Well, it’s not far down to paradise, at least it’s not for me
And if the wind is right you can sail away and find tranquility
Oh, the canvas can do miracles, just you wait and see.
– Christopher Cross “Sailing”
How important is a title?
It may seem absurd, but statistically speaking the first factor that catches the attention of the majority of the people, when they need to choose a novel is the Title! Many of you may consider the title a silly factor, almost insignificant if you think that it is usually composed by three or four words (really nothing compared to the 40.000 words of a novel), but the question is not so simple.
In fact, choosing those right “three or four words” is a very challenging task. Try to think at novels like South of No North by Charles Bukowski or Ask the Dust by John Fante or even at Much Ado About Nothing by William Shakespeare. What could have been of those novels with different titles? One thing is for sure, a title is a good one when it is able to free your imagination, to evoke a fantastic world far from you.
This is exactly what happened to me the first time I heard of “Shores Unknown”. A title like that has the undeniable power to carry you away in a brand-new universe full of adventures, mysterious creatures and fearsome magics; in other words in a paradise for any turn-based lovers!
That being said, few weeks ago I’ve had the lucky chance to try the demo of the game and what follows are my early impressions.
– What is the Fog, are you wondering? The Fog is not something you can touch…
– I promise, I will not touch it!
The story of the game takes place in a fantasy world ruled by the Crown with the help of its military arm, the Inquisition. Being on the wrong side of the law in “Shores Unknown” is not pleasant, also considering that, in addition to these fearsome forces and the perpetual war, every single human being has to face the Murk.
What is the Murk, are you wondering? Well, have you ever read the homonyms short story by Stephen King? Ok, try to think of something like that, a wall of fog from which nobody has ever retuned.
In the midst of this inhospitable world, we will play as the leader of a mercenary company who will have to venture through the Murk in search of truth.
Low (but wonderful) poly art
The graphic style of Shores Unknown, following the recent trend of others indie games, features a beautiful low poly art (if you have ever played to For the King, you know exactly what I mean). In other words, the environment, the characters and everything else in the world of Shores Unknown is composed by a limited number of polygons. The final result? Great aesthetic, simply fascinating!
Unfortunately not everything is good on this regard.
The animations are, at the moment, a little stiff and even the frame rate is not very smooth with some tearing problems, but we have to consider that the game is still in heavy development. I’m quite sure that these kinds of problems will be solved with the final release of the game.
One last point on this regard is about the camera. In the demo there wasn’t the possibility to change the level of the zoom or the angle of the camera. It was all fixed and often too tight on your character. It is possible that this limitation will be removed during the further development of the game, but at the moment I found this choice not so comfortable.
Strangely, the animations really improve during the fights where they suddenly become smooth and well refined, even at this stage of development.
In regard to the combat phase I would make a preliminary remark: even if the game is tagged as “turn-based”, in “Shores Unknown” the fights are different from any other game I’ve ever played.
First thing first, the fights are divided into two distinct phases: during the first one, you can give to your mercenaries your orders like attack, defend, use a skill and so on; instead, during the second phase, you can watch the results of your choices, like in an action movie.
But that’s not all. As you may have noticed, from my description, during the combat, among your available actions, there isn’t the possibility to move your characters. The game, indeed, manage to automatically move your units. This feature has a dual purpose: on one hand, it tries to make the fights more easy and fast to manage; on the other hand, there is the evident intention of the developer to give a more spectacular cut to the combat phase.
This is an interesting and – somehow – brave design choice, but, at the moment, there is a downside: the line of movement of your men is not always very clear. The result is that sometimes is not so simple to achieve a side or a rear attack.
Outside the combat the gameplay reminds the good old story-driven RPG, with a fair share of dialogues, some lootable objects and a bit of exploration.
In particular, with regard to the dialogues, during my playthrough, I was pleased to noticed that the answers actually matter. They can change, not only the behavior of the NPC, but also the way you can complete a quest (e.g. with a stealth or a brutal approach).
So far so good
Obviously, at this stage, it’s almost impossible to express an opinion about the game, in fact, it’s clear that the developers have a long way to go until the final release. The demo was quite short and ended exactly when everything was getting interesting.
Nonetheless, it is equally evident that Shores Unknown – even now – has a lot of qualities and many good things to say, especially for anyone interested in that kind of RPGs more focused on a good story rather than in endless (and boring) worlds.