There is plenty to be normally expected when a game studio plans to launch its game. There is usually a marketing strategy involving trailers, demos and other promotions to build up anticipation for a launch. This is all usually planned out carefully to maximize sales potential and profit. I use terms like ‘usually’ and ‘normally’ because they do not apply to Asymmetric: the studio that makes the Loathing series of RPGs. They are strange and bizarre and do things that make little to no sense, such as dropping their latest game, Shadows Over Loathing, like a meteor with no buildup whatsoever.
The Role You Play
In Shadows Over Loathing, you play as a yet-to-be-named protagonist and get to build your character from the ground up. You can choose from three different classes with different characteristics: Cheese Wizard, Jazz Agent and Pig Skinner.
As you progress, you can improve your character with different equipment. You can also periodically improve your attributes with food and potions that last for an entire day. Whenever you gain experience from battle or completing quests, you can apply it to improving your attributes or by applying it to learning from books you gather throughout your journey.
Despite its peculiar nature, Shadows over Loathing does have a rather cohesive plot. You receive a letter in the mail from your Uncle Murray. He has asked you to come and visit his investigation agency in Ocean CIty. Upon arriving, you find that he has mysteriously gone missing. It is up to you to go out and find him. The best way to locate him is to work with the agency and follow a trail of cursed objects. With the help of other members of the agency and various other people you meet along the way, you can hopefully find him and the reason for his disappearance.
There is plenty to offer regarding the gameplay in Shadows over Loathing. Most of it is exploring the different areas of the world and completing quests for the various people you meet. The ways that you interact with the different environments and objects within are similar to that of a point-and-click adventure game, where you have to collect different items and use them you solve help people and solve puzzles or other problems you are presented with.
The other main aspect of the gameplay is the turn-based combat system. Not much has changed since the previous Loathing RPG: West of Loathing, but not much needed to change. The abilities are more suited for a 1920’s aesthetic and you can have an avatar that aids you in combat. You usually have you and one other party member take turns in combat against a group of enemies.
There are six chapters in Shadows of Loathing. Each one brings with it a new map with plenty of areas to discover. Whenever you reach a new section of the map, you have the option to explore. This allows you to find new areas which can potentially open up new quests. The side quests provide a plethora of content ranging from retrieving items for researchers, helping find parts for a downed plane, or finding the cause of black holes in an abandoned house.
This is to say nothing of the main quest, which also provides plenty of enjoyable content. Between the main quests and the side quests, Shadows over Loathing offers roughly 15-20 hours of content.
Shadows Over Loathing has a great soundtrack to match its 1920s Lovecraftian horror comedy aesthetic, which is not a simple feat to accomplish. A lot of the music is very string focused with the melodies being driven by violins, violas and cellos and the occasional piano to give it a more classical sound. The tone the tracks create can range from tension-building to subtle to relaxing to match the situation. There are a lot of locales that need their own background music from rainy city streets to underground pubs to caves and spooky dream sequences.
Shadows Over Loathing’s biggest standout feature, as with other games in the franchise is its comedic presentation. It is depicted in many ways from its black and white stick figure art style to the peculiar art style to the surreal plot and gameplay options. The game is designed to be ridiculous and have you do silly things throughout. These can include giving you a fishing pole and allowing you to fish in any body of water you find, such as bathtubs, fountains or even pools of blood.
The Talking Parts
The nonsensical nature of the Loathing series extends into this game’s dialogue. Every character speaks in unusual ways and you have options for talking with people that are odd and silly throughout. Some of the odd moments include arguing with the narrator about whether you used to work for various companies or dream sequences where you become a dinosaur and debate whether to eat different random objects. It’s difficult to describe the extent of the unusual dialogue because it is consistent throughout the entirety of the game.
Z…We’ve Reached the End. Anything Else?
The Loathing RPGs have developed a reputation for being silly and ridiculous in their gameplay and storytelling. However, even though Shadows Over Loathing markets itself as a comic horror game, it never quite reaches the comedic peaks of its predecessors. It doesn’t really have any ‘laugh out loud’ moments like the spittoons in West of Loathing. It also recycles some of the material from West of Loathing like the silly walk cycles and doesn’t have the same comedic punch as it did before.
Shadows Over Loathing firmly establishes the Loathing RPGs as a solid franchise. It is yet another weird, surreal and wonderfully entertaining RPG in what will hopefully be a long-running series. It is absurd, weird, strange and incredibly fun and I have no problem recommending it to anyone.
Final Score: 9/10
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