An action RPG with hardcore combat.
There are some big and impressive action RPGs floating around just recently, sucking up many hours of gaming time for fans of the genre. Whether you have just finished your most recent hundred hour epic, or simply fancy delving into a different fantastical world for a short time, the action RPG genre has just expanded with the addition of Shiness: The Lightning Kingdom. Developed by Enigami, inspired in part by Manga and completing a successful KickStarter campaign, Shiness offers something a little different from your standard action RPG.
Starting the game, players will be introduced to the interesting setting for Shiness. A world called Mahera that has been torn apart to create individual floating islands, known as Meteoras, is where players will call home for this 15+ hour adventure. Mahera is an incredibly varied place, and players will find themselves exploring a huge variety of different environments during their game. It is also very pretty to look at, and the developers have obviously put a lot of time into the visual side of the game. If anything, I would say it is perhaps a little too bright and colourful, but is that really a problem?
Players take on the role of Chado to begin with, a member of the Waki race, which can only be described as some kind of anthropomorphic bear, or hamster maybe. He and his friend Poky were flying their airship when it crashed on an unfriendly island, and the friends were separated. So the first mission that the player faces is simply finding his friend Poky, but things will get much more complicated from there on. Through the course of the main story, players will find that their simple little quest will have far reaching consequences for the whole of Mahera. They will come across other characters who will join their cause and build up their team, in a typical RPG manner. Also following the template for a standard RPG, players will be presented with ample side quests and even hidden areas to find.
Puzzles will pop up throughout the exploration of the islands, many of which will be linked to the individual skills of the different characters that join the party. Chado, for example, can magically generate huge rocks that can be used to hold down pressure pads in order to proceed. Otherwise, puzzles may require use of other characters’ skills, such as telekinesis or a whip that can grab items that are out of reach, or they may require the player to swap between characters and use multiple skills to solve them. Either way, the puzzles are not too taxing in Shiness and offer a nice distraction from the most unusual, and difficult to master, aspect of the game – the combat.
It is in combat that Shiness really departs completely from the RPG template. Combat, whether instigated by the player or the enemy, is played out as a one-on-one fight in an enclosed area. Other members of the players’ party remain outside, offering various buffs or healing, but can be swapped in at any time to make use of their unique skills. Similarly, additional enemies will remain apart until the current enemy is defeated.
The combat is quite fast-paced, and far more reliant on skill than any button mashing mechanic. There are a lot of systems to learn in Shiness, such as when to dodge and parry to which elemental powers an enemy is weak against and when to use them. The different systems are introduced at a reasonable pace, allowing players to at least partially understand what is going on before being introduced to something new. The problem is that the combat quickly becomes very complex and involving, something that would be more favoured by fighting game fans than RPG gamers. It is also quite difficult, especially when it comes to the far more complicated boss battles. Despite the bright colours and fun characters, Shiness is a hardcore game that will prove a challenge for most gamers.
While I can appreciate a complex combat system, I did find this to be the most difficult area of the game to enjoy. Shiness has a lot going for it, but I would have been happier with an easier combat system. There were also a few bugs in the game that caused some problems, including a camera that could become obscured by scenery in combat, leaving the player to fight blind or get out of the way. The bugs were not a huge issue, and I suspect they will be quickly squashed through patches. However, it is the combat system that will be the most divisive aspect of Shiness.
Shiness: The Lightning Kingdom is a lovely game to look at, and a great accomplishment for the developers. The game has a lot to offer, but the complex action combat system will leave many action RPG fans yearning for something a little more laid back. That being said, if you happen to be a fighting game fan that wants to spend some time exploring a rich and vibrant world, Shiness: The Lightning Kingdom should be your first port of call.