Devolver Digital is doing some amazing work right now. They’re publishing exciting new indie games, as well as reviving old first person shooter IPs and giving them a digital makeover. After reminding everyone that there’s actually a good Duke Nuk’em game out there with their release of Duke Nukem 3D: Megaton Edition, they’ve set their sights on Shadow Warrior.
Now I guess a small history lesson is in order: this FPS was released in 1997 to be the last game 3D Realms developed for a long time. With Quake already on the market, it was more of an instant cult classic than the successful follow-up to Duke Nukem 3D. Running on the infamous Build Engine, it was tough to get the game working on any machine using Windows XP or later. Consequently, Shadow Warrior and it’s horror-themed half brother. Blood, slowly faded into obscurity. Fast forward a few years, and Devolver Digital picked up the license and released an updated version of the original game. They also charged Flying Wild Hog, who created Hard Reset and Painkiller (under the People Can Fly moniker), with rebooting the franchise.
I met two of the game’s developers, writer Slawomir Uliasz and game designer Pawel Kowalewski, when they were demoing Shadow Warrior at Gamescom. Their reboot, which is actually more of a prequel, uses an updated version of the Hard Reset engine. Now Hard Reset was a good and incredibly pretty game, but it had a few problems. For starters, it was originally quite short, until Flying Wild Hog patched in a rather generous set of new levels. And as beautiful as the game was, monotony quickly set in as you were always looking at the same set pieces. Kowalewski assured me that they have learned from those mistakes. Shadow Warrior will be about twice as long as Hard Reset. Considering the game won’t have a multiplayer mode, this is definitely a good thing, especially with a price tag of $39.99.
As for my other concern, the Gamescom demo had one playable level with a lot of varied scenery. Our protagonist, Lo Wang, sliced and diced his way through an Asian village, before ending up in a stereotypical bamboo forest. Just like in Hard Reset, the large amount of destructible elements made this rampage fun to watch, and the demonic enemies didn’t stand a chance when faced with Wang’s swordsmanship. While there’s an ample arsenal of guns to choose from, the Katana should be anyone’s first choice. In fact, you can complete the game using nothing but your sword. It controls well, featuring 8-way movement with the mouse and a set of upgradeable skills and moves. Good first person sword fighting is a rarity, with both Chivalry and War of the Roses being the only games in recent memory to feature it in any form. Both of these games offer decidedly less variety and flexibility in the way they handle, so Shadow Warrior could set a new standard here.
Following the story about Wang’s pact with a demon, you’ll be able to wield some otherworldly magic. While there’s an infinite amount of demonic powers at your disposal – and shurikens for that matter – the infernal hordes don’t take kindly to you meddling with the natural order. Abusing your power enrages the enemies, which in turn makes them harder to kill. Thus, there’s a certain tactical approach needed if you don’t want a horde of angry demons at your heels at all times.
While I pressed harder to get more details on the game’s story, Uliasz remained elusive. He really didn’t want to give away too much except for the bit about Wang making a deal with a demon in order to save his life. He assured me it’s going to be a lot of fun and not too serious, citing cinematic inspirations such as Big Trouble in Little China, Kill Bill, and various Hong Kong flicks. Most of all, he insisted, Shadow Warrior is going to be ridiculously fun. If the latest trailer, which is highlights features such as, “Advanced Fish Physics” and “Destructible Bikes” is anything to go by, they may be onto something.