Shattered Tale of the Forgotten King Review: between Souls and platformers

Fresh from a Kickstarter campaign launched in 2016, the debut title of the French team Redlock Studio arrives – also on consoles. Shattered: Tale of the Forgotten King is a soulslike quite canonical which, however, also includes among its elements a good dose of platforming, often with a shift from 3D to 2.5D. Inspired in the construction of the game world and with a fascinating artistic direction, Redlock’s proposal nevertheless seemed to us lacking from a strictly playful point of view, the fault of a realization that is not always completely satisfactory. Here is our verdict.

Hostile and silent lands

In the wastelands of Hypnos, an ethereal-looking world that seems to be suspended between two dimensions, the ruling sovereign is mysteriously deposed. An opening that is anything but didactic – in full accordance with the Souls tradition – immediately puts us in the shoes of Wanderer, a silent warrior who will have to try to restore the order of the kingdom by finding those directly responsible.

Cryptic and nebula, the narration of Shattered thus takes us to the borders of a journey of personal redemption, embracing a retro-futuristic scenario with Burtonian hues. Short dialogues with the NPCs and descriptions engraved on some totems gradually reveal the lore of the game, which as a whole constitutes a peculiar, inspired and well-written narrative background.

After a rather accommodating tutorial we arrive in the Heart of Limbo, a sort of central hub that, one could say, takes up the radial structure of Demon’s Souls (by the way, here you will find our Demon’s Souls Remake review). From here you can head to the other portions of the world, but to do so you will need to get the keys to the various portals by sifting through the levels. From this point of view, the production signed by Redlock adopts a level design with a well-articulated structure which, at times, however, gives way to an excess of complexity, so much so that it is counterintuitive to explore some environments.

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Moving in the world of Hypnos is still a satisfying experience, able to evoke the pleasure of discovery thanks to a good disposition of both enemies and rewards. However, the redundancy of some mechanics, in particular the pressing search for keys, represents a downside. In fact, not only will they be used to access the various portals from the Heart of Limbo, but it will be equally essential to master specific keys to proceed in the sections of the levels, which in the long run throws a certain amount of repetition on the experience. In his partial compensation, however, we must admit that the journey into the world built by the French studio is marked by a constant fascination for its rarefied places, that the graphics help to sublimate in a metaphysical atmospherehalfway between the dream and the echo of a world plunged into chaos.

A little bit of Souls, a little bit of platforming

The Soulslike approach is evident from the start: the game world is hostile and inscrutable, propped up here and there by statuary “walls of Limbo” that take the place of the now iconic bonfires of FromSoftware titles. Our character, on the other hand, will be able to use the essencesthat is the experience points obtained by defeating enemies, to increase their statistics (even if talking about build would be extremely daring), upgrade the sword that will have supplied and buy various kinds of items.

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Like souls, these experience points are dropped with each game over, but to get them back, it will not be enough to go to the place of death, but to defeat the enemy who caused it. This addition, however simple it may seem, contributes to raising the difficulty of the whole experience, which oscillates between phases that are rather accommodating to others in which the roughness becomes concrete and unavoidable.

In its quite fluctuating progression curve, Shattered combines the Soulslike canon with that of a platformer.

This passage is sometimes emphasized by the use of a horizontal scrolling shot, the contribution of which seemed significant and congenial to us, even if we must admit that it is not always the best choice. In any case, the dual nature of the gameplay dictates that act with timing and calibrate your jumps well using skills such as double jump and dash, without neglecting the danger of enemies ready to hit us even in mid-air. A sustained pace of play therefore alternates quite varied situations, outlining a path of challenge and discovery with heterogeneous and well-structured levels. It is a pity that the technical realization often affects the smoothness of the exploration, which is banned from unlikely interpenetrations with the architectures of the game world, as well as unfortunately unresponsive commands. Although wisely conceived from a design point of view, in short, the playful structure of Shattered seems to shatter where some technical lightness overshadow the goodness of the experience.

A fight to be reviewed

Unfortunately, it is the most important aspect of the production – given its aspirations – that is also the least successful. The combat system of Shattered: Tale of the Forgotten King incorporates the typical elements of the Souls, such as the presence of the stamina and the parry, but it is quite cumbersome for more than one reason. To begin with, the hitboxes are not very precise and the offensive patterns of the enemies difficult to read, which makes clashes a jumble of movements that are sometimes too confusing. The result is a combat system that favors the head down approach – in stark contradiction with the assumptions of a Soulslike – since performing a perfect parry will require a much greater effort than keeping your nerve.

Thanks to an audio sector that is not very “present”, the feedback of the shots then fails to fully convey the galvanizing sensation that otherwise one would try to launch a well-loaded blow against one’s opponent. Added to this is a rather limited variety in terms of enemies and weapons available. Although not excelled, boss fights are at least more satisfying: inspired from an artistic point of view and with a level of challenge all in all adequate for those who love this genre.

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Not a few uncertainties – both of a playful and technical nature – afflict the combat system of Shattered, thus reducing the ambition of the French studio to deliver a product with a hardcore mold. To speak of it as a completely bite-free experience would still be unfair, considering that as a whole, the Redlock Studio proposal manages to intrigue and to capture attention in a rather singular way. But this certainly cannot be subtracted from the discouragement derived from a combat system which would have undoubtedly needed more solid foundations.

We would like to say thanks to the writer of this short article for this incredible material

Shattered Tale of the Forgotten King Review: between Souls and platformers

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