I got wang. It’s very shiny. It’s also a great deal of fun to play with. There. I said it. I’ve got the obvious jokes out of the way. Lo Wang is back, Shadow Warrior, one of the most pleasant surprises (and one of the most awesome remakes) to grace my computer in many an age has a sequel. The modern Shadow Warrior was a comedy drenched, irreverent, hi-octane first person shooter and sword slasher that had you murder a god.
Developer: Flying Wild Hog
Publisher: Devolver Digital
Genre: First Person Shooter (FPS)
Release date: 13 October, 2016
Type: Single-player, Online Co-op
Yes. Murder a god. His name is Musu, though like most gods, it’s never quite that simple.
Now the return of Wang in Shadow Warrior 2 promises us more of the same, well, it had better, or there’s going to be a very angry Tiger. Things start promising, with Wang getting a call from an as yet undisclosed client and taking a rapid detour into the reeds after a bunny gets thrown onto his windscreen by a demon. From there you start the game proper, complete with initial batch of tutorial messages, y’know, just in case you can’t Shadow Warrior or FPS.
W for forward, S for back, A and D for strafe, R for reload or parry (if using a melee weapon), fairly usual fare. Melee is still satisfying, directional button plus right click equals special move, check, guns are dec- wait, guns feel decent? What sorcery is this? In Shadow Warrior, the one complaint that could be levelled was that gunplay felt… floaty. Melee felt tight and satisfying but the guns felt a bit like the crowbar from half life two, you waved them about and held the button down until whatever you were pointing them at died. It felt very meaningless.
NOT SO in Shadow Warrior 2! It seems Flying Wild Hog took the lessons from Hard Reset (another game from their stables) and pulled the gunplay across from that, the meaty, bassy gunplay, because dear LORD are the guns satisfying now. They feel bassy, they have feedback, there’s physicality when you pull the trigger, they thump, they bellow, stuff reels when you hit them hard enough with a big enough gun. As a direct result it’s as fun to play the game straight as a proper dyed in the wool first person shooter as it is a first person slasher, and that’s a massive advancement, especially given the sheer variety of weapons you get your hands on over the course of the game.
Getting your wang on, and studding it with gems…
Another change from Shadow Warrior is the implementation of the inventory, and a loot system, this comes in two flavours. Firstly – Weapons, these are all hand-made, and have unique animations for each and every single one. There’s … a lot of weapons. Easily thirty plus from what I’ve seen so far, possibly more than fifty, I’ve lost track, and they all feel different, act different, have different characteristics. This isn’t Borderlands where you could group a whole bunch of guns under broad categories, even here under the heading “Revolvers” you’re going to have some very different weapons in the same space, with desert eagles, chi-infused tri-barrel heavy revolvers and energy pistols all in the same slot, and all capable of doing very different things.
On top of this you have gems, and the gems can dramatically shake up what your weapons do, turning them into turrets, giving them explosive ammo or splitting their ammo out into shotgun style spread shots. In the case of pistols, SMGs (and eventually assault rifles) allowing you to dual wield them (and they come with their own reload animations, because clearly attention to detail is a key factor here). You can also add elemental damage, something you’ll need to abuse on the higher difficulties, along with various modifiers to elemental damage that add things like chill, stun, burn and so on.
In effect there’s a completely ridiculous level of scope for tricking out your weapons and stacking up those DPS multipliers. This easily means you can keep up as the health scales up through the difficulties, and even if the bosses can feel bullet spongy at times, generally as long as you configure your weapons properly, nothing else will. At least as long *as* your weapons keep up. Sometimes you’ll run into patches where lady luck doesn’t smile on you and the drops simply don’t show up, and this can be painful, mobs suddenly start feeling very grindy, especially the superior and elite mobs at high difficulty on account of the nutty number of resists, immunities and auras they get. Even with good base weapons, you’ll eventually fall behind, so it becomes a race to try and get those all important gems to keep yourself competitive.
The wang that keeps on giving…
This sequel unlike it’s predecessor is designed much like Borderlands in that you’re supposed to roll up the various difficulty grades and go for bigger and better loot, along with more impressive weapons (and upgrade your existing weapons), the campaign is something you loop through, with ever more crazy stuff being thrown at you and your damage output going through the roof. That’s the broad game plan at least. How well you manage to stick to this concept is very much dependent on how well you stuck to the Borderlands idea of the “loot and shoot” style of game.
The campaign itself is a lot stronger than the initial Borderlands premise though, and this does help quite a bit, there’s a lot less “busywork” and backtracking (you teleport between your hub and to mission areas) and the cutscenes are more interesting and have more flavour to them along with fully voiced segments that cut in mid mission between you and Kimiko in the main, with other NPC’s joining in from time to time.
As ever, the plot is full scale pants on head silliness with the game taking place after the events of the first and Wang is now having to play babysitter to a new ride along in his head (how this one gets there is a little different), there’s a war being fought out between demons that eventually drags Wang into it, and he’s forced to make a few decisions along the way which as ever for Wang, don’t -quite- work out as intended, but then that’s about normal for a Shadow Warrior game. I won’t spoil much, because it’s definitely worth the ride, even if it’s not going to win any RPG awards any time soon.
On the topic of the RPG side of things, yes, you have an upgrade system, but this time it’s a lot easier to understand and follow, you gain points as you level up, and your currency is spent in shops. Much simpler to keep track of rather than having these two distinct upgrade trees that worked on the dual currency system. With the ranged weapons having that much more heft and punch, this definitely works out for the good, as now you’ve a good reason to burn all that stored up Zill-yen.
The graphical and audial Wang…
Graphics have received a lot of love from the original, and the game once again feels ridiculously well optimised, scaling well across wide system specs and graphics cards, and being more than up to the task of showing off the best of what it can offer even on modest systems, whilst at the same time allowing you to crank the pretty up to absolutely ridiculous levels on high-end systems. My understanding is FWH use their own engine and they’ve been updating and optimising it specifically for the new sequel, in which case, jolly good show. If there’s to be a Hard Reset 2, I dearly hope that it uses this particular engine because it’ll look *gorgeous*.
Sound too, is a lot meatier, there’s an emphasis on bass that was lacking in the original, and firearms have a real thump that was lacking in the first game, that’s a lesson that Flying Wild Hog have picked up from Hard Reset (seriously, play the game and fire the shotgun, it’s the kind of shotgun that makes you feel lust in your depths), the music is strong, and the comments as ever are off the wall and funny. The replacement for Hoji is much more deadpan, but serves as a good foil for Wang, and as a result the new relationship feels like it’s on much more traditional ground, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing considering all the changes that have been involved in the transition to the sequel.
How did you get your trousers so shiny?
Shadow Warrior 2 isn’t a true sequel in the sense of “It’s Shadow Warrior but more of the same”, Flying Wild Hog have not been afraid to experiment with the systems, mechanics and underlying core that made Shadow Warrior great, and to try to find a new balance that works. It does, it genuinely works, it’s possibly the Borderlands game that has gone missing since the original Borderlands, it has enough story in it to merit an excellent single player experience and enough loot and shoot to merit repeated playthroughs as you try to uncover all the weapons, all the upgrades and all the shiny stuff.
Flying Wild Hog went big, and it’s resulted in something new, something brave and something bold. A deserving follow-up to one of the greatest remakes, and conclusive proof that a Sequel doesn’t have to be a Sequel. It can be something more.
Verdict : Essential