Playing through Shadow of the Guild feels a lot like reading a Chris Claremont comic book. The hand drawn artwork is a joy to behold, but you had better get ready to accept the fact that you are in for a whole lot of reading. In the game, you play as an assassin/spy called Yaran Malak. Your mission is to infiltrate the enemy empire and decimate it from within. Beyond that, most of the excessively lengthy dialogue boxes can likely be skipped over.
With that said, in these sort of 2D side-scrolling games, the story is rarely the reason to play it. In games of this style, gameplay is king and therefore, the gameplay has to be absolutely solid. Unfortunately, in Shadow of the Guild, the gameplay is not solid.
Shadow of the Guild is out now and is available on Steam.
If there is one thing that I cannot abide, it is floaty gameplay mechanics in a 2D action/platformer. This style of game demands a precise control scheme which allows the player to feel like they are in complete control of the character onscreen and therefore any mistakes made are no-one else’s fault but their own.
This is the case in Super Meat Boy and it is the case in The Binding of Isaac, however it is sadly not the case in Shadow of the Guild. With the amount of jumping that is required to play through the game, it is genuinely baffling that Guild Studio made the decision to make the jumping mechanic feel so floaty.
As the player plays through the levels, there is going to be multiple instances of them either not feeling that they are going to make a jump, or overshooting that jump completely. Getting used to the lowered gravity pull present in Shadow of the Guild takes a while.
Admittedly, in the first couple of levels in the game, the imprecise mechanics don’t feel overly cumbersome, once the player gets used to the floaty jumping mechanic. That floatiness actually sort of allows the player to essentially fly through the level, from enemy to enemy, feeling like some sort of a slashy tornado.
The combat mechanics are simple enough, but they too feel imprecise. The player can press the sword button three times in quick succession, but with the input delay, the character onscreen will still be swinging their sword long after the last button was pressed. Still though, with enough button-mashing, some cool-looking combos can be achieved. Other than the heavy and light attacks, a few magical abilities are accessible to the player, the first of which being a lightning strike, which can also be used for some light puzzle solving.
There are also a handful of boss fights scattered throughout the game. Unfortunately, these are not the most engaging. Most of them are easy enough that with enough button-mashing and health potions consumed, the player can brute force their way through. Frankly, there is no real reason to drag these monotonous, HP sponging encounters out any longer than necessary.
The place where the gameplay really suffers from the imprecise control scheme is during the game’s arbitrary stealth sections. There are sections in Shadow of the Guild where the player must make it through an entire room of enemies without alerting a single one. Whilst the hand-drawn 2D assassination animations are a joy to watch, pulling them off without alerting the enemy you are sneaking up on is unnecessarily difficult due to the game’s imprecise controls.
Overall, Shadow of the Guild has an undeniable retro charm to it, reminiscent of the early Prince of Persia games. Whilst the game is nice to look at, it tells a lacklustre story in an overly drawn-out fashion and its imprecise control scheme hinders the moment-to-moment gameplay.
Shadow of the Guild was reviewed on PC with a code provided by Bonus Stage Publishing.