Shadows of Esteren – First Impressions
As a fan of gothic fantasy and science-fiction, I personally look for new titles that fall under this genre; in order to satiate my craving for a game in this category done right, I hunt to near obsessiveness for anything that even so much as subtly stinks of the genre. After watching many videos and reading many reviews and summaries, I think I may have found a game worth looking out for.
The title in itself is rather titillating and speaks loudly of a dark fantastical storyline, the atmosphere has been modelled after that of Lovecraft as well as Tim Burton; giving birth to a weird fantastical setting that is both gritty and realistic, as well as disturbingly supernatural. The founder of this game definitely understands the true roots of horror, and not the gore encrusted, cheap-thrill laden values that most people in this day and age clamour for. This title instead focuses on atmosphere and skilful storytelling in order to evoke a sense of dread and wonder.
Moving away from the classic tabletop RPG, Dungeons and Dragons, Shadows has re-imagined the classic skill system and replaces it with what is referred to as “Ways”. These very realistic disciplines are basic personality traits that are balanced to create the most realistic character one can. No more dumping SP’s into Strength or Charisma, the initial set-up determines the subtle personality predispositions that makes one’s character more able in a certain field over another. For example, if one has many points in “Combativeness” Obviously the ways of combat come quickly to them. But, they may also be very stubborn and impulsive, or perhaps nervous and confused in settings that require a calm disposition and sharp intellect.
Circling back to “Ways” the concept of Sanity and mental health is a big aspect in this game. Depending on the history of one’s character, they are afflicted with a “latent disorder” that could eventually overtake the character and render them completely insane. This adds very heavily to the concept of “true horror” as opposed to “shock and awe”. The mere universe and environment has an impact upon the sanity of a character, this combined with a skilful setting and adept storytelling can leave lingering dread in the hearts of players as they do not know what will strike next: be it man, mythical creature, or even the very harsh and temperamental weather.
Magic, in itself is both a very large and very subtle part of this universe. There is no set “Mage” class, that fires off “firebolts” or “magic missiles” one round after the other. Rather it is based upon very real Celtic mythology and ancient occult rituals that have roots in many of today’s eclectic groups and religions. Being part of this world myself, I am immediately drawn to the prevalent Celtic mythos that flavours the universe. The magic herein is subtle yet powerful, much like nature herself. It is not something completely understood, or even capable of being fully harnessed. It is a natural force like any other, and as such, is subject to change and act in chaotic and inexplicable ways. Every day, the people of the land live in fear and wonder of the world outside of their villages, of the dark creatures and threat of weird happenings outside the relative safety of their small numbers.
In all, after reading through the free “Prologue” book I am already pretty hyped up about this title. They have already won quite a few awards such as: Ennies Gold Best Art Interior, Ennies Gold Best Production Values as well as the Ennies Silver Product of the Year. This game is bringing back real horror and real storytelling, and that in itself is something to look forwards to. Much like how this game taps into the roots of the old ways of the land and nature, it will make players tap into the old arts of horror and psychological setting, an intelligent game for intelligent people. Definitely something to look out for.
On Kickstater they say their project will be fully funded by Sun April 6th, so if you wish to be a backer head over there right now and pledge. They have a full listing of rewards and benefits of being a backer. I, as well as many others, hope to see this project completed to the best of the maker’s abilities. They have promised much from the setting they have delivered, now only time will tell just how amazing this piece of gaming art will truly be.