We often think of video games as either or. Top down or first person. RPG or Roguelike. 2D or 3D. Typically, the genre defines this perspective and informs so much of gameplay, like the weapons and skills and how they will behave. Every so often you get a refreshing creation like Salt and Sanctuary which brought the RPG experience to an atypical 2D platform perspective in a way that made complete sense. But what if you could seamlessly move in and out of perspectives and wrap it all in an engaging experience?
Building off of this concept is Shattered: Tale of the Forgotten King from French indie developer Redlock Studio. The game is blurring the lines of perspective and is fusing 2D platforming with 3rd person action gameplay all that alternates between puzzle and RPG. The game is part of the Square Enix Collective which is a similar system to Steam Greenlight program which lets indie devs pitch games to potential players. If fan response is good, the game enters a kickstarting phase and can gain further promotional and distribution support from Square Enix. The game’s pitch was overwhelmingly approved and it’s subsequent Kickstarter was fully funded and beyond in December of 2016. Shattered: Tale of the Forgotten King is just the beginning. Redlock envisions this as an entire game series, with different but connected worlds, so this may be the first of several delves into this cryptic new universe.
We had a chance to sit down with the game’s Alpha demo, which allowed us to gain some always valuable first hand impressions of how the game plays and it’s potential to become one of the better indie games out there. Of course with all games in such early development, many mechanics are subject to dramatic change so keep that in mind going forward.
Developed by: Redlock Studio
Published by: Redlock Studio/Square Enix Collective
Release date: Unannounced, 2017/2018
Age rating: Pending
Platforms: PS4, Xbox One, PC (Played on PC)
Shattered: Tale of the Forgotten King Features
- 2.5D platforming and combat with epic 3D boss fights
- Immersive storytelling within a rich and complex universe
- RPG progression with advanced Skill system
- Unique in-game language, revealing key lore as you translate more pieces
Story & Setting
In Shattered, you will play as the Wanderer seeking lost memories and knowledge from a missing King. The King was key to the creation and sustenance of everything in the world of Hypnos, but he disappeared mysteriously and the kingdom fell into a Limbo. With this fall, came dark beings who overwhelmed what remained of the world, and shattered it into 3 separate pieces. All that remained after was desolation. Thousands of years went by and all that happened was forgotten.
As you explore the mysteries of the world, you’ll face powerful enemies that you will combat and learn from, filling in the mystery. You will have to look for your memories and discover what happened to the shattered lands, mastering your abilities and growing more powerful in the process.
The locations you will explore are all thematically different from each other and they each show the strains and devastation that the eons have brought. Everything relating to the story is cryptically presented and the narrative will unfold as deep as you are willing to explore.
The story is told to you through several different methods such as a narrative from a character called the Wisperer, scrolls you find through the levels, and hidden relics called Eibon’s Fragments. Finding all of these pieces is key to discovering the truth of the game’s cataclysmic events. Specifically, every single Eibon’s fragment is an alphabet letter. The more you have, the more you will understand the language of the strange beings known as Demiurges.
Shattered challenges players to explore the entire wide-ranging zone they enter into, and then to subsequently solve it as a large-scale puzzle. The zones are all separated from each other and are entered into via portals within a central hub, similar to the Nexus in Demon’s Souls.
Each zone is made of :
- One major puzzle that the player has to solve to go on the adventure.
- Three minor puzzles which can grant access to secret zones or different scene nodes.
During the major puzzle portion, you’ll be solving a progression puzzle, such as obtaining a key item to activate a device allowing for passage to the next phase. Then you must survive a platforming gauntlet of traps and mazelike passageways. The levels unfurl across the 2D and 3D dimensions, adding to the challenge. Along this journey, you will be squaring off in combat against a variety of enemies, and you will have access to different weapons and armor. Combat will take place mostly in the 2D perspective but there will be moments of 3rd person 3D combat.
Eventually you will come to face one of the game’s 12 bosses, called the Demiurges. Each of these bosses has a different moveset and will challenge the player’s timing, reflexes and acquired skills. The boss battle will take place in a 3rd person arena setting, similar to the Souls series.
Skills & Crafting
The game features an RPG progression system that is based on improving your skills and engaging in crafting to improve weapons and armors by adding elemental effects.
Skills can be unlocked as you progress and feature different passive or active skills aligned on skill trees. You will uncover some hidden skill trees that will give different benefits, and access to these are dependent on game situations and your level.
Crafting lets the player collect resources to use in the forge: steel, bronze, eibonite, metal ore, fabric, and leather can all be gathered and applied to your gear. Glyphs improve weapons and armors by adding elemental effects. Crafting can repair, enhance or even create new equipment, consumable items or additional keys. The amount of resources available are limited, the decision when and what to craft is an important choice, sometimes choosing between a more powerful weapon or a key that unlocks a crucial part of the story.
Hands On Gameplay Impressions
The demo opened with a tutorial that serves as your standard introduction to the control scheme. Controls are similar to the Souls series but have a 2D/3D hybrid perspective. It takes a little getting used to but once it clicks it handles well.
Platforming is fluid and engaging. To be honest, platforming in 2D/3D within the same zone is amazing and swapping between both camera perspectives makes one wonder why these kinds of perspective mashups aren’t more common. The variation keeps the experience fresh and keeps the player immersed. Just like in Trine, you find yourself wanting to explore every level and find every nook and cranny. The platforming is that inviting. It’s also challenging without being brutal and requires accurate timing and quick reflexes.
Combat is similar to the Souls series, with blocking and attacking with combos, but more deliberate as you must complete your actions before performing another. There is a light and heavy attack, and attacking and dodging are all tied to a stamina bar; thankfully jumping is excluded from this. A dodge roll, leaping forward dash and a double jump tie the game’s dungeon crawling and platforming influences together. Combat is a slower more thoughtful affair of attrition than the hack and slash mindset and share a lot with Demon’s Souls more plodding manner. A curious omission is not being able to attack while jumping, as it seems like it would be a natural extension. It’s possible this is a balancing choice but I found myself again and again trying to initiate attacks while in the air. You have to complete your landing before you can attack. It is however, adaptable and once you get the feel for combat, it’s more than serviceable.
The tutorial ended with a quite challenging enemy, and is the first indication that the game is not going to be a cakewalk. Dealing with enemy attacks takes a little getting used to, and they lack a damage meter so you have to be cautious as you’re not quite sure how soon they’ll go down. Defeating it earned entry to the game’s central hub and once there you can progress to one of the several other worlds.
Enemies will naturally impede your path and can be quite deadly, posing a similar challenge to fellow 2D platformer Salt and Sanctuary. You gain something called Aeon when you kill enemies and open chests. This substance can be used to heal yourself. In the demo, healing yourself consumed 3 Aeon. Upon death you lose some of this substance, until it’s fully gone. Once it reaches 0 you’re no longer able to heal yourself until you kill more enemies. Dying brings you back to activated checkpoints, which are well spaced out. I never felt too far from safety but also never felt close enough to be reckless. The puzzles are brainteasers in the sense that they involve assessing what’s going on in the level and then embarking on finding whatever keys you need to unlock the next phase. The game really encourages you to explore as you light braziers and collect items that grant you passage forward.
Once you meet a boss, one of the aforementioned Demiurges, the game seamlessly switches to the third person epic arena perspective of Dark Souls and your familiar health meters arrive. The first boss I fought had an attack pattern that reminded me of the Tower Knight in Demon’s Souls with forward sweeping attacks and lunges and a devastating shield smash. Just like the Tower Knight I found that staying to its rear and attacking its ankles from safety and bailing when its pattern indicated an area of effect move was key to survival. However, the second boss I encountered was more than ready for that tactic and would leap into the air and do a wide affecting ground smash that quickly put the kabash on my back pocket tactics.
Visual & Audio
The game’s visual direction is gorgeous and minimalistic. The character models are very geometric and with a fantastical flair. There are no realistic touches or details, everything is united in an otherworldly patina. The world feels cold, glassy and icy and moments of flame or lava feel welcoming in contrast. Whenever it threatens to venture into the too cartoony or too serious it returns itself back to balance. Previewing some of the other zones showed that the game will feature a more varied colored palette beyond the steel blues, grays and obsidians.
The audio is fantastic, with an atmospheric score that swells at moments, reminiscent of orchestral masterpieces like the Firelink Shrine theme in the first Dark Souls. They follow their own minimalist rhythm and the game allows for quieter moments. Your movements and attacks all have crisp sounds that enhance the visceral feel. This is the kind of game you can get lost in, even if you make no tangible progress.
I keep coming back to Demon’s Souls as a mantra when relating to the feel of the gameplay and I think there is something to that. Although not as wide of a scope as From Software’s iconic masterpiece, Shattered features many minimalist and conscientious design choices that really made me feel like I had to pay attention to every detail, and this is just in alpha. There seems to be a meaningfulness to every object and platform in the zones. The shifting perspectives frame the content of the game, and entering a boss arena in 3D serves to hold your rapt attention. There is loads of potential in this game and we’re looking forward to exploring everything above, below and sideways losing ourselves in the game’s always shifting perspectives.