their own secret game?

Is it any good?

This unique role-playing game (RPG) has a clever plot twist, but the bugs and character management keep it from excelling. Usually, demons and heroes fall on different sides of the battlefield, but opposites attract in Shadows: Awakening. The game's main hook is the symbiotic relationship between the player's Devourer and the heroes it's bound to. You navigate two worlds simultaneously, swapping back and forth at will between the mortal and shadow worlds. Because of the supernatural nature of the Shadow Realm and how time's warped within it, things like collapsed walls or bridges will exist in one plane but not the other.  Also, swinging platforms and hazards may be frozen in place. It's an interesting gameplay mechanic for solving puzzles, exploring the world, and even fighting enemies. Some creatures, for example, exist in both worlds, but can only be hurt in one after shattering their protection in the other.

Switching worlds is only half the story, though, as the Devourer consumes other souls throughout the game, adding new "puppets" to its collection and more characters to the available party. With all these extras, though, comes lots of additional character management. Managing armor and weapons, items, character stats, and more can get overwhelming for one character. Now multiply that by at least four characters at any given time, and it’s easy to spend as much time in the character screens as fighting enemies. It feels clunky, especially compared to the more fluid action, where swapping worlds and characters feels smooth and organic. That's not to say there couldn't be more polish in the action part of the game, though. Random glitches occasionally popped up, like floating critters (rats, bugs, etc.) or stubborn targeting issues, but these were more a minor nuisance than a major frustration. If you're willing to invest the time into the game, Shadows: Awakening can wind up being a surprisingly entertaining and unique adventure worth checking out.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about violence in video games. Is the impact of the violence in Shadows: Awakening affected by the unrealistic events of the game? Would it seem more graphic if the story was grounded in more realistic action?

  • When playing roles in games, do you traditionally follow the "good" or "evil" path? What's the draw for each and how do these choices provide insight or escape?

Game details

Themes & Topics

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For kids who love fantasy

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