Masquerada Songs & Shadows come from a small development team in Singapore, we might not have heard much from Witching hour studios, except for a few mobile titles, but with Masquerada Songs and Shadow’s they’ve certainly made a giant leap to console gaming.
Masquerada (as we’ll call it from here on in) is a fantasty RPG, with a difference, there’s far more emphasis on the story and audio visual presentation, but sadly this leaves a few gaps which you’ll need to know about before being able to make the choice on whether to dive in.
You begin the game controlling Cicero Gavar, a detective who returns after a 5 year exodus for his brothers crimes. Your childhood friend Razitof has been kidnapped and it’s up to you to get to the bottom of proceedings with the mystery of the magical ‘Mescherines’ Masquerade masks to assist you.
There’s a political battle between many branches of the ‘Masquerada’ which might seem a little overwhelming to hear, but the presentation and storyline develop at a steady pace, which (as long as you don’t mind keeping up with the conversations) will soon develop into an impressive story.
Graphically, it’s all very impressive and seems considerably better than some might expect from it’s crowd funded beginnings, there’s a strong cell-shaded edge to all characters, presented beautifully and with a wide range of faces you’ll come across, there’s enough detail in the people you meet and the locations, that although it’s not the most popular art direction, it’s easy to feel impressed by the overall presentation.
Audio is another area which ties in very well with the overall presentation of the game and there’s an impressive orchestral score which suits the game perfectly and never feels over the top while constantly managing to sound in-line with the environments.
Voice acting is equally as impressive and suits the atmosphere of the game perfectly with some strong performances from most of the cast.
Obviously RPG fans might think of titles like Final Fantasy, but Masquerada is much more similar to something like Banner Saga.
But all good RPG titles, need a great story, interesting characters and locations, top presentation and tons of side quests with deep and engrossing gameplay to match the twisting storyline, and while Masquerada checks a few off the list with ease, it also sadly falls short on a couple too.
You’ll notice I didn’t follow the basic story opening with gameplay.. Purely because gameplay isn’t an area that stands out for Masquerada, combat is dull and repetitive and while you could tactically point your colleagues towards a certain enemy, it was far to easy (and boring) to just walk forward, hold the attack trigger and wait until the enemy falls at your feet.
This isn’t always the case, but far too often, you’ll find combat is more a case of your characters power and holding a button, rather than tactics, positioning or timing.
Sadly the negative points don’t cease at the gameplay, the actual progress is somewhat conflicting, there’s a deep, engrossing and pretty fun story to explore, but that’s close to the only exploring you’ll get to do due to incredibly linear progression with very little in the way of side quests which feels almost out of place in an RPG title of any form these days.
It’s such a conflict when a game is presented so well, but it feels like two completely separate teams worked on the audio visual side and the gameplay and neither liked talking to each other very much.
Bottom Line :
Masquerada : Songs & Shadows is a beautiful game, presented incredibly well with pleasing graphics and a perfect accompaniment of audio both with the orchestral music and some great voice acting..
Sadly it’s let down by a dull combat system and linear progression, but for those looking for the RPG without constant side stepping and complications, Masquerada could be the perfect game.
Gameplay : 6.5
Graphics : 8.5
Sound : 8.5
Story : 8
Value : 7
Overall : 7.7 / 10