Shores Unknown – Hands-on

“A cold rain began to fall,
and the blurred street-lamps looked ghastly in the dripping mist.”
― Oscar Wilde


Usually I don’t write preview or review of some sort, simply because it’s not in my chords, but sometimes comes up a game that is able to immediately catch my attention for some reason (the gameplay, the art style or even the setting). Shores Unknown is, indeed, one of them.
Almost a year ago I wrote a “First Impression” based on a limited demo version, but, since then, Shores Unknown has come a long way, so I decided to update my impression about it.

What follows are my thoughts about the game and its new contents…


TELLING STORIES

First thing first, let’s talk about the story and the setting of the game.
Everything 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 to a perpetual war, every single human being has to face the MURK.
What is the Murk, are you wondering? Well, have you ever read the Stephen King’s short-story called The Mist? Ok, try to think of something like that, literally a wall of fog which conceal dark creatures and from which nobody has ever retuned.
In the mi(d)st of this inhospitable world, we will play as the leader of a mercenary company who will have to venture through the Murk, involved in some kind of conspiracy and in search of truth.
As you will have understood, the story, at this stage, is still partially shrouded in mystery, but it already shows very good ideas, supported by characters always nice, well-defined and, abobe all, quite ironic.
Obviously, the importance of the story directly affect the gameplay. The game is heavily story-driven and this is not necessary a drawback. It’s clear that in this game every single inch of the maps is hand-drawn, so if you, just like me, are not an elector of the P.G.P. (Procedurally Generated Party), then, well, Shores Unknown is simply a game that you cannot miss.
Mind you, that story-driven doesn’t necessary mean “no space for player’s choices”. I know that many games promise the same feature, but in Shores Unknown the impact of some decisions on the story can be REALLY important.


IF NOT NOW… THEN WHEN

About the graphic, we can safely say that the recent updates really improved the aesthetic of the game. The wonderful low poly art style is still there, but now the frame rate is stable, and the animations are smoother, especially when we talk about the fights.
Indeed, during the combat phase it is really a joy to watch what happens on the screen: the characters and the mobs fight simultaneously with different animations, giving you the impression of a real fight, instead of a classic “chess” play. Besides, the way the scenes are directed and filters are used makes clear the intention of the developers to adopt a cinematic approach to the whole thing.
But not everything it’s perfect in this regard.
On the negative sides, maybe it’s just me, but I didn’t like the use of the “depth of field” setting in the game. Mind me, usually I really like the use of this graphic option, but in Shores Unknown it seems how to say… overused. The result is that often the background is so blurred that the game seems a “myopia simulator” 😁.


THERE ARE GOOD REASONS FOR BEING IN JAIL – FOR PROTESTING

Now let’s talk about the gameplay and the combat system.
Like I said, the game is quite straightforward, at least at this stage of development, so forget what you usually find in open or semi-open world RPGs, here your goals and your path is always clear. In the last update, the developers added a bunch of sub-quests, but don’t despair (!), the game is still in heavy development and, relying on roadmap, the future should bring us more variety.
Overall, we can safely say that, under certain aspects, the game plays more like a JRPG than a western RPG, but this not necessarily a drawback if it has, like in this case, a strong story to tell.


Except the story-driven structure, there are many other aspects of Shores Unknown that lets you think you are playing a JRPG. So for example, when your characters level up you cannot decide how to distribute the stat or the skill points. Or, again, the exploration of the map and the combat phases are clearly separated from the exploration section of the game (like in the old Final Fantasy games) and there is almost no real loot outside the battles.
Talking about the combat phase, I found the battles interesting and strategic enough, but not all the mechanics seems clear. For example, it is not always possible to predict if your action will give you a bonus hit for a “side attack” or not, nor it is clear what happen when you disengage from an opponent.
In other words, a more deep tutorial is absolutely necessary.
Even the impossibility to move your characters on the field is something good and bad at the same time. On one side, this gives you the feeling of the confusion/unpredictability of a real battle, but, on the other side, the result often seems too much random.
Maybe it’s just me, but, more than once, I thought “Why can’t I directly tell to my characters where they have to go?”
Last but not least, we have to report that the last update introduced the new feature of the “hideout”, with the consequential sub-quests. At this stage it is not possible to say much about it, because even this feature is under heavy development, but for sure, although it isn’t something really revolutionary, it remains a good addiction to the game, capable of giving more opportunities and variety to the gameplay.


NEW BEGINNING

In conclusion, even if Shores Unknown has a long way to go, it cannot be denied that it has very solid foundations: the art style, the setting and even the story contribute to give it a strong and unique charm.
Let’s just hope to see more content in the near future!

Written by
True Italian with certified mustache made of pasta. Lawyer for a living, writer for passion. Turn-Based Lovers collaborator and many other unnecessary things.

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