A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this game.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Shadwen is a downloadable third-person action-adventure game where you play an assassin. She's on her way to kill the king when she happens upon an orphaned girl named Lily who is about to be murdered by a guard. You can kill or distract the guard, but you'll be juggling those types of choices through the rest of the game to either spare the young girl's sensibilities or wantonly expose her to brutality. Violence is frequently an option, though little remorse is shown for having carried it out. Characters can be stabbed in the back or have their throats slashed, which covers the screen in red droplets. Controls aren't very responsive, and figuring out where to go isn't very easy either, which can be frustrating for many players.
What's it about?
SHADWEN centers on the titular female assassin as she makes her way past castle guards to kill the king, when along the way she finds one guard about to kill a young girl named Lily. You have no choice but to save the little girl, but how you do it sets the tone and stakes for everything from there: Do you decide to kill that guard and all others you come across? Or do you distract and divert him? Making your choices will inevitably determine how Lily sees Shadwen, giving her a positive or negative impression of the assassin's goals and motivations.
Is it any good?
This action-stealth adventure tries to break new ground, but all the features are handled in a way that doesn't really improve the gameplay at all. For example, there's a big learning curve in Shadwen because time only moves when you do. This is intended to enhance and play up the strategic element of everything happening around you (what were you not aware of until it was too late?), but this isn't explained until you're considerably into the game. Until then, you're left to flail around and wonder why things like jumping and swinging around with a grappling hook are so frustratingly hard. The stillness and expanse of each map works together to make progressing through the game clunky and uncertain -- you're constantly unsure of where to go and will sink a lot of time heading in wrong directions or even going backward due to the sameness of the maps. Everything is dark, brown, and gray -- which is disappointing given the deep purples and blues you see over the horizon in the starry night sky on each level. It's tempting to go over and see what's there, but it remains out of touch: Your focus lies on guards, castle walls, crypts, and muddy fields, and you fumble through them over and over.
It always feels a tad unfair to discount how a game adheres to its genre, though the cycle of killing guards and stashing their bodies in piles of hay or leaves while avoiding detection is a familiar theme in video games. It's nothing new, but since time only moves when you do, you'll often find you need to scrub further back by five minutes or more to try everything you did before in a more streamlined fashion. The manipulation of time is used to either do that or lie in wait for guards on patrol to move past you, which is also a familiar application of this kind of game mechanic. It's not that these mechanics don't all work together, but added together, the total is a rather generic and familiar experience that has been done better elsewhere before.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about violence in games. Why is violence OK to be exposed to at a certain age but not at another age?
Discuss political upheaval. Why does assassination of a political leader become a reasonable -- or even popular -- course of action? What can we learn about our real world through fantasies about this type of activity?
Themes & Topics
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.