Back in 1997, there was Shadow Warrior, a first person shooter from the makers of Duke Nukem 3D. Some 17 years later comes the prequel starring a young Lo Wang. Shadow Warrior 2013 is a unique first person shooter. This is more than a first person shooter. It melds button combination presses of Mortal Kombat into the first person action. Right, right, and alt attack for a health spell that will slowly heal yourself. Forward forward, attack when your sword is drawn for a strong slash. Back, back and alt attack for a ground pound that sends enemies flying into the air. There is a dash move to instantly dart yourself in any direction. It is helpful for staying alive against a flood of enemies. If you hold the button you run with limited stamina. There is a sense of speed and maneuverability that modern first person shooters lack. All these things make Shadow Warrior 2013 different and fresh.
The basis of the game is travel and combat. You go to different parts of a level, push buttons, break seals and so on. There are no puzzles. Then you find yourself in rooms or arenas that get flooded with enemies. Once the enemies get defeated, the doors unlock. The sheer amount of enemies, the variety of enemies and the chaos that ensues is where the game shines. After killing a cluster of enemies, the game rates you. How does it judge you? Efficiency or weapon variety? I have no idea.
There isn’t much enemy variety in those first two hours. Demons that melee and support demons that shoot. The demons have diverse looks, they can even crawl on walls and swing from lights. If any demon is left alive for too long it can buff itself and become more difficult to kill. Its a nice system. Humans and skeletons are also in the game, but both are really just there for fodder. Humans are easily killed, but at least they have swords or guns. Skeletons are strictly melee. When some enemies die they leave behind their souls that are health instead of needing to find health kits or use your health spell.
After the first two hours, the game really begins to flourish. Different enemies needing different tactics. Tall and short shield demons need to have their shields broken. The tall ones launch projectiles and open up their defenses as they do. There are little holes in the tops of their shield if you aim just right. Dreadlocked, dual sword swinging demons that can turn invisible and teleport to or from you. Far away they throw shurikens. Acid balls like mines explode when you get near. Not just that, but acid demons that explode when killed or roll into a ball and shriek as they bowl toward you! Winged demons that spit fireballs at you. When you kill them, they will kamikaze after you!
Big mini bosses, like a minotaur that will energy whip and then pull you in. He can send a ring of fire out that you need to jump. Finally, he can charge nearby demons. A tall shaman that will rise green flaming skeletons out of the ground. After he summons skeletons, he will create a giant force field until you kill those skeletons. There are hulking chargers that like all games, they charge forward and you need to shoot them in the back. They are smart enough to turn when charging and only charge when you’re in an area open enough for them to hit you. At first, these are only mini bosses, but then they become uncommon enemies.
These are the chess pieces you get stuck in arenas with. Any number of different combinations of enemies. These are more than just square arenas. There are walls and pillars to hide behind, dead ends to get stuck in. Each one is beautiful. Some could be in a horror movie. Lights flickering, chargers breaking through walls hunting you with their eyes glowing lit on fire from your last rocket. Even if you think you’re done with one wave, other enemies could continue to flood in. All topped off with winged demons shooting down at you.
The three mega bosses are colossal and you need to take out their parts. This requires more than aim, it needs dedication, because these battles can be 15 minutes in a 17 hour game. I can’t say they’re fun or difficult, just a struggle in your endurance.
So how do you take all these creatures out? You have a katana for melee. This is a fun weapon. Slashes through enemies with buckets of blood. Beheads them, chops off arms and legs. You can see enemies trying to crawl away with no legs or walk away holding a missing limb. The developers brag about a clean sword button, its a reload button for a weapon that has no ammunition. With the katana, you can also throw shurikens that stun enemies for half a second, but seem laughably useless.
For guns, there’s a pistol, an oozy, a crossbow that feels like a sniper rifle, a giant double barreled shotgun that you can upgrade into a quad barreled shotgun. There is a flame thrower that feels useful against winged demons, a giant rocket launcher and a demon heart. The demon heart can be squeezed to kill lesser demons in a short radius. There are a hand full of turret sections that you can back out of and fight as normal even if using a turret is mandatory to make something happen.
Not just that, but there are ki crystals and statues that let you unlock attacks and perks in a sort of skill tree. The strong attack I mentioned, a whirlwind attack, and a wide slash. Even a force push sort of spell and a soul drain that lets you cheat death by killing an enemy within X number of seconds to revive yourself. There are even perks to find 10% extra money or ammo. Increase your health spell or maximum health in general. The weapons are upgradeable too. Mostly with more damage or accuracy. Some have alt fires.
Shadow Warrior 2013 is a gorgeous game even on its lowest settings. Everything seems to glow. Its very colorful and vibrant. The game starts in a sort of tranquil, beautiful Asia, before moving to industrial docks and then to ice mountains. Its all gorgeous to look at. There are plenty of details, graveyards, amazing weather effects, bamboo mazes, and homes to raid. There are things to break, cars and barrels to explode. Even bunnies you can watch hop on each other with pink hearts over their heads.
You can open up chests and cabinets to find ammo, health packs, money and even armor. There are plenty of secrets off the beaten path. Looking for loot really breaks up the action and enemies don’t just leave ammo, so you need to scavenge. The game has an exploration element without getting lost. In fact the game highlights where you should go with glowing doors. That doesn’t mean it’ll give you an arrow to the doors. You can even turn off the glowing effect if you really want to get lost in where to go next. A lot of times the game will seal off previous parts of a level to limit your back tracking.
The game plays very old school. You’ll need to find keys to unlock doors. Luckily one key unlocks all doors. There are red, blue and green seals you’ll need to break before you can enter certain doors.
Let me quickly discuss deal breakers. If anyone out there hates ‘head bob’ where you noticeably see the camera bob around. There is no way to turn it off. The game can be a beast on your hardware, but there are a lot of settings. There is an error that can crash the game on start up to a dump file. I assume its from the settings and resolution problems. There is a safe mode, but I had to restart my PC to fix it. Finally, Lo Wang’s last game was in 1997, his 90s attitude hasn’t changed since then. A lot of games have banter and one liners, but some of these seem awful. The sidekick voice in your head throughout the game seems to be channeling Heath Ledger’s Joker voice (not character). He is a very sniveling character there to make Lo Wang look cool by comparison.
Shadow Warrior 2013’s combat depth will make it difficult for any other first person shooter. It is engaging to do button combos and have so much control with dash buttons. Thanks Rybcka for the game!