Frozenbyte is known for a series that has become one of my favourites within that specific genre, mainly the Trine series, but this latest release from the Finnish developers have them dipping their toes into unknown waters and sadly the end result is mixed. We take a look at the latest release from Frozenbyte the stealth game called Shadwen
Shadwen is the name of the protagonist in the game who is a female assassin whose mission is to assassinate the king. On her way she stumbles across a young girl who has gotten into trouble with one of the guards for stealing some apples. Shadwen defends the child and with that she takes it upon herself, even though she is reluctant, to guide the young girl to safety while carrying out her mission and this is what makes this game differ from others in this genre as you are constantly being watched, and judged, by this little girl depending on how you carry out your actions on your way to the end goal.
You control Shadwen, and the little girl who you learn is named Lily follows your every footsteps, she keeps out of danger on her own but you can guide her and control her movement by giving her signals as to where she should hide or travel. All gates in the game needs both characters to open so you always need to clear a path for Lily to progress through the game.
You can choose to sneak past every guard there is and guide Lily with you or take out every guard and try to do so without Lily noticing, if she does however her attitude towards you will slowly start to change and in the end will impact how the story closes. This is an interesting approach to a known genre but sadly the game mechanics which is is another selling point of the game is where the game stumbles.
Whenever you stop moving the entire game freezes, you can make time move when standing still by holding a button pressed, this gives you the opportunity to strategize your every move and if you are noticed it is game over, but luckily there is a rewind mechanic so that you can rewind to a previous position whenever you want. This works as a double edged sword as there really is no penalty for being noticed and the suspense kind of get spoiled because of this.
Shadwen also gets a grappling hook early on in the game which you can use to drag objects to distract guards or grapple onto ledges etc. to swing across or climb up obstacles. The problem with this is that it simply does not work most of the time and getting used to the freezing of time quickly becomes a chore, now if you add up the collision on every object in the game, including the grappling rope it is a disaster waiting to happen.
The crafting system in the game, which allowed Shadwen to create the grappling hook is another weird addition, as you need to collect different items to create different tools for you to use, but they are usually hidden around the map and some of the maps are so widespread that it made it a chore in itself to find the different items and usually had me just ignoring them and moving on with the story.
Trine stood out to me visually because of the use of light and colour which made it incredibly beautiful and while Shadwen isn't up to the same standard it certainly has its moments where it truly shines, sadly though these are far and few between as you will spend most of your time crawling around in the dark and grey surroundings trying to blend in.
Shadwen is a mixed bag for me, seeing as much as I loved the Trine games this felt like a step in the wrong direction and I would much rather have played a game similar to the Trine games than Shadwen. But I congratulate Frozenbyte for trying to think outside their own box and trying something new, I am just sad that I couldn't find more enjoyment in the overall experience, but maybe we will see another game similar to this where they iron out some of the issues this game has and create another classic.