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ShadowCaster is a first-person/role-playing video game from 1993 developed by Raven Software. It was released by Origin Systems after Electronic Arts acquired them. A CD-ROM version was released in 1994, featuring two additional levels with new monsters, and replacing text boxes with FMVs and spoken narration through CD-DA audio tracks.
The player takes the role of Kirt, a human with powers of shapeshifting. Among other forms, Kirt can become a huge cat-like animal, a floating tentacle-wielding gazer, and a dragon.
In the beginning of the game Kirt finds out that he is not in fact human, but comes from a parallel world where there was a war raging between shapeshifters for centuries. Kirt, and his grandfather, are the last of their kind, and now the evil ones have found them. Kirt's grandfather opens a portal back to the homeworld, and that is where the story begins. Kirt's mission is to stop the demons once and for all, but first he will need to awaken his innate shapeshifting powers, which is where the obelisks come into play. Going up to one of these and touching it will unlock a new form, and the first is the cat form. The main character of Kirt was based on the name of the game's software developer, Kurt Schallitz, and included his brown leather jacket. The face of Kirt is actually that of Raven Software's owner, Brian Raffel.
Kirt – The default character. All abilities are weak, but has some fighting skill and is the only form in which magic rejuvenates. Health also rejuvenates but slower than magic does.
Maorin – The first form the character collects, and the most useful early in the game. Maorin is a large four-armed cat like creature with superior fighting skills and the ability to see things invisible to others. It drowns quickly however.
Caun – A leprechaun like creature who is a poor fighter, but can heal quickly, jump over obstacles, fit in smaller spaces and unleash a swarm of insects (needed to unlock a particular door). Also has a shield spell and a light spell, and can magically reach out and take objects which are far away.
Opsis – A hovering brain with tentacles that can use spells effectively, such as fireballs and cold blasts. Moves very slowly in the air.
Kahpa – A decent fighter that can breathe underwater. Has a sonic and an electrical attack. Both are supposed to be extra powerful in water.
Ssair – A hovering dragon with no legs with better attack (but weaker defense) than the Maorin. Can breathe fire and use its tail as a weapon. Very fast flier, and real Ssair, who are normally hostile, will ignore Kirt when he is in the form of one.
Grost – A man made of stone that is an excellent fighter with strong defense that can also punch through certain walls. Can cause earthquakes and paralyse his foes with a mere touch.
The ShadowCaster game engine, a successor of the Wolfenstein 3D engine and a predecessor of the Doom engine, was written by id Software's John Carmack and licensed to Raven Software. Carmack wrote the ShadowCaster 3D engine during his technology research after id Software completed Wolfenstein 3D. The engine features diminished lighting, texture mapped floors and ceilings, walls with variable heights and sloped floors. The engine was "about half as fast as that of Wolfenstein" but fit the exploration of ShadowCaster rather than the fast-paced action of Doom.
Reviewing the game for PC Gamer UK, Gary Whitta remarked that "Underworld fans will lap [ShadowCaster] up — as should anyone thinking of toying with the genre." The magazine later named it the 49th best computer game of all time, calling it "an admirable attempt to show that RPGs don't have to be boring, complex and number-heavy."
Ed Ricketts of PC Format praised ShadowCaster's "bags of atmosphere" and called it "the best role-playing game to appear for a long, long while." In Computer Gaming World, Scorpia wrote, "Those who prefer the regular Ultima style of role-playing will probably want to skip this one. But players looking for pure, no-nonsense hack-n-slash will have a blast." Writing for CD-ROM Today, Trent C. Ward stated that ShadowCaster's "fantastic graphics, sound and storytelling ... completely immerse you in a virtual world both dark and wondrous." He summarized it as "an excellent addition to any gamer's library."
Shadowcaster was a runner-up for Computer Gaming World's Action Game of the Year award in June 1994, losing to Prince of Persia 2: The Shadow and the Flame. It was named the 95th best computer game ever by PC Gamer UK in 1997.
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