Shadow Warrior 2 for PC Review

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The original Shadow Warrior released in 1997 and is one of the big three classic Build engine games which were known for their pop culture references, interactive environments, and fun sprite-based action. In 2013, Shadow Warrior was rebooted with a new storyline and gameplay features. In October, 2016, a sequel to the reboot was released for PC called Shadow Warrior 2. It was developed by Flying Wild Hog and published by Devolver Digital and it was ported to PlayStation 4 and Xbox One in May, 2017. Shadow Warrior 2 takes the series in a new direction. It’s a looter shooter.
Players will once again take on the role of the wise-cracking assassin Lo Wang. The Yakuza task him with finding their leader’s daughter, Komiko, and after finding her body, her soul is transferred to Wang’s body until a cure is found. On their journey, they learn about the Outer Gates which were designed to seal chaos, the eternal enemy of the Ancients. Characters from the previous game do make a return and if you’re interested in the story, you might want to play that game first. That said, I do think the story here is pretty shit. The writing and dialogue aren’t as good as those in the previous entry. Furthermore, while there are some funny interactions much of the humor falls flat. Some of Lo Wang’s one-liners are funny and cheesy but he’ll repeat the same lines way too often.

While I think the story is a failure, I do think the gameplay is an improvement. You can run, sprint, dash, crouch, jump, climb ladders and specific walls, pull yourself up onto ledges, parry with melee weapons, and utilize powers. There is no fall damage and movement feels very fluid. Compared to the last game, all of the basic actions feel more responsive. Movement, aiming down sights, activating powers, and even the act of firing weapons feels better. Dashing does not consume stamina but casting powers does consume Chi which can be replenished from Chi pickups. You can heal yourself, knock enemies back with a Chi-Blast, become invisible with the Vanish power, and impale enemies with the Grip of Darkness. Powers unlock as you progress and eventually you’ll unlock Shadow Fury which requires its own resource to activate. This power increases your damage, defense, and health absorption for a limited time. It can be very useful if you get overwhelmed.
Shadow Warrior 2 can be played solo or with others online. There are multiple difficulty modes to select from and the higher the difficulty, the more challenging the gameplay but the better loot you’ll receive. After reaching certain levels, you can select from multiple Insanity levels to make things even more challenging. After beating the game, you can play through it again with the same character which is great if you want to keep upgrading and collecting more loot. Even though you’re playing as Lo Wang and will hear is voice as you play, your character’s appearance will reflect whatever character you choose from the character selection menu which only seems to be visible to other players.

One of my favorite things about the original Shadow Warrior was the arsenal and one of my favorite things about the reboot was the upgrade system. Well in Shadow Warrior 2 you’ll get to play with an awesome arsenal of weapons and there’s a whole new upgrade system in place which I found to be addictive. Dragon Mountain is like a hub area where you can acquire missions, interact with vendors, and craft. As you play and obliterate foes, you’ll earn Karma which is like experience and when you earn enough, you level up and earn a skill point. They are also acquired by completing missions. Skill points can be spent to unlock or improve skills which are in the form of skill cards which can be purchased from vendors, acquired as loot, or earned as rewards for completing missions. There are all kinds of skills to unlock and improve ranging from the amount of ammo you can carry to the effectiveness of your powers.
I love the arsenal in Shadow Warrior 2. All of the weapons look and feel awesome to use and I was always eager to try any new ones I acquired. There’s different types of melee weapons, submachine guns, assault rifles, launchers, bows, handguns, shotguns, nail guns, and more. All of the weapons are unique and have different stats and some come with special properties. What really makes the combat and gunplay so much fun is the gems. They are a form of loot and can be inserted into weapon sockets. They come in different types and rarities and will alter a weapon’s stats. You can increase a weapon’s damage output, fire rate, there are gems that allow you to dual wield specific weapons, others will let your grenade launchers fire sticky grenades, and you can add elemental damage. Not only can you improve weapons but also armor, powers, and there are specific upgrades for multiplayer. Gems come in different levels and many will do the same thing. You can easily mark ones you don’t want as junk which can be sold to vendors and the game does provide nice filtering options to help you locate specific ones. My only gripe with the gems is that you’re going to acquire so many and sifting through them all can be tedious even with the filtering.
You’re going to engage a good variety of enemies, some of which were encountered in the previous game. You’ll get to take down human foes and demons like Crawlers, Spectres, Shamans, Hellhounds, Serpentaurs, and other types. The tougher the enemy, the better loot it drops. Most enemies have unique behaviors but some do share specific abilities. In the beginning of the game you’ll want to use certain strategies to take down certain enemies but the more powerful you become the less you have to think during combat. Luckily, you can ramp up the difficulty before jumping into a game. Foes can stun and drag you towards them, some utilized ranged attacks, and many of the tougher ones can protect themselves with a shield of some kind and spawn other foes. You’ll always be outnumbered and enemies can inflict elemental damage and be immune or resist certain damage types. The elements play a big part in the game and I would suggest you socket elemental gems into your weapons. Have at least one weapon for each element. If an enemy can resist one element, it’s usually weak against another. This will force you to switch out weapons often. If you’re really powerful and have the appropriate skills, you can easily blow away enemies with any elemental weapons. The higher the difficulty, the more dangerous the enemies are so it’s good to have a balanced arsenal.

Loot is one of the core aspects of the game. It will be dropped by enemies and can be found in the environments. Once you unlock crafting, you can combine gems to make more powerful ones. Trials were added in as free DLC and completing these grants you the ability to use orbs to embed and purify gems and infuse weapons to increase their effectiveness. For example, you can increase damage, reload times, and clip sizes. You can make even the weakest weapons extremely powerful this way but you’ll need a lot of orbs to max a weapon out. The higher the difficulty, the more orbs you’ll receive. The Trials require you to kill enemies without dying so they’re nothing super exciting but they are one way to acquire orbs.
Dragon Mountain includes two shops where you can buy weapons, skill cards, and gems and new stuff becomes available for purchase as you progress. You can take on story missions, side missions, and bounty missions. It took me around twenty hours to complete all of the missions. That being said, if you focus on just the story, the game will be rather short and you’ll miss out on a lot of cool weapons since many are given to you as rewards for completing specific side and bounty missions. Bounties are acquired from the bounty board and you can only take on one at a time which I find annoying. Objectives normally require you to kill enemies, retrieve items, or find or rescue NPCs. That said, as much as I enjoy the game, the missions and encounters can get repetitive. Whether you have to rescue someone or kill a specific amount of enemies, every mission feels the same. Once your spotted, every enemy in the area will come after you so every mission turns into chaotic action. The loot, upgrade system, and variety of weapons to play with is what pushed me to keep going. Whenever you have a mission pending, you can visit the map screen to fast travel to the mission location and when a mission is completed you simply teleport back to Dragon Mountain at the press of a button.
You’ll traverse through a research lab, town, city, and mansion. The environments are open-ended and players can basically go anywhere they want. I’ve read that the environments are randomized although I think it’s just certain chunks of the maps that are rearranged. The location of chests and items are always revealed on your minimap and you can visit any previously explored location and just free roam as the game calls it. This is great if you want to farm for Karma and loot. Unfortunately, you’re going to visit many of the same locations over and over again which is just another reason why missions become repetitive. There are dots on your minimap that will show you the path to the nearest objective and it sucks. The path can change frequently based on your position so navigation can sometimes be tedious. Alternatively, you can always just move towards the objective marker on your HUD. Explosive barrels are everywhere and you can blow up vehicles but there’s not many hazards you need to watch out for. The best part about the environments is their open ended nature. You can sprint, dash, climb, and jump around freely without taking fall damage so there’s usually plenty of ways to approach enemies and reach your objectives.
Visually, Shadow Warrior 2 looks pretty good. The presentation is vibrant and colorful and there are some excellent visual and gore effects. Some NPCs look plastic but the major characters look good, the weapons are detailed, and the reload animations look cool. Despite the small amount of environments on display, each one looks different and contains a good amount of detail. Like the previous game, the visual and gore effects are what really make the combat feel awesome. Blood will splatter, body parts, dirt, and debris will fly through the air, and parts of the environments can be destroyed. The game’s main theme song sounds kickass but most of the other music I stopped noticing after a while. However, there are some awesome tunes that kick in during certain encounters. Every weapon sounds pretty good and explosions are loud. Demons will growl, roar, and screech and the human enemies will spout some funny lines during combat. We did play the GoG version. Jeremy and I teamed up for a good portion of the campaign but he would frequently lose connection and we stopped playing together after a while because of the drops. Furthermore, whenever I sent an invite, he didn’t receive it in-game. He had to accept it through the chat. The frame rate would dip here and there when things got really hectic and we encountered some bugs like body parts jittering and enemies getting stuck in parts of the environments.
Shadow Warrior 2 is Flying Wild Hog’s first foray into the loot-driven genre and they managed to successfully create a fun, satisfying, and addictive experience. At least in my opinion. I really enjoyed it. The missions and environments can be repetitive and I think some more balancing is in order. If you play on a lower difficulty, you can easily become so powerful that sooner or later you’ll cut through most enemies like a knife through butter. After I beat it, I started a new game with the same character on the highest difficulty and while I still felt powerful, many enemies kicked my ass. The story is shit and the humor often fails but the game does have some genuinely funny moments. The gameplay is action-packed, the replay value is high, and there’s a lot of fun to be had playing with others. I can’t say the game has more depth than others in the genre but the core mechanics are solid, making it very fun to actually play. Despite the repetitive missions, I never got tired of blowing enemies away. If you simply enjoy shooting shit, Shadow Warrior 2 is perfect for that.

I would recommend Shadow Warrior 2 to fans of shooters and action games. If you prefer a more linear experience and are turned off by “random” anything, you probably won’t like this. However, if you like decimating foes with cool weapons and are easily entertained, this should provide you hours of enjoyment. It takes the series in a different direction but it delivers an awesome action-packed experience. Definitely check it out.

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