Shattered: Tale of the Forgotten King isn’t the sort of video game we thought we would find ourselves playing. It’s a Souls-like (Dark Souls) RPG full of dynamic combat, unexplained lore, and an item system that is rather confusing to understand. However, it’s all of these concepts combined that lead to us actually really enjoying it. Shattered – as it will be called for the remainder of the review – is rewarding, engaging, and just a blast to play.
Published and Developed by Redlock Studio, Shattered spent one year and some change in Early Access. It’s full release still carries over some of the feel of “early.” It isn’t so much that it ruins the experience in any way, just that there were a couple bugs and crashes we had to work around. Small things aside, the team behind it can certainly stand proud knowing thei ndie game could dance with the big AAA releases. It’s also largely based on tabletop games like Dungeons & Dragons.
While it may not have the huge backing of a full Dark Souls game, Shattered is epic and feels just as good, if not better, than FromSoftware. Sekiro was among our favorite games of 2019 but this feels grander, larger, more fluid. We loved running Japan and its non-fictional setting blended with the supernatural, but Shattered feels set in firmly in a fantasy space. There are doses of sci-fi thrown in but at it’s roots, it’s a tale of adventure surrounding a lone wanderer searching for identity.
It’s by no means a new idea when it comes to storytelling but it’s no less powerful a tale. The entire story is wrapped in mystery and both the protagonist and the player figure out the backstory together. The king of the world known as Hypnos is missing. As the Wanderer, you find yourself trying to find out who you are and what happened to the land.
This idea is the driving force behind Shattered. There is no text explaining outright what you do or what became of the king. Everything is learned in real-time, either from NPCs, items discovered, or locations and none of it is in order. Piecing together the story is sort of like building a complex LEGO set except there are no instructions. There is a basic picture to work with but no outline of how to build it. You don’t have to understand the story in order to enjoy Shattered, however, there’s still plenty to do and see.
Story aside, Shattered’s combat is compelling and engaging. The Wanderer has access to an array of weapons and magic attacks. Swords are used in one of three ways: light attacks for quick and repeated hits, heavy attacks for massive damage and shield bashing, and blocking to protect from enemy swings. Standard enemies aren’t difficult to dispatch on their own but groups can make for a frustrating experience. Close quarters fights are fast and aggressive and attacks will reduce stamina, which is a vital mechanic to keep track of.
Along with a stamina bar are magic and vitality. Magic is drained through the use of magical abilities such as ranged spells or shields. While vitality translates to health or hit points. Managing these three stats is a challenge while in the midst of combat but finding a rhythm between the trio is part of what makes Shattered so thrilling.
Keeping track of them during boss fights is an entirely different story. Bosses are imposing and require patience and thought to get through. It’s like Gandalf said in the Fellowship of the Ring ‘this foe is beyond any of you.’ While bosses are certainly assertive and powerful, they can be taken down with time and strategy.
Defeating enemies rewards the Wanderer with essence. This acts as the currency for the game and allows you to buy weapon upgrades and gear to restore vitality, magic, and stamina. Upgrading to new levels is also done through collecting essence. You keep all of the essence you gain throughout the game expect upon when you die. When you this happens, the enemy who killed you holds onto it all until they are slain again. Dying is something that will happen quite a lot but you are able to respawn and it’s something you’ll be doing time and time again.
Along your journey you will come across Limbo Wells. These act as campfires and allow you to start over again with essential gear. There are a few items that will reset once you respawn such as vitality restoration equipment and anything you didn’t use in your previous life. Limbo Wells are found throughout the open world and are a lifesaver if you’ve traveled far and defeated many enemies. However, resting at one will restore all slain creatures as well, so it’s all about managing and planning your routes well.
Exploration is another great feature of Shattered. The world is huge and includes several unique landscapes from snowy tundras, urban streets, and crumbling ruins. There are several ways to get around each area and part of the fun is searching for hidden doorways or finding new ways to get around difficult encounters. There isn’t a set path to follow and new surprises wait around each corner it seems. We often found ourselves standing on a rooftop overlooking a massive citadel or open expanse just to take in all of the stunning imagery.
One of the most interesting aspect of Shattered is how you go about exploring the world. There are times when the camera will shift from third person to a 2D side-scroller view. There is no way to control just when this will happen so it can be jarring at first. The mechanic allows you to experience the game as a platformer while still having access to all of your weapons and gear.
Item management is simple if not a bit clunky. Many things such as healing items can be equipped to the hotbar for quick and easy access. While others don’t offer much more than a short explanation of what they are but that may not necessarily explain what they do. Others are complete mysteries and may be revealed through conversation with certain characters. Even still, others will allow you to upgrade weapons, stats, and gear to become more powerful and capable when fighting enemies. It all feels so epic and just plain good.
Still, Shattered doesn’t feel completely polished but it is still excellent. Combat can be sluggish and can grow tiring after a while. It’s repetitive and there aren’t a lot of ways to go about killing things. Oftentimes attacks didn’t connect either and this left you open to take multiple hits. There were also issues with teleporting between locations. After using a system built to send you from one part of the map to another, there is a slight waiting period. In this time, enemies are able to freely attack as you wait to appear on screen. There were also numerous times the game crashed and we had to relaunch.
Nevertheless, none of Shattered’s downfalls make it any less fun to play. It’s a grand adventure full of mystery, breathtaking locations, and captivating encounters. You don’t have to dive into all of its lore to enjoy it, and while the combat can be repetitive, it is smooth, fast, and exciting. It’s definitely Souls adjacent but is much more friendly when it comes to dealing with enemies and puzzles.
Overall Score: 4/5