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Shadowgate - 2014 (PC) Review

Journey once more into the castle Shadowgate

Do you remember having a favorite video game that it seemed not many other people fully appreciated? One that you were completely obsessed with, spent tons of time with played over and over again, gathered every bit of information on it that you could? For some people, the games that they find themselves so devoted to end up becoming big series, with numerous sequels. For others, those games get periodic sequels and live on. And for yet others those games just sort of fade away, becoming forgotten in time.

For a while, it seemed that Shadowgate would be one of those games in that last group. Certainly, it was much-loved by a number of people who experienced the original adventure on NES, Macintosh, and PC. And, the series did get some sequels - a side-scrolling adventure game for the TurboDuo, and a 3D exploration game for N64, as well as a port of the original game to the Gameboy Color. But, the series never seemed to receive quite the appreciation that it deserved, and, after those N64 and GBC versions in 1999, the series seemed to slip away. While the series, or mentions of the series, would pop up occasionally, it was never anything significant. And, after a while, it seemed all hope was gone, and the legend of Shadowgate would be lost to the passage of time.

Sometimes, however, all it takes is a few dedicated people to make something happen. And fortunately for the Shadowgate series, it had two extremely dedicated people - Dave Marsh and Karl Roelofs - who had been with the series since the beginning, who still maintained that love for the series after all those years, who wanted to see the series live and thrive again. They surrounded themselves with a great group of talented people at Zojoi, acquired the rights to the Shadowgate franchise, and set out to find if there was still a desire to see Shadowgate live again. And, through the relatively new (especially at the time in 2012) format of Kickstarter, soon found out that there were nearly 3500 people were still passionate about Shadowgate, and wanted to see it brought back to life. And, after over a year and a half of work, that dream finally become a reality, with the new Shadowgate game!

The first thing that should be clarified/emphasized with regards to the new Shadowgate game is that it is not simply a port/remake of the original Shadowgate. While it is based off of the original Shadowgate, and shares similarities with it, there is a significant amount of new content - rooms, items, descriptions, everything that goes into making the game. So, anyone who has played the original who is expecting to simply blow through this game in short order is in for a big surprise.

That said, the new Shadowgate shares much in common with the original, where it is a near certainty that anyone who enjoyed the original will enjoy the new Shadowgate as well. All of the core aspects of a good Adventure game are here. In your journey through the castle Shadowgate and surrounding areas, you will be exploring through a wide variety of locations, gathering hints, clues and information, discovering items and putting them to use, solving puzzles, uncovering mysteries, all while working toward your end goal. The challenge and adventure of Shadowgate is alive and well, and fans of the series will be thrilled to see all of this brought into a new game so well.

For people who are new to the series, or to the genre entirely, the new Shadowgate also provides as an excellent entry point. There are three different difficulties - allowing one to experience the adventure while working through different amounts of puzzles, different challenges, and more forgiving circumstances. There is also an optional hint system in place, where one can make use of a companion to receive information about situations and guidance toward solutions. So, one can start on a level where one is comfortable, and work up through the difficulties and help with those difficulties, until one is a master of the castle.

In bringing Shadowgate to a new generation, new expectations, and new groups of fans, Zojoi have brought the game up-to-speed not only with regards to the puzzles and adventure, but in the graphics and music as well. Each area - old and new - is beautifully illustrated, to make each room come alive. In addition, a wonderful soundtrack has been created for this game, each piece of which which perfectly fits and sets the mood for the rooms and the entire game.

For those with a fondness for the original soundtrack and style of the original game, however, there are a set of options - for audio, text, and transitions - which can be toggled on or off individually, to provide for a more "retro" style of play. The audio allows one to experience either the new soundtrack, or the NES one. The text option causes text to appear letter by letter, drawn by a quill. And, the transition option causes the more blocky style of moving from room to room, as opposed to more blurred option of the newer version. Each of these, depending on one's preference, can either provide for a more "retro" feel on a newer adventure, or allow one to experience an entirely new adventure altogether.

Between the different difficulties, different challenges, new things to explore and discover and overcome on each difficulty, new details to notice, and an intricate story to uncover, as well as the various options for display and experience of the game, there are many reasons to play through Shadowgate multiple times. While it's easy enough to do a quick playthrough of the game on the easiest difficulty with hints, it's a very rewarding experience to play through at the hardest difficulty without any hints. That may be a bit much to tackle the first time through the game, however, even for seasoned Shadowgate veterans, and so going through the game multiple times on different difficulties to uncover increasingly more of the game is highly recommended. Even beyond that, however, the world of Shadowgate is so rich and rewarding that it will continually draw one back into its world, to explore and experience it time and again.

Two different versions of the game are available for purchase - a standard version and a Special Edition version - with the core game being the same between the two of them. The difference between the two versions is that the Special Edition version contains wallpapers, artwork, a hintbook, and all sorts of beautiful extras to bring Shadowgate outside of the game and into your world, to plaster wherever you want, and to look at and listen to whenever you want. Shadowgate is currently available through Steam, and DRM-free through GOG.

The new Shadowgate game takes as a starting point the original Shadowgate, and builds off of it to bring forth a game which is similar in style, while still modern and up-to-date; a game which has a similar feel, yet doesn't feel archaic; a game which stays true to the roots of the original, while providing a significantly new experience; and which takes a franchise that at one time, and for so long, had seemed lost to the ages and tales of the past, and brings it once more to the forefront of gaming. The new Shadowgate is not meant to merely be a one-off thing either. Having seen the passion and love that still exist for the franchise, Zojoi have plans to bring Shadowgate as a franchise back to life, continuing to combine old and new as old adventures are revived, forgotten tales are brought to the fore, hidden information is revealed, and bright future is once more in sight.

It's not very often that a game like the new Shadowgate comes along. A beautiful blend of old and new, a game which will appeal to fans of the series, fans of the genre, and people new to both of them. A game in a series which for so long had seemed lost and without hope, brought back to life, not in just a simple port or in a cheap use of the name, but in a lovingly-crafted game, both a tribute to what has come before, and a promise of what is to come. Dave Marsh, Karl Roelofs, and everyone at Zojoi, have created a masterpiece with Shadowgate. The series is once more in good hands, and the future is brighter than it has ever been.

Journey once more into the castle Shadowgate!