Masquerada: Songs and Shadows (PlayStation 4) Review

By Thom Compton 27.08.2017

Review for Masquerada: Songs and Shadows on PlayStation 4

Action RPGs are not the most common choice for new studios. They require a great deal of control, as doing too much can make them confusing and too easy to get lost in. On the other hand, if there's too little, then it all feels like a button-mashing corridor where one is being guided to the next underwhelming encounter. Despite the challenging nature of the genre, however, Witching Hour Studios decided to tackle it. The thing is, though, that while it manages to ride the line between too big and too little, it doesn't do so particularly well.

Masquerada: Songs and Shadows' prologue sets up a rather traditional tale, that soon becomes a very exciting odyssey. The player assumes the role of Cicero, an 'Inspectorre' who is hired to locate a missing person, and on his quest to answer the questions presented to him, he meets a lovely cast of characters… and so on and so forth. Masquerada is still an RPG after all, and follows many of the familiar beats you've come to expect from the genre, even if it's story is untraditional. The best part about it, though, is how much of it there is.

This has an impressive amount of lore, hidden throughout optional dialogue, codex entries, and essentially the RPG equivalents of audio tapes. Despite being delivered in rather traditional ways, the point is the depth is definitely there, and it's exciting getting lost in its universe. It may not have the appeal of other, more established ones, but hopefully that will change over time. The bad part is how linear the game ends up being - not just linear, in fact, but downright controlling.

Screenshot for Masquerada: Songs and Shadows on PlayStation 4

One of the exciting parts of any RPG is exploring the world and heading deeper into it at your own pace, a sentiment Masquerada: Songs of Shadow seems to ignore. It's not just a matter of the corridor effect either, where the player is just guided down a path from point A, to point B, to point C. There are plenty of tempting nooks and crannies to explore, but they are dangled out of reach. Invisible walls keep you guided to the next cutscene, as do colour-coded iteration points that prevent one from exploring too much of the confined area available.

This wouldn't be so bad if so much of the game time wasn't spent in cut-scenes. The amount of dialogue presented here is almost on the level of a visual novel. In fact, even though you can skip it, it may take three or four skips to get the characters to move to another room and start the next scene there. This isn't relegated to the early hours of the adventure either, when long cut-scenes are somewhat common. The frequency of game-stopping dialogue doesn't seem to taper throughout the entire experience.

Screenshot for Masquerada: Songs and Shadows on PlayStation 4

Up next is the combat. For those who like a "it's kind of like..." example, it's a bit like Dragon Age. Different spells are mapped to different buttons, and after so much use, they require a cool down. The isometric view gives you the ability to scope out the environment well enough, although, in the midst of battle, it can be easy to lose the characters in the fray.

Many of the moves require aiming the attack, and this makes the view a bit more difficult to work around. There are, however, some really great ideas at play here. The focus is not on class here, but on elements. At the beginning, this offers the choice between earth, air, water and fire, and you must choose one of these. While they have vague similarities to classes we've seen, like tanks or mages, they all feel much better rounded.

Screenshot for Masquerada: Songs and Shadows on PlayStation 4

This factors into the combat as each element learns different abilities. Including things like the Elemental Tag system, which allows for unique mixed elemental attacks, or the various Mascherines, which give buffs or effects of various kinds, and everyone who ventures into Masquerada: Songs and Shadows will find it allows for a lot of variety.

This title is a balancing act throughout, but it absolutely nails its presentation. Everything from the comic book art style to the way faces are fully animated in banners to the absolutely superb voice-acting is positively delightful. The voice-acting is especially good, making every character, save perhaps one introduced later on, very believable and likable. All in all, the presentation saves this game from being a series of good ideas that feel like they've been misfired.

Screenshot for Masquerada: Songs and Shadows on PlayStation 4

Cubed3 Rating

6/10
Rated 6 out of 10

Good

Masquerada: Songs and Shadows rides the line between too little and too much, and often swerves into the too little range. Between the difficult to manage combat, and the constant breaks from gameplay for story, this could have been a misfire. Fortunately, it's saved just enough by beautiful artwork, sublime voice acting, and a presentation to die for.

Developer

Witching Hour Studios

Publisher

Ysbryd Games

Genre

Strategy

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  6/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   

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