+ Solid tower defense mechanics
+ Narrative potential
- Lacks innovation
- Too serious
Final score: 7 / 10
Controller support: No
Minimum system requirements
Windows XP with Service Pack 3
Dual core processor, either Intel 2 Ghz or AMD 2.8 Ghz
2 GB of RAM
1.2 GB free hard drive space
512MB and Shader Model 3.0 graphics card, starting from ATI 3870 or Nvidia GeForce 8800 GTS
Recommended system requirements
Intel double core and quad core 2.66Ghz or AMD 3.26Ghz
4 GB of RAM
1.2 GB free hard drive space
1 GB and Shader Model 3.0 graphics card, starting with ATI 4870 or Nvidia GeForce 260
The tower defense genre has always been seen as the realm of the casual gamer, a bite-sized experience that appeals to those who are looking for simple mechanics, an almost non-existent story and colorful graphics.
Shad’O, a tower defense title created by Okugi Studios and available on the PC via Valve’s Steam, shows how the genre can transcend its origins and deliver fast-paced gameplay that has some depth while also trying to tell a story that involves childhood, memories, the march of adulthood and the fantasies we build to protect ourselves.
The story focuses on William and his missing memories, and the player inhabits the dream body of the child as he seeks to reclaim his past, from actual real-world moments to feelings and ideas, from a malevolent Forgetfulness force.
The entire game could be a metaphor for growing up in the modern world, with children forced to forget their times of playing and innocence in order to face education and responsibility, and there were times during Shad’O when I appreciated the way the narrative was built.
The gameplay is based on the tower defense formula: the player can construct simple buildings that capture a form of currency and then spend it to put down a number of towers along an avenue that enemies will march down on.
The key to success in Shad’O is to mix and match the abilities of the various towers in order to make sure that the final setup can take out any combination of enemies showing up.
Both the towers and the enemies are well suited to the team, with dark shadows with clear visual identities making up the forces of Forgetfulness while brightly colored towers stand between them and William’s memories.
The unique twist for Shad’O is the darkness that initially envelops most, if not all, of the play area and can only be eliminated by placing towers.
Gamers need to be careful how they do that in order to unveil a little more solid ground that can then be used to setup another clutch of towers.
Once a player has their final setup ready, there’s a very handy Speed-Up option in the upper right hand corner that makes the rest of the stage pass quicker.
The first few stages of the game are pretty easy, but as the gamer pushes forward the enemy becomes more resourceful and I found myself restarting a few times because I was clearly headed for failure.
The player needs to go back and play stages in the tougher Nightmare Mode in order to unlock spells and upgrades for his own towers, otherwise progress can be very difficult.
The visual style of Shad’O is unique and attractive, with some nice contrast between the dark and red that defines Forgetfulness forces and the powerful yellow and greens of the towers on William’s side.
The soundtrack and voice work could have used some more resources, but they have little influence on the final experience.
Battle is engaged
Redeemer to the front
Shad’O has a great initial idea, that of building an entire game around the memories of a child and the way he fights to protect them and keep them lively in the long term, but the game that Okugi Studios created fails to fully incorporate the theme of the game with the tower defense concept.
There are times when I thought that an adventure game would have been more suited to the concept the developer was using and other moments when I was sure that tower defense could not work with such a deep core subject.
I rarely play tower defense titles, but when I do, I prefer the humor and over-the-top approach of something like Unstoppable Gorg to the emotion and serious nature of Shad’O.