The past few weeks have seen me try to get back into the swing of my reviews. Whilst I do tend to go for the more simplistic indie games, most of you will already know I’m a sucker for an RPG and this is why Shiness really caught my eye. Ever since I was little, I’ve always been fascinated by the connection of martial arts and the elements of the world, so anything which plays towards this is usually a big hit in my books, I honestly believe if Call of Duty had fire and wind spells I would enjoy it a lot more. That said, Shiness struck me as an extremely positive game with a lot to offer and after playing it, I can say that it definitely has all the attributes that you would want in an RPG based game.
Shiness is an action based RPG game that follows the route of several interesting protagonists. The main emphasis of the game is on it’s interesting story based plot line, with strong ties to martial arts and elemental attributes and a truly fantastic combat system which is only bested by it’s enjoyable and streamline gameplay. The game was developed by Enigami and published by Focus Home Interactive and was released on PC, XBox and PlayStation stores on 18th April 2017. First and foremost I will say, that the game does transition over to the PC very well, however even the game suggests playing with a controller in order to enjoy everything that it has to offer (so may be worth investing).
Shiness opens with two of our main protagonists, young wakis who are on a ship which is falling from the sky. During the opening cutscene, one of the protagonists, Poky, a timid yet skilled engineer cowardly jumps off the ship, landing deep in the forest, leaving our other main protagonist, Chado, a daring waki with the ability to speak to an Earth sprite, to plummet from the sky. Before long you will be in control of Chado, traversing the wonderfully designed world of Gendys and the beauty it has to offer whilst you search for your lost companion.
Before long, you’ll be introduced to two other protagonists, Kayenne, a calm yet powerful fox looking creature, and Rosayla, a gentle and kind human who has run away from her hometown. The story will briefly guide you through the warring of several nations in a bid for power and provide some insight as to why Rosayla has escaped with the aid of Kayenne. Further down the line a bit, you’ll also be introduced to Askel, a young gentleman who is already hot on the trail of Rosayla in a bid to capture her.
As the game progresses, you’ll learn about the story and plot behind the game. Needless to say it’s actually a very interesting concept involving a power struggle between several nations in a bid to control the world. As time progresses, you’ll learn more about it, but I don’t want to go ruining that surprise just yet!
The game consists of an open world gameplay, so you will be able to take control of your character, dash around like a mad lunatic grabbing animals, solving puzzles and showing off your martial arts expertise like a young Jackie Chan. That said, there’s naturally a linear path that you need to take in order to level up and become the god of elements that you are destined to become. Once you reach certain areas, enemies will become far more aggressive with a higher level difficulty requirement, so running off isn’t usually a good idea, that said most of the time you can’t really go outside of your comfort zone, as you’ll be offered barriers or puzzles that will require you to progress through the game in order to proceed.
One of the really interesting aspects of this game is the combat system. Enemies will freely roam the world (within their range limits of course) and you will be able to attack them, silently or charging in, depending on how you feel. The game describes it as a ‘Hyper-Dynamic duel’ and in all honesty that won’t mean much until you actually go and play it, but once you do, wow. Once you enter a particular battle, you’ll be locked within an arena, covered with a barrier that is changing colors (we’ll get to that shortly). The vast majority of skills are self explanatory, you’ve got your attack, heavy attack, guard, roll, parry attacks, and item usages to keep you occupied. Progressing further into the story will begin unlocking the wonderful world of Shi skills though.
Shi skills are the fancy and exciting part towards Shiness. The philosophy behind them is that Shi are elemental forces. I.e. wind, water, fire, lightning, earth and … plant? Each of the characters is able to learn different Shi skills and disciplines, allowing them to make use of powerful spells during battle which can both provide huge offensive and defensive bonuses. The downside is that enemies also usually have some Shi skills up their sleeve too, so adapting your disciplines towards your characters affinities and using them to control the ebb and flow of battle is how to truly stand out from the rest. Furthermore, disciplines will offer other bonuses in regards to combos, stat bonuses, companion boosts and enemy debuffing, so feel free to play around with them to get the most of what there is to offer.
Furthermore, there’s a real emphasis placed on the tactical system that the game offers it’s players. You will begin earning some support skills after a short while, and using these with some pre-determined inputs will allow you to build your team to assist and create carnage for an enemy. The game offers the tutorial based around setting up a skill system, so if your main character’s health falls below 75%, your companion will automatically attempt to heal them using the support skill, pretty neat, huh? As you progress, you’ll unlock even more skills that can be set up to build a fully functional tactical party with minimal effort on control.
Considering the above, there’s also a lot of mechanics that focus around strategy and thinking one step ahead of your opponent. This is a game where charging directly into battle will get you knocked on your ass, and trust me, you don’t want that. The sphere that surrounds you will change colours to match your particular element, so charging up your shi powers will allow you to pull off more elemental based damage, furthermore, your enemies will constantly attack you, so be prepared to parry, guard and roll away as much. In Shiness, the defensive aspects are just as important as the offensive, so keep this in mind.
This is, however, still a game that has a very strong emphasis on RPG based gameplay, so you can continue to look forward to all the usual features that you would normally find, such as levelling up, finding and equipping new weapons and armors to improve stat bonuses, increasing your power as you see fit, unlocking a huge variety of skills and functions, and of course, a lot of puzzles and fights to keep the logic and bloodthirst growing strong.
Shiness really shines (see what I did there?) through with it’s amazingly detailed look at the lore and world that it has been built around. During gameplay, one of the pop ups mentioned that the lore and story has been 20 years in the making which is not suprising in the slightest. Every little thing has a tremendous amount of detail and knowledge behind it, from the characters themselves, to the skills, the locations and the enemies, and that’s without even getting into the whole philosophy of the Shi disciplines. Whilst the game may have only spent the past few years in development or so, the level of detail placed into the lore of the world is astounding, and one that needs to be positively recognized.
Further more, and I may be ambushed with criticism based on how easy everyone else found this, but the game can actually be quite difficult at times. It could be that I was playing on a PC and using the keyboard based system (even when the game told me not too) or it could be due to the fact that I’m just shockingly terrible at fighting games, however either way, I felt like Shiness managed to keep me consistently challenged throughout my entire playthrough.
I have to say that the level of graphical detail is incredible. Each of the areas has been designed to a very high standard, with a lot of detail implemented into the character designs, the animations of attacks, skills and effects. It’s interesting to see that the vast amount of lore also heavily impacts upon the environment of the game, and I can say that the graphics for this are really a sight to behold.
The sound of the game compliments the general atmosphere and the genre that the game has to portray. All instances of background music has a relaxing and peaceful tone towards it, one that you would expect to see in a very mysterious and ancient type of martial arts genre. There sound portrays a real emphasis on discipline and the nature that is typically associated towards an Asian martial arts fighting game. The character voices, sound effects and even combat sounds are all very detailed as well, and the entirety of the sound is of high quality standard.
Finally, we get onto the main aspect of the game, was it actually fun to play? Well, I’m pleased to say that I thoroughly enjoyed Shiness. Whilst I would highly recommend playing with a controller, as the PC version is a little difficult to grasp at times, the game and mechanics that it offers really does have something special and unique. I can say without a doubt that I had a lot of fun playing this and really would love to give it a go on a console based system to see how the two hold up.
Overall, the game has a lot to offer it’s players, whether you’re interests are similar to mine and you enjoy levelling up, unlocking new skills and being the most badass porcupine that you can possibly be, or if you’re more of a fan of traversing vast environments, crawling through dungeons and making your way through long mechanics, or if you simply just love a long and difficult fight, Shiness really does have something to keep everyone happy.
Shiness very much deserves a 9/10 for it’s contribution towards the gaming world. Not only does the game really shine in terms of the level of detail and lore that has been input into it, but it also provides the gamer with a massive amount of interesting story and gameplay to keep them very much entertained for a while. Any lovers of the RPG genre with a bit of emphasis on martial arts, will surely love this new title.