Shadow Warrior (2013 video game)
European PC retail cover featuring the protagonist Lo Wang
|Developer(s)||Flying Wild Hog|
|Engine||Road Hog Engine|
Shadow Warrior is a first-person shooter video game developed by Polish independent development studio Flying Wild Hog and published by Devolver Digital for Microsoft Windows, OS X, Linux, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. It is a reboot of the 1997 game of the same name, developed by 3D Realms and published by GT Interactive, licensed out by Devolver Digital, featuring the same character Lo Wang and a modern era setting with Asian mythology elements, all of which were redesigned with modern, full 3D graphics and new gameplay features, while also being a throwback to classic first-person shooters. The game was released on 26 September 2013 through digital distribution via Steam and GOG.com with a later retail release. On 31 March 2015 the game was released for both, OS X and Linux. Upon its release, the game was met with generally positive reviews from reviewers and critics. A sequel, Shadow Warrior 2, was released in 2016.
Shadow Warrior is a single-player first-person shooter where players take control of the modern ninja mercenary Lo Wang from a first-person perspective as he fights through levels of demonic hordes. Levels themselves are divided into chapters, each with Wang progressing through smaller stages to large open battle arenas that have side and hidden areas, occasionally allowing another route.
Wang is equipped with various firearms that require ammunition that can be found throughout stages. Firearms range from fictional versions of pistols, submachine guns, shotguns and rocket launchers, some of which can be dual-wielded. These also include secondary firing modes that allow players to alternate between different modes or rates of fire. Non-firearm weapons include crossbows that can fire both ordinary bolts or sticky grenades that can be remotely detonated at will. In addition to firearms, Wang’s signature weapon is the katana, which is limited to close quarters combat unlike ranged firearms, but is also very effective against enemies. Different swings and strikes can be utilized depending on different computer key and mouse movement combinations, creating unique moves of varying effectiveness depending on the enemy type, with the ability slice up enemies into multiple pieces. For example, a well-timed and properly placed strike can decapitate and instantly take down a foe, or a large swing can strike multiple opponents at once. When using the katana, throwing shurikens can also be used as a secondary backup weapon. The katana can also be drawn to perform a quick strike when using firearms in closer quarters.
Enemies themselves vary in strength, size and attack pattern. Some enemies will aggressively attack head on while others use projectiles or other abilities to hinder Wang's effectiveness in combat. Certain enemies can also be hindered or only killed through the removal of certain limbs, as opposed to others than can be taken down with simpler direct measures. Certain enemies also occasionally drop items Wang can use including a demon heart that can kill or stun nearby enemies with one use and a demon head that can be used as to fire damaging flames at enemies. The game also features boss fights that are unique, only appearing at certain points in the game and much more formidable in combat, usually requiring key points of attack and minor puzzle elements within the stage.
Wang can upgrade his abilities and weapons with multiple forms of in-game currency for different aspects. "Money" is gained by locating it throughout levels and is used to upgrade weaponry such as recoil laser sights, extra barrels and new fire modes. "Karma" points are gained through how well the player performs in combat, like well-aimed gunshots and katana moves such as head-shots and limb removals (indicated briefly in-game) or large deposits hidden within stages. These points can be spent on new skills such as increasing healing and damage output, while also allowing new katana moves and luck bonuses. Finally there are "Ki Crystals" that can also be found hidden in levels that allow Wang to learn new powers that can be used in combat, including shockwave attacks, health and damage properties and stunning or manipulating enemies. These new abilities are represented through tattoos on Wang’s body. Wang’s health is indicated through the in-game head-up display. After taking damage, health can be regained through finding health packs found throughout levels. However Wang can also use a power that heals him up.
Lo Wang (Jason Liebrecht) is an assassin who works for the powerful Japanese industrial magnate, Orochi Zilla. He is sent to purchase an ancient katana from a collector named Mizayaki for 2 million dollars. Mizayaki refuses the offer and Wang tries to take the sword by force, killing his men in the process. Wang is captured when Mizayaki reveals his bond with a demon named Hoji, and is caged, but escapes when demons attack the compound. Mizayaki is killed in the attack and Wang allies himself with Hoji in hopes of retrieving the sword. Hoji explains that the Nobitsura Kage, as the sword is called, is capable of slaying immortals and is anathema to demons. He also mentions that the Nobitsura Kage is actually three swords, and so Wang seeks them out to merge them into one.
Through the course of the game, Wang comes across "Whisperers": magical golems which contain a memory (in place of a heart) that one of the Ancients, the immortals that rule the demons, chose to sequester away. The Ancients cannot touch the Nobitsura Kage as just touching the weapon can kill them, but since Whisperers aren't truly alive, they can touch the blade therefore acting as couriers. By slaying these golems, Wang absorbs their memories and learns of the game's back-story. In the Shadow Realm, the home realm of the demons, the rain is fueled by the weeping of Ameonna, the sister of Hoji and the other Ancients. Hoji and Ameonna had an incestuous affair, which made her happy and stopped the rain. This caused a disastrous drought, and when the affair was discovered by Enra, the ruler of the Shadow Realm, Hoji's other brothers, Gozu, Mezu, and Xing, separated the pair and skinned Hoji's face as punishment, forcing him to wear a mask. Ameonna accepted her responsibility to the Shadow Realm, which embittered Hoji against both her for her abandonment and Enra for his tyranny over the Ancients. He conspired to poison his sister and take revenge upon Enra, tricking Xing into delivering a tainted potion that put her into an eternal slumber and causing another drought, using this to draw Enra to the temple so that Xing could overthrow him and rule the Shadow Realm in his stead. But the plot was stopped by Mezu, the most loyal of the brothers to Enra. Xing was beheaded by Gozu on Enra's orders for his role in the plot, which did not kill him, and Hoji was banished to the mortal realm for his treachery. Enra later saw that only the sacrifice of an Ancient could revive Ameonna and save the Shadow Realm, and thus sought the Nobitsura Kage, the only thing in existence which can kill an Ancient. Enra brokered a deal with the mortal Zilla to find and assemble the sword, promising a cure for his paraplegia and the assistance of demons to conquer the Earth.
On his quest for the third piece of the sword, Wang, who originally sought the Nobitsura Kage to deliver to Zilla, turns against his boss, betraying the Kyokagami twins, fellow assassins who also work for Zilla, in order to help Hoji retrieve the final piece of the weapon. It's discovered that Zilla was holding a Whisperer hostage the whole time, and is in possession of the third piece of the sword. When Enra teleports Hoji back to the shadow realm, Wang uses the last Whisperer on earth to travel to the Shadow Realm and learns that Hoji, who originally created the Whisperers, regrets his role in plunging the Shadow Realm into misery and seeks to undo his wrong by creating another Whisperer, taking away his memory of Wang. Wang convinces him that Enra needs to be stopped, and so the two join forces once more, with Hoji seeking to redeem himself by killing Enra and using his blood to revive Ameonna. Upon their return to earth, Wang confronts Zilla, and cuts off his sword arm. As Wang reassembles the Nobitsura Kage to its full Ancient-killing power, Zilla escapes with the help of the Kyokagami twins.
With the full Nobitsura Kage in his hands, Wang returns to the Shadow Realm with Hoji to confront Enra. Wang is captured by Enra and stripped of the sword. Enra tries to sacrifice Hoji to revive Ameonna by means of using the original Whisperer that Hoji made, which like the others before, can handle the Nobitsura Kage without harm, but Hoji disarms the Whisperer and hands the sword back to Wang, forcing Enra to retreat. But by touching the Nobitsura Kage, Hoji dooms himself. Wang corners Enra after a tense battle with Xing's headless body, Enra allows Wang to slay him, since he is the only sacrificial candidate left. Ameonna awakens, and upon seeing the dead body of Hoji, she weeps, bringing rain back to the Shadow Realm.
Devolver Digital planned to reboot the game with Flying Wild Hog as the developer in mind from the start, first approaching Scott Miller of 3D Realms about new developments. As with the developer's last game Hard Reset, according to studio writer Jan Bartkowicz the game was designed to reflect the "old school design" with emphasis on fast-paced shooting against masses of enemies and no use of cover mechanics. Bartkowicz however also stated that they wanted the gameplay to also be new in other aspects, particularly the katana, not wanting it to be "only used when you ran out of ammo" but rather make it an integral part of the gameplay. In regards to the new writing style and character redesign, Bartkowicz explained it as "a much more clever sense of humor and wit, rather than relying on the old Duke Nukem or Shadow Warrior tropes, falling back on jokes about women and racial stereotyping," instead being drawn to what they considered to be the "rich setting" of the original game.
The game was first announced in May 2013 with a teaser trailer that showed the new graphics engine with the in-game cinematic following a trail of bodies left by Lo Wang before revealing the character of Hoji. The game was further shown off at the Electronic Entertainment Expo 2013 in June, conveying the trademark humor and over the top violence, with designer Paweł Kowalewski comparing it to grindhouse film, calling it "so violent it's funny". Kowalewski stated that they wanted to keep the violence of the original that "when we started doing our version, we knew that we had to still maintain that violence" while story writer Slawomir Uliasz said the redesigns were to create a newer experience such as Lo Wang who is depicted younger while the original was an old veteran, retaining the humor like oneliners "to keep true to the original" while also not wanting it to be "too serious" either. Both Kowalewski and Uliasz called themselves fans of the original, seeing it as "an opportunity to create an oldschool game", before concluding that while new "it's still Shadow Warrior". A follow up trailer titled "You've Got Wang" featured gameplay footage and emphasized the humor not in the teaser trailer, at the same time announcing the release date for 26 September 2013 along with pre-orders being made available on the applicable digital stores. 30 minutes of gameplay of the beta version was commentated by John Bain 15 August 2013, positively explaining the gameplay mechanics and differences and similarities with the original game.
Release and downloadable content
The game was released on Steam and GOG.com, with pre-orders on both services. Steam sells two editions: a standard edition and a "Special Edition" that included a digital art book, official soundtrack, and two in-game weapons based on other Devolver Digital published titles; a sledgehammer from Serious Sam 3 and a katana from Hotline Miami in the same retro-pixelated graphics style of that game. Pre-ordering from Steam also gave players the "Zilla Enterprises Z45 katana" in-game weapon and a 75% discount off Hard Reset or another Devolver Digital published game. If players already own a copy of Saints Row IV on Steam, an in-game weapon known as the "Penetrator" from the series will also be made available. GOG.com also released the standard version yet with the pre-order bonus of a "classic Shadow Warrior katana" in-game weapon and a digital copy of the site's Shadow Warrior Classic Complete release of the original game for free.
On 11 October 2013, a stand-alone mini-game known as Viscera Cleanup Detail: Shadow Warrior was released for free for owners of Shadow Warrior. It is a cross over with Viscera Cleanup Detail, a Steam Greenlight game developed by RuneStorm where players must clean up blood and body parts left after a violent slaughter aboard a space station. Like that game, the mini-game instead has the player cleaning up the mess in the aftermath of the early battle between Lo Wang and the Yakuza.
Shadow Warrior currently holds a review average of 76.04% on GameRankings and 73/100 on Metacritic. Dan Stapleton of IGN called the game "an old-school shooter that actually gets what made old-school shooters work, and it gives us some clever new ideas on top of them," praising the combat and overall length of the campaign, while also positively noting the humor and the story itself, commenting that he "didn't expect it, but yes, the plot impresses." Andy Dixon of Destructoid also praised the combat, particularly the swordplay, declaring it the "real star of the show", enjoying the variety of attacks and upgrades in addition to its effective use even alongside the firepower, calling it "some of the finest I've encountered in the last decade, and it really needs to be played to be fully appreciated." Nathan Meunier of GameFront echoed this view, calling the combat "exceptionally gratifying" in regards to both the control and effectiveness but also praised the ability to slice up enemies that when used "you really feel like a badass".
Kevin VanOrd of GameSpot favorably compared Shadow Warrior over other modern reboots in terms of gameplay and humor, particularly against another former 3D Realms series Duke Nukem that "unlike Duke's return in Duke Nukem Forever, Lo Wang's reappearance isn't a sad and outdated one", also noting the variety in the combat segments, finding "that magical sweet spot where you feel as if you overcame the odds without ever encountering the frustration." When commenting on the boss fights, however, VanOrd felt that while they "make for a fearsome presence" visually, he noted the overly straightforward strategy for all of them, causing them to "drag" and become "slogs". Paul Goodman of the The Escapist also called the combat "enjoyable" yet took issue with the "flow-breaking" loading transitions between areas and felt that the openness and exploration aspect of the levels caused "[needless] backtracking", while Edge on the other hand felt that the pausing to the upgrade menu was "pace-breaking" after saying "that unless you’re willing to hop back and forth between these back-end menus frequently... you’ll be at a severe disadvantage throughout."
On 10 June 2015, publisher Devolver Digital announced Shadow Warrior 2, a sequel to the game, developed by Flying Wild Hog. An announcement trailer soon followed, confirming the game for Microsoft Windows, OS X, Linux, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One to be released in 2016. The sequel will feature four-player co-operative multiplayer upon launch.
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