RPGs – what are they? Someone will tell you ‘storytelling experiences’, while others will tell you that it is nothing but a virtual storybook that allows you to define your own experience. Yup, true, you define your own experience, and you listen to a story. The added interaction is what makes the experience so special – you actually feel in the boots of a guy who starts at nothing, and ends up being a king, an emperor, a lord, or something great. There are many RPG’s, each having their own different mechanics, and their own ways of telling a story. City of the Shroud, with its turn-based gameplay, makes a distinct mark in the genre.
City of the Shroud is a turn-based RPG by Abyssal Arts. The game released on August 9, 2018, for the PC, the PS4 and the Xbox One.
City of the Shroud
The game can be played both in singleplayer for the story, which is the essence of an RPG. There are many interesting features, including ‘community features’ which make the story an interesting one.
If singleplayer doesn’t cut it for you, and you want to have some fun dueling people online, then the game allows you to duel with a set of 4 characters against another human player. The game could certainly benefit from added options, like multiple players dueling together for victory either in a Free-For-All format or in teams. Also, the 4 man squad you assemble for the story is the one you end up with in multiplayer. The lack of options for customizing your squad or placing them in the grid within a certain range may be a factor that actively deters players from the multiplayer.
You’re a farmer who has journeyed to the city of Iskendrun. It is a city on its knees, with corruption, poverty, and madness spreading everywhere. The city has split into factions, with each faction blaming someone else for their misfortunes. If that itself puts you off the idea of a vacation to the city, then be prepared for random portals opening here and there, which allow creatures from an otherworldly dimension (who somehow look extremely similar to creatures of this world) to come into this world and cause havoc.
When you’re trying to make ends meet by working for the various factions, trying to truly discover the city’s secrets, you become an errand boy for everyone. This includes a wise old hat merchant who somehow knows where the creatures come from, but decides to keep it a secret (“a tale for another day”).
The story starts out well, but gradually becomes extremely monotonous, as the characters do nothing to make themselves memorable. Apparently you arrive in a city, do various chores for various people whom you don’t even remember, then all factions agree to come together to stop the portals, then you help them seal the portals, and then the city goes back to being great again, with the squabbles between the faction leaders disappearing after the battle against the mortal creatures. The only thing that was truly lacking was the words “And Everyone Lives Happily Ever After” at the end.
Besides the occasional turn-based gameplay, which occurs when a fight breaks out, reading panels after panels of dialogue make the game quite boring, especially since the characters don’t make themselves memorable in any way. The lack of choices, which are fundamental in an RPG makes the matter worse.
The game is played like a strategy game, with the two sides taking turns to make moves. However, there’s a cut – all moves made are dynamic. This means that both sides can make moves at the same time. It comes down to some intelligent planning for attacking, defending, and movement, all at once.
Each unit is allocated a certain amount of “Action Points”, which allows a unit to move to a grid, or use a move on an enemy in range. Action Points spent are recharged over time. Finding the perfect balance between movement and execution of actions is what the game is all about when it comes down to a fight. Personally, I felt that the recharge of Action Points is extremely slow, and making it a bit faster would have been better. This makes fights unnecessarily longer than they otherwise would have been.
While movements can be made to any grid in range, you cannot execute an action unless an enemy is within striking range of the unit. This “striking range” varies, being more for ranged units and smaller for melee units.
Moves are made using a dynamic wheel, where there are four types of attacks – Power, Fast, Magic, and Strong. Different units are vulnerable to different types of attacks. Finding it, and using it to weaken your opponent is one of the many strategy elements in the game. Each move consumes one Action Point, so be sure to monitor your characters and see if they have enough Action Points for escaping a fight, or for executing a move on an enemy character.
Combos are special moves which do extra damage when executed or grant a special status effect. Combos often cost a lot of Action Points, so be sure to stock up before going all in. While it would seem that combos are optional, as you progress through the game, the game increasingly forces you to use combos, even when you do not have enough Action Points to execute them.
This somehow ruins the experience, especially when you’re in a fight to the death. Also, there is a lack of balance regarding combos. For example, Quick Shot, for its cost of 1 Action Point, does a lot of damage. Players can simply add multiple Duelists to their team (Duelists are the one who can quick shot, or rather, one hit kill their enemies), and keep spamming it till an opponent dies. Meanwhile, a Brute needs to wait for a long time before he can think about using his Mega Punch again. The recharge time for Action Points also seems really uneven (without stat modifiers).
You can customize your party for online games as well as for progressing in the story. Whatever be your build, be sure to equip all Stat Gems and Link Gems, special items you receive on the completion of quests, to your characters, which greatly enhance their fighting capabilities. You can customize combos, appearances, as well as check their stats. Each character has a different role in the battle, so choosing a balanced loadout helps a lot. For example, Gunners are extremely good at long range but are vulnerable to melee units.
Special stat modifiers include effects like Knockback, which a Duelist grants to an enemy with his kick, or a Stun, granted with a Shield Slam from a Defender. In case you’re in for some dark Portal magic, you can even use Creep to corrupt your enemies, whose rate of recharge for Action Points as well as the damage done by combos or moves go down. Mages are Machinists are experts in using them, while with some leveling up, even Defenders unlock the ability to corrupt the enemy with special combos.
The games main promise lies in the fact that it is community driven. The outcome of the story, as well as every one of the four chapters of the game, is driven by the community’s choice on how it should end. The global ‘balance of power’ shows the popular “real world” support enjoyed by the in-game faction leaders.
Sound and Music
The music is pretty good, especially the ‘battle’ music, which starts playing when you battle an enemy. The story’s boredom kicks through the music as well, as it does nothing to prevent you from falling asleep through the insanely long dialogues between you and the other characters.
Graphics and Performance
The art style is the only thing which people can truly like and enjoy the game. Even then, the use of same models for portal creatures as well as for your squads (or any enemies in the city of Iskendrun) feels slightly off. This is reflected even in the game’s characters (which look to be hand drawn). If you’re talking with a character who isn’t a faction leader, there are chances you will see the same art for another minor character later in the game. Considering how boring the characters are, this repetition dampens the experience even more.
The game was tested on the following specifications:-
CPU : Ryzen 5 2600
GPU : GTX 1060
RAM : 16 GB DDR4
The game has no optimization issues and runs flawlessly on the worst potato you can use for a PC.
If you’re a fan of narrative experiences or rather point-and-click adventures, then there’s a chance you’ll like it, otherwise, it’s better to avoid this game, even when it’s on sale.