It’s starting to feel like every indie game developer gathered together one day and decided that all future games have to be like Dark Souls. The amount of Soulslikes that continue to clog up online gaming storefronts is staggering. To be fair, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing since some of them are quite good. But the rest of the titles in this sub-genre are usually unremarkable clones that are content to do nothing more than follow the road map left behind by FromSoftware with very little deviation.
Which brings us to Shattered – Tale Of The Forgotten King. It’s a Soulslike that seems to bank everything on its endearing art style. Unfortunately, while I do think that Shattered has some strong points, its level design, combat, and general lack of polish make it feel like another Souls clone that might wind up as forgotten as its titular king.
The story of Shattered – Tale Of The Forgotten King involves…Well, I can’t say I’m sure what it involves. It’s another one of those ambiguous Souls stories that are full-on lore, but short on the actual plot. You wake up in the world of Limbo with no memory of who or where you are. All you know is that there was a king who went missing and in his absence, some weird space demons invaded the world. Now time and life itself no longer make sense. Everyone has lost their memories and are either living in Limbo, fighting everything that moves, or in your case, wandering around trying to make things right. Your character never talks, but there’s an odd little skeleton-baby thing that rides along on your back like Midna from The Legend Of Zelda: Twilight Princess that does all the talking for you. So, in typical Dark Souls fashion, you trudge forward through various ominously beautiful landscapes killing baddies and eventually uncovering the mysteries of this universe.
Comparisons to Zelda are pretty apt since this game takes a few visual cues from that series. The dark, gothic setting reminded me of the Twilight Realm from Twilight Princess with a dash of The Nightmare Before Christmas, while there are some wide-open spaces that are reminiscent of Breath Of The Wild. The overall look of Shattered is pleasant to gawk at, although it doesn’t change up its style very often which gives many of its locations and enemy designs a repetitive feel. However, if you like the sound of a Soulslike that bears resemblance to a Hot Topic t-shirt, then Shattered will do the trick.
One of the biggest issues that I had with Shattered was with its level design. One of the best parts of a Soulslike is exploring the world, but I felt like there’s wasn’t any incentive to do that here. Once in a while, you’d get an item for going off the beaten path, although it was usually nothing important. Sometimes you don’t even get an item. I would head towards rocks and platforms that seemed to lead somewhere only to discover a dead end. In some cases, I would jump onto what looked like solid ground only to fall through the floor. I also noticed that stairs and paths leading upwards would have gaps in them that were easy to miss and then fall into. On top of all that, the levels just felt visually uninspired. They’re blocky, bland, and bare.
The sound design had some weird issues too. Enemies would attack and there would be no sound to indicate that they had swung their weapon or made contact with my character’s supple flesh. There wasn’t even any feedback from my controller either. I would only know that I had taken damage by looking at my health bar afterward. The sound would also cut out when using one of the warp gates or during boss fights. On the plus side, Shattered does have a soundtrack that is appropriately gloomy. There are a few tracks that really help give the game a desolate, lonely feeling.
The gameplay is basically Dark Souls. Right bumper and trigger are your light and heavy attacks. The left bumper is your parry. The B button is your dodge roll. There are these glowing green rectangular spires that act as bonfires. You have an Estus Flask equivalent that can be upgraded by a blacksmith in Limbo. Limbo is also where you use your souls – called axioms here – to level up your character, purchase items, or upgrade your weapons. If you’ve played a Soulslike at any point in your life then you should know how to play this game through muscle memory alone.
That said, Shattered does try to throw in a little flavor to its standard Souls fare. You have access to some magic spells that you can use via the left trigger. Some of them are buffs, some act as a shield, some are projectiles, etc. Nothing revolutionary, but there’s more of an emphasis on using spells. You also have a lot more movement options than you usually do in this genre as you can double jump and air dash. This makes the normally irritating Soulslike platforming feel a lot more palatable.
Perhaps the most unique albeit quite bizarre design choice is the game’s sudden shift into a pseudo-2D perspective. You’ll just be running along and without warning, the whole level will now have you moving from left to right. Someone on this team must have played Nier: Automata as that’s what this shift strongly reminded me of. I’m not sure why this was done as it doesn’t add much to the game. The combat and movement still operate the same way only now they’re in 2D and the camera is pulled back. If anything, it makes for an awkward transition as I’ve had it happen right in the middle of a fight which can be very disorientating.
Speaking of the combat, it’s passable although a bit on the floaty side. The little flourishes you normally find in a Soulslike don’t feel as polished. For example, you can hold either the light or heavy attack buttons to perform a strong attack. However, doing this usually left me open to being hit by enemies and the increased damage wasn’t significant enough. When you attack an enemy from behind you can perform a stealth attack, but afterward, the enemy would fall to the ground and be invulnerable to extra damage until it got up. It kind of defeats the point of a sneak attack if you give your enemy time to recompose themselves. Combined with the aforementioned audio bugs and lack of feedback during attacks, it all makes for a lackluster hack ‘n slash experience.
Shattered – Tale Of The Forgotten King didn’t leave much of an impression on me. Its visuals can be striking, but that’s about all I can remember about my time with it. At this point, I’ve played plenty of Soulslikes. The ones that I did enjoy tried to play around with the formula in some way. But Shattered doesn’t reinvent the wheel or even try to gussy it up. It’s just a so-so Soulslike that tries to stand out by having the same aesthetic as The Corpse Bride. And that’s simply not enough.
A PC copy of Shattered – Tale Of The Forgotten King was provided to TheGamer for this review. Shattered – Tale Of The Forgotten King is available on PC.
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Jamie Latour is a writer and actor based out of Toronto, Ontario, Canada. From his hyperactive childhood to his….Well, still hyperactive adulthood, he’s been writing and performing in some capacity for practically his entire life. His love for video games goes all the way back to the age of 4, playing Mega Man 3 for the first time on his NES. He’s an avid gamer and can be found nowadays either messing around in Red Dead 2, or being cheap as can be as Reaper in Overwatch. He’s still starting out when it comes to making online content, but aside from his writing he can found on his Twitch page under the handle SpontaneousJames. You can also find him on social media as @SpontaneousJam on Twitter (because Spontaneous James was too long apparently).
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