Developed by Flying Wild Hog, Shadow Warrior 2 is being published by Devolver Digital and releases right as this review is being published, midnight of October 14th AEST. Shadow Warrior 2 picks up the story of Lo Wang (cue as many dick jokes as you can possibly think of - everyone else does) and enters into the beginning of the game with Wang continuing his mercenary-for-hire shtick as he’s delivering an expensive package to a client. The plot is initiated when, as he delivers the object, he’s told that a very important asset to his client has gone silent. Smith is present for this conversation as he has a direct connection (Smith being your go-to guy for cliche wisdom and sword making) and also wants you to locate the asset.
Wang’s happy to do this, for a fee of course, except that the asset (a young girl under the employ of a genius yet psychotic scientist/business owner) has been injected with an evil spirit and is now possessed. Utilising Smith’s ancient techniques, her soul is transferred to Wang’s consciousness. Cue the zany adventure to try and reclaim the necessary implements and ingredients to get her out of Wang’s head and back to her own body - whilst also performing various jobs for various individuals.
Shadow Warrior 2 does a number of things very, very right. We’re going to go out on a limb and say it’s the best First-Person Shooter (FPS) game we’ve played this year. We’re highly tempted to throw in best comedic narrative too. Shadow Warrior 2 does well what old school shooters used to do well, then adds in some new elements for spice, without ruining the flavour. That is to say, it feels more run and gun than jetpack about like a fancy unicorn. Regardless of you being a ninja and having access to a quick dash and a double jump, you still feel distinctly grounded, and when enemies are charging at you relentlessly you don’t just feel like you’re going to mow them down - you’re in real danger if you stand still. There’s a good reason this game reminds us of Duke Nukem - and it’s not just the potty humour.
The single player mode involves Lo going up against a massive variety of enemies using a large arsenal of weapons. These range from fictional pistols, bows, shotguns, Uzi’s, assault rifles, even nail guns and combining these with high-flying agility moves mentioned before such as the double jump and quick dash - then sprinkling in some magical abilities to boot. Essentially everything can be upgraded or leveled in Shadow Warrior 2. Weapons can be enhanced by utilising gems that grant them extra benefits, converting damage to elemental damage or adding extra elemental damage. Skills are leveled up using Skill Points and extra skills are granted by finishing quests and can also be obtained after killing end game bosses. The skills are separated much like weapons, by type - those being Life, Warrior, Powers, Resource. The game boasts a four-player co-op online so you need to quickly decide if you’re going to be playing single player more often or multiplayer. Should you play single player it’s evident that staying alive will require a bit of a spread out skill set - however, if you jump online more often, then specialising certainly isn’t the worst choice you could make and you might focus on Melee or Powers singularly.
Story wise we’re impressed but not floored. A lot of the story is; go fetch this, go fetch that. However, this is overcome by the peppy smart ass dialogue of Wang as well as the numerous pieces of lore scattered around that keep you interested in the story. Go fetch quests are a horrid entity for us, and (if you’re a fan) we apologise - but they feel so…over done. At least used as Go Fetch quests - we’ve seen a multitude of other games play the go fetch game and hide it as something else. It would have been really useful here. Otherwise - the story remains enthralling - and we do feel wrapped up in trying to get a certain annoying yet lovable voice out of our head and, of course, get paid.
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The graphics in Shadow Warrior 2 are gorgeous - and the physics aren’t anything to sneer at either. Your Chi blast genuinely feels like it’s boosting from your screen and the bodies fly away - yet not so much that it feels like you’re a God - just a really powerful smart-ass ninja. The enemies are beautifully composed - however, it feels like the pen was dropped a little on the standard humans and focused more on the demons and Zilla troops. Not so much that it’s hugely noticeable but enough to raise an eyebrow. The environments are gorgeous and jump from busy city streets with shops and homes to the countryside where it’s all green trees (and demons). There’s not a moment in the game where we felt like the graphics let us down - we played through as much of our Early Access as we possibly could with our graphics set to the highest and it was a beautiful experience.
The ambience in the game means your main accompaniment is Wang’s endless tirade of smart-ass remarks and hilarious anecdotes. Especially when he gets to talking trash. The humour is debased but that’s what makes it amazing. When your roots are steeped in Duke Nukem - you expect nothing less and if you go into this game expecting good, clean fun - you’re out of your mind. The trash talk is swung at both enemies, friends and employers alike - and it seems like it’s only Smith who can bring the fear of god into Wang. In fact, it becomes evident early on that Smith is literally the only character whom Wang has even a modicum of respect for. The interactions between the voice in Wang’s head and himself bring a nice little perk to the beginning and end of missions - as well as a few tidbits inside. However, we found ourselves waiting with anticipation for the next Smith/Wang interaction. The contrast of serious, wise sword-maker and smart-ass, powerful, ninja mercenary is perfect.
Multiplayer sees up to three other individuals join your party and, when enabling multiplayer, you can choose whether (regardless of players joined) you want 2, 3 or 4 player difficulty levels, meaning if you’ve got some rookies joining in your adventures you can adjust accordingly, and as they get better - kick it up. Multiplayer does, however, immediately mean you will need to spend the 25,000 to re-spec your skill points as you will be spread far too thin if someone else is already focusing something you’ve dropped a few points into. It doesn’t matter what point you’re at either as the repetition is solved by procedurally generated levels. All in all, the multiplayer is excellent and drop in/drop out and lag were non-existent.
Faults. Each game has them. We found a few. The movement didn’t feel as smooth as it should have. Whether this is because we’ve just come from the smooth grasp of Dying Light or whether it was actually an issue is up for debate. However, being a ninja, we didn’t feel like the smooth grace was there - and the quick dashes didn’t play well enough into or out of the double jumps. Climbing was clunky - and often missed. The dashes were well executed provided you didn’t try and accompany them with a jump and it quickly became evident that dash was a mainstay thing to practice when avoiding damage. The slow cast time on skills was….frustrating. Void Spikes took so long to cast that we often found we had to Chi blast and then Void Spike, a skill that improved cast time would be really, really beneficial. Finally, Hideo’s voice. The Ninja Shop owner. Why? Why God. Why that voice? Anything but that peppy teenager sounding voice for the owner of a damn Ninja shop.
Should I buy? Asking if you should buy this game clearly shows you’re not ready for the Wang. Of course, you should buy. The game’s dialogue is hilarious enough to warrant it alone. The large variety of weapon choices, as well as play styles and playthroughs being changed dramatically through various weapon upgrades and skill choices, means the replayability is high. You can still grab the game at 10% off for another three hours, so jump in and get it slightly cheaper while you can. You won’t regret the purchase if you’re a fan of old school shooters and run and gun mayhem. We feel this game provides enough for everyone to stay happy. At USD $35.99 it’s certainly not a steal, but the price tag is worth it for the replayability of the game and the large focus on co-op multiplayer.
Shadow Warrior 2USD $35.99
- Great story
- Hilarious Dialogue
- Great Combat System
- Huge Variety of Weapons/Skills
- Great Multiplayer
- Skill Cast Time
- Odd choice of voice actors on some characters
- Mundane Go Fetch Quests Hurt
- Movement needs improvement