Shadow Warrior 2 Review

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A Wang Too Far

Shadow Warrior 2
Platform: PC
Developer: Flying Wild Hog
Publisher: Devolver Digital

2013’s Shadow Warrior was a well received reboot of the 3D Realms 1997 classic of the same name. Coming from Polish developer Flying Wild Hog, it was heavy on action, blood and wang jokes and differentiated itself sharply from the more serious tone most first-person shooters take today. With commercial and critical success, it isn\’t surprising that it now has a sequel which released earlier this month on PC and will see a later release on both Xbox One and PlayStation 4.

Shadow Warrior 2 again stars Lo Wang, a crass but deadly mercenary. Although it isn\’t immediately clear, the story continues where the first left off with Lo Wang accepting another contract. This time Lo Wang is sent on a rescue mission to Zilla Enterprises and soon after he winds up with the soul of the rescued girl, Kamiko in his head.  Much like the first game, I found the story convoluted and absurd but neither of these are necessarily bad. Kamiko takes on a role similar to the demon Hoji in the original. The problem is, Kamiko is nowhere near as Hoji was and her regular nagging is far more irritating than entertaining. There is also very little mentioned of the events of the original to the point where a few minor changes could have completely separated it from the previous events.

The original was linear in progression, with seventeen chapters through large varied levels. Shadow Warrior 2 retains the large levels with plenty to explore but there is now a hub and side-missions that become available as the story progresses. These are optional but the game strongly encourages you to take them with warnings issued before starting story missions while side-missions are available. Side-missions also become unavailable past certain points in the story. The hub also makes it easier to purchase, upgrade and sort items, organise co-op play and return to completed areas.

The side-missions represent a lot of content and skipping them means skipping a significant portion of the game as there are far fewer story missions than in the original. At first I was doing every side-mission that became available but I was soon skipping them because I found them tedious. Early in the game I went through three connected side-missions with the implied promise of restoring Lo Wang’s sword from the first game. After completing these missions I ended up receiving a simple weapon upgrade for my trouble. A strength that is also a weakness is that the side-missions are all designed procedurally with randomised layouts, enemy and item placements. On the one hand this adds replay value to the game but on the other, you can end up traversing some poorly designed areas.

The game has a lot more weapons than the original but many are variations of the same weapons such as swords, shotguns, rifles and rocket launchers. The swords remain the better weapons to use in most cases but certain weapons are more useful against certain enemies. There is a significantly expanded upgrade system which is at first overwhelming with many ways to enhance and improve weapons. The lazy way to explain all this would be to compare it to Borderlands but this is not quite accurate. There is certainly plenty to loot but the weapons aren’t randomised and changing them involves using different gems. These gems can also be sold or combined with others. The only major issue I had with this was with the interface as it is difficult to compare different upgrades and see which weapon is using what.

Visually, Shadow Warrior 2 is a huge improvement on the original and this is especially impressive considering it didn’t come from a major studio. There are a large variety of generally oriental themed environments. From futuristic cities to Japanese style castles and villas, there is a lot of detail and down to blowing leaves and even weather effects. The enemy detail is also impressive, especially the way they come apart with sword blows and ballistic damage. I did encounter a few technical problems with the game crashing on two occasions and also a few occasions when I was trapped in the geometry. For the most part, the game ran smoothly and there were multiple updates released during the week I played it for this review.

Shadow Warrior 2 is very much combat focused and how much you enjoy this will depend on how much you enjoy the game. Fighting waves and waves of enemies soon became tiresome and the narrative this relentless combat is built around didn’t do much to compel me to continue playing. I did see it through to the end though and the ending will either disappoint or just confuse players. If you really enjoyed the original than Shadow Warrior 2 gets a cautious recommendation but for everyone else, it would be safer to at least wait for a price-drop.

2.5 Stars

Disclosure: A review copy of Shadow Warrior 2 was provided by the publisher.

October, 2016

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