Welcome back, Game Clubbers! Today, we're moving forward to Act 3 of Shadows of the Damned.
I'm going to take a slightly different approach to this week's discussion post: Instead of providing a series of conversation-starting questions, I'm simply going to jot down a few of my thoughts about the game, and you guys can either add more ideas or respond to mine. Just like last week, I will be around for the first hour or so after this post goes live to talk about the game in person. Ok, now before we start, I need to get into the SotD spirit. One moment, please...
Ok, now we're ready.
Shadows of the Damned lost a little bit of its magic in Act 3. Though it is amazing how Grasshopper found so many ways to keep the darkness mechanic interesting so far, it has nevertheless become somewhat repetitive. The "dark world" areas where Hotspur needs to get from point A to point B as his health drains felt particularly tapped out. At first glance, those areas simply seem misused: If they hadn't been used as level punctuation—both segments in this act occurred after boss fights—they could have been more entertaining. Since those segments add so little value to the story or the gameplay, the developers might have been better off using a cutscene as a less interactive, but more entertaining way to show Hotspur travelling.
In terms of the story, The Stinky Crow storybook was far less interesting than the book from Act 2. Sure the lack of harmonica-swallowing and oral sex played a small part, but this story seemed to drag on a bit. It also didn't really make me any more interested in "Stinky Crow" nor explain any of his other demonic eccentricities (Keeping organs to snack on, skinning people, etc). The fact that there isn't much else to say about the story or the jokes is disheartening. As a study of humor in games, Shadows has begun to fall into one the medium's worst ruts: finding something that works, and running it into the ground.
While the game revealed itself as fallible in this chapter, it remains incredibly entertaining. The puzzles may lack complexity, but they continue to teach us how to play the game, even after the player has mastery of the controls. That keeps the player interested in the gameplay and, in its own way, gives insight into the world of hell, by far the game's most interesting character. The fact that you use darkness to kill an enemy—not expose a weak point but actually kill him—breaks the absolutist nature of light and darkness that had been one of the laws of the game until that point. Does it make any sense? Absolutely not, but what does that matter? The game's best asset is that its story is unpredictable. In that regard, it's still a raving success.
Note: The next meeting of the Game Club, where we'll be discussing Act 4 of Shadows of the Damned, will be held next Thursday, July 7th, at 4pm Eastern.