One of the most challenging things for me is the full play-through of any video game. With five children and a full time job I find it’s difficult to get the time necessary to complete many games. Add to that the explosion of gaming in the last few years and you have a recipe for an extended backlog.
One such game on my backlog was Shadow Warrior 2. This game was developed by the indie studio Flying Wild Hog and published by Devolver Digital in October of 2016. I originally purchased the game shortly after release for two reasons. First, I had just recently finished playing through the original Shadow Warrior and found it to a fun throwback to FPS games of yesteryear. Second, the pricing on the brand new game was $40. Admittedly, the game can’t be considered a triple-A title, but the fact that any full game was releasing at less than $60 was a reason for me to support them. I was rewarded in that support by three pieces of fairly extensive, if mildly derivative, free DLC.
Upon first launching Shadow Warrior 2 and playing through the introductory mission I realized another selling point, four player co-operative play. The introductory mission also highlighted another aspect of Shadow Warrior 2. The move from straight up linear FPS to a more open-ended loot-based shooter. I immediately stopped play right then and there as I wanted to play the game co-op instead of running through it single player. As I had been coming off over 600 hours, likely a good chunk of them paused, in Borderlands 2, the sequel to the original loot shooter, I wanted to share the experience with my friends.
Sadly, this desire for co-op meant that I had to wait for said friends to purchase the game. Fast forward to Christmas 2017, where none of my friends had pulled the trigger. Thankfully, Steam had placed the game on sale as part of their Winter Sale and I ended up purchasing a copy for each of them as a gift. I had waited long enough and was ready to give this game a try.
After directing these friends to play through the introductory mission, which is required to unlock multiplayer going forward, one of these friends and I sat down and played through the entirety of the game, which took roughly 20 hours. Other friends were able to drop and and out of the game as needed, which is a nice touch. The ability to progress through the story, as well as the ability to pick up quest items that forward the story, are locked to the host. Thankfully, loot is instanced to each player so there’s no bickering or worries about trading when progressing through the fairly open-ended levels.
The game uses a central hub and allows you to jump to the various maps used by the games main, side, and bounty missions. Many of these maps, once the mission is complete, can be revisited in free roam mode. This allows you to farm for karma (XP) and loot. Loot comes in the form of various upgrade “gems”, skill cards, zillyen (money), and new weapons. You will receive hundreds of the upgrades over the course of the game. So many that, by the end of the game, I was simply “junking” most of them, making them easier to sell to one of the NPC vendors in bulk. You will spend considerable time in the hub town doing this, repeating the process after every mission and return to the hub town.
While the upgrade system was interesting when first introduced, it lost a lot of its ability to provide variation about half way through the game. You’re given several upgrade categories and I found that I got the most bang for my buck from the elemental category. So many of the game’s enemies are vulnerable to specific element types (ice, electricity, fire, toxic) that it seemed wasteful to put any of the other upgrades into my weapons. Even then, I had stopped looking at the specifics of the upgrade. I was simply swapping out lower level upgrades with newer, higher level upgrades and counting on that to increase the power of the respective weapon.
On the plus side, you’re given a multitude of weapon options ranging from various melee implements to a plethora of ranged weapons covering all your standard categories. Most of these weapons are handed out as rewards to a specific mission or by defeating a certain, named mob, within a given map. A few of the weapons are randomly found in the games multitude of loot boxes, or chests, scattered around each level. These weapons and the gameplay styles that they open was one of the major draws for me. By the end of the game I had at least 50+ weapons to choose from. You can equip up to 8 of these weapons in any configuration for easy selection via the number pad or mouse wheel. I found the best combination was to carry one melee and one ranged weapon of each element type.
There’s also a skill system, represented as cards, and powered by karma. You gain karma for killing mobs through out the game and gain a skill point every time you cap out. You’ll also gain skill points as rewards for the various missions you’ll complete throughout the game. By the end of the game I had well over 70-80 skill points though I was level 59. It’s a good thing that they give out so many though because the skills you start the game with are in no way even a small fraction of the skills you end up with. Plus, while every skill has multiple levels to it, some of the skills have a drastic increase in skill points for that final ultimate version of the skill.
Graphically, the game wouldn’t be considered top of the line even when released in 2016. However, the game still looks good and the HUD gives you all the information you need without cluttering the screen. All the weapons are distinct and it’s easy to tell at a glance even within the same category of weapon. It’s also easy to tell what element, if any, has been applied to the weapon via the in weapon’s model, the weapon wheel, and the weapon’s display in the HUD.
The story is somewhat confusing and does rely on a playthrough of the original Shadow Warrior to fill in the relevant details. Even with that it’s hard to follow all the twists and turns of the story as some of them are a bit cliched and others nonsensical. The story wraps up with an ending that honestly left me blinking and saying “WTF?”.
All that said, the game is a lot of fun and does carry over the trademark low-brow humor introduced in the original Shadow Warrior. This humor, as well as the graphic violence on display, means that this is a game you shouldn’t play in front of younger kids. Your teenagers, however, have probably heard or spoken worse in school by this point though. At this point, I would certainly recommend this game to fans of the FPS genre. However, I’d wait until the next Steam sale occurs and you can snag this game for roughly $20.