Okage: Shadow King - Retroview  

Urn Smashing Madness
by Derek 'Roku' Cavin

15-25 hours


Rating definitions 

   The evil king of shadows, Stan, has been released once more to terrorize the world. Unfortunately for him, several other evil kings have appeared while he was sealed. In order to help his sister, a reluctant boy more or less agrees to be Stan's vessel. The two will travel the world in Okage: Shadow King in order to defeat the imposters and reclaim Stan's title.

   Rather than fight the enemy evil kings' minions as one would expect, the heroes spend most of their time fighting urns. Defeating urns will unlock the path forward, so most battles fought in dungeons will be against various types of urns. This lack of variety hurts the game, but the battle system itself doesn't help much either.

   In battle, players and enemies take turns leaping across the battlefield. There are spells and skills too, of course. While that may sound standard, the battle system does have a few flaws that result in greatly damaging the system as a whole. First of all, it relies heavily on luck: attacks fluctuate greatly in terms of damage. The next problem is with turn order and charging time. This too seems to be relatively random. Trying to coordinate item usage with abilities that drain user hp is simply a nightmare in this game as it's impossible to predict if the item will be used before the skill of vice versa. The final major flaw is really more of an interface problem. Since characters are leaping all over the battlefield all the time, it can be difficult to predict who they are targeting and where they are landing. Since the camera will often pan away from enemies, it can be very difficult to predict who the enemy is targeting if a character's turn comes up before the enemy lands.

The face of evil The face of evil

   Luckily, the problem with the battle system is the only major flaw the interface has. Other than that, it does a decent job of laying out the menus for the player's convenience. The localization is good and doesn't contain any real noticeable problems, though the story doesn't contain very much dialogue to begin with.

   As with most short games, Okage's storyline never becomes very developed. Most of the game is spent simply chasing after various evil kings and defeating them with little story in between. The story does begin to pick up near the end of the game, but it doesn't get far before the game ends. The main driving force of the game is the bizarre cast and their development. Unfortunately, that too is somewhat neglected due to the short length of the game.

Looks like a character from a certain movie... Looks like a character from a certain movie...

   There are only a handful of chapters and even fewer dungeons in the game. Additionally, there are very few sidequests. The entire game could be finished fairly easily within about fifteen hours, but it could possibly take ten more if the player wishes to level up a lot or complete the few sidequests the game has to offer.

   Unfortunately for those looking for a high completion time, there is little need to ever spend time leveling up. Urns and random encounters provide enough experience and money to make most enemies and bosses easy to defeat. Luck does have a large effect on battles, but most battles are still easily won, especially with an inventory full of cheap healing items.

   One good thing about the game is its originality. While the battle system and story are only slightly original, the game itself has a very unique style, both in graphics and in tone. It features a bizarre sense of humor and twisted landscapes that are rarely seen. It has everything from people cursed with pink shadows to evil urns that guard dungeon paths.

   Not only do they have a unique and twisted design, they match the mood of the game perfectly and everything fits together very well. Unfortunately, the visuals are also mixed in terms of quality. A lot of attention is given to a small number of isolated areas, but players spend most of their time wandering through dull sewers or empty fields instead. Additionally, while enemies are generally well designed, recolored versions of the same enemy are rampant. The visuals are still good overall, but they would have been much better had the same amount of attention been given to all aspects of the game.

   While not as good as the visuals are in terms of quality, Okage features a moderate array of background music to accompany the adventure. Most of the tracks are relatively average, though there are a few slightly above and below. None particularly stand out though. The sound effects are also nothing spectacular, but they serve their purpose.

   Despite a lot of potential, Okage suffers from several implementation problems such as the fact that the majority of the enemies the party faces in dungeons are all essentially the same. Combined with a poor interface and a below average battle system, most battles become a chore. Despite its flaws, it is quite original, features an interesting art style, and has a reasonable amount of charm. Unfortunately, the finished product is still below average in the end.

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