Mess with Lo, you get the Wang!
Claiming itself to be a throwback to 90's first person shooters. Shadow Warrior which was released in 2014 and developed by Flying Wild Hog, lives up to its boast as it heavily focuses on fierce combat, devastating weaponry, and overall simplicity. In addition, it also manages to stray away from that notorious pack consisting of mainly military themed shooters. Shadow Warrior takes the fantasy side as the main character Lo Wang battles against monsters whom seem to be from the nether realm. Lo Wang is a very likable character, but it's his main weapon of choice being a katana which sets this game apart from many of its type.
Lo Wang is an assassin for Zilla Enterprises, whose leader named Zilla, orders him to retrieve a mystical katana called the Nobitsura Kage from another organization's boss by any means necessary. The situation gets crazy and soon Wang finds himself forced to ally with a banished demon named Hoji. Together they embark on a mission to prevent a demon invasion and also help restore Hoji's shattered memories.
Shadow Warrior couldn't be anymore simple to play and this really isn't a bad thing. The focus is strictly on killing everything that crosses Wang's path. There is pretty much nothing to offer in regards to complex puzzles or even getting lost. It's about as linear as possible but it does require a bit of attention to small details, because overlooking certain areas and devices can lead to one being stuck in a specific area for far too long. In regards to the weaponry, I've seen most people straight up favoring the katana blade and I can understand this. The melee portion is definitely done well, with the ability to slash in four directions: left to right, right to left, and up and down. This presents opportunities to slice off limbs, heads, or out right shred an enemy into pieces. The katana can also be upgraded to learn new moves such as a powerful thrust or firing a wave of slicing energy.
I enjoyed playing with the blade a lot, but I did find enjoyment with those firearms; such as machine guns, exploding crossbows, and even a rocket launcher. This adds a great deal to the combat and at times can be downright hilarious. Wang can upgrade a flamethrower that can unleash something of a napalm attack that will set enemies on fire and send them running around in flames. On top of this, there are also many objects in the battlefield that can be ignited and exploded during combat segments that will either heavily injure or instantly kill some enemies. This not only adds a bit more bang to the battles, but it also rewards with Karma points which will be needed to upgrade necessary skills, and Wang has several skills to turn him into a killing machine. The game also rewards players willing to search for secrets in the form of crystals which also adds to the upgrades, and plenty of secrets leading to money that can upgrade weapons, and when it comes to weapon upgrades there are clearly some noticeable additions.
The enemies are lacking in variety but those present can be quite formidable especially when they gang up in all out unforgiving attacks. The game does have its tough moments with a difficulty spike late in the game, albeit a very cheap one that pits the player against teams of over-powered (OP) enemies. Puzzles are pretty much non-existent, and there aren't many one shot cheap deaths either which is a good thing. The characters are done well enough as Wang and Hoji use the buddy formula which creates some funny exchanges at times through some potty humor and a bit of foul language. The thing that I like is this stuff isn't completely over the top and it feels well timed. Unfortunately, besides the cheap difficulty spike, Shadow Warrior has its problems with the most glaring being that its far too long for its own good. This game seriously overstays its welcome with a story that stalls constantly. This game could have easily gotten the job done around the 6-8 mark or even less. This game is at least 12 hours long and it gets kind of old as those cheap OP tactics become something it lazily falls back on, plus the lack of creative stage design becomes too obvious. To include the boss battles simply suck. There's just no real pay off to them and all three feel exactly like each other.
The controls are mixed in a way. Slashing with the katana is easy enough and swapping through weapons has its good feature, but also a bad feature, as they fall into the D-Pad and they can be accessed through a clock-like diagram. I found it to be a pain some times to switch to the weapons located diagonally. It felt like far more work than necessary to get to them. The controller also utilizes its touch pad, by being able to swipe across it in different directions along with precise button prompts to activate certain weapons or abilities. This can be a real pain in the heat of battle, due to unwanted moves coming out or it simply not responding. I died pointless deaths and suffered unnecessary damage because of this, but these issues are far away from game breaking.
I like the visuals pretty much with some gorgeous backgrounds of cherry blossoms and bamboo forests. The underground portions such as sewers and even lower labyrinths delivers a nice claustrophobic feel, plus the BGM works into these segments nicely. The gore is captured nicely with shredded up enemies lying on the ground, and enemies flinching in pain when losing limbs; and for an added bonus, lighting up enemies with rockets not only blasts them apart, but it can send them flying in the air and getting stuck on balconies and hallway lights. Freaking hilarious.
In closing, Shadow Warrior is a decent rental and perhaps a good buy for the hardcore first person shooter fans. I think some casual fans will put this down though, once they find themselves in all out battle segments that can feel impossible to complete; but for those who decide to stick with it they will find quite a bit here to enjoy. Overall a light recommendation.
The Good: Nice weapon selection, katana is fun to use, good challenge
The Bad: Poor boss battles, weak stage design, too long