Game: Masquerada: Songs and Shadows
Genre: Tactical RPG
System: Nintendo Switch (Also on Steam)
Developer: Witching Hour Studios
Publisher: Ysbryd Games
Age Rating: 16 (Pegi) / T (ERSB)
Price: £17.99 | €19,99| $19.99
Release Date: 9th May 2019
Before being a member of the team at ladiesgamers, my game genres playlist was somewhat limited. Since being a part of this site, I’ve played and enjoyed games which I would have previously ignored, and Masquerada: Songs and Shadows would have been such a game. Tactical RPG’s are not usually my thing, but since I enjoyed playing Transistor so much, the prospect of playing Masquerada intrigued me, and so I decided to take on the review.
Setting Sail to Ombre
The game begins by introducing you to the lead protagonist Cicero Gavar. Five years previously, he had been banished from the city of Ombre, but now must return to investigate the disappearance of a Regenti called Razitof Azrus. Upon his return, Cicero re-assumes his role as an Inspettore, a 15-16th century style detective. Cicero is something of a cross between d’Artagnan (the Three Musketeers) and a favourite TV detective. As an Inspettore, Cicero belongs to the Masquerada, a group that’s governed by the city’s government called the Registry.
A Deep Story
All of the above results in a story that touches upon a whole range of issues such as freedom, abuse of power, and the mistreatment of people groups. Dialogue plays a significant part in the game’s storytelling, which is accompanied by full voice acting throughout. To supplement the story further, there’s an extensive codex which contains an impressive amount of background information about Ombre’s history. Personally speaking, I’m amazed by the amount of extra detail provided. It’s clear from the outset that the developers have invested a great deal of time in creating Ombre, and this helps the player to become more involved in its world and characters.
If you’re a novice Tactical RPG player, then the games simplified battle system is for you. In-game battles are real-time, so players are free to move wherever and engage whomever they wish. The key to success, however, depends on player tactics. At any stage during a battle, players can pause and plan by working through each team member’s abilities and plot a selection of combo attacks. Throughout the game, team members and skills will vary between fire, water, earth and air types.
Suitably, the Masquerada’s skill and magic are enhanced by wearing masquerines. During play, each characters skill set can be increased by obtaining and spending skill points. Some skills boost characters stats temporarily, whereas others can be used against either single or multiple enemies at a time. Each skills usage in battle depends on mask charge and cool down stats. This means players can’t unfairly spam particular skill types which is crucial for a game of this type. If a team member should be struck down, players can revive them by standing over them while pressing down button A for a set period.
Overall, I enjoy the battle system, despite initial problems caused by my lack of understanding. As soon as I understood the basics such as alternating between team members, and tagging enemies, everything else fell into place.
Visuals and Audio
I love how this game both looks and sound. The game boasts a 16th century Venetian Renaissance style which is pleasing to the eye. Where the game truly excels is in the audio department. Masquerada is a joy to listen to thanks to its great voice acting and a fantastic classical-esque choral soundtrack. The soundtrack was composed by Josh Whelchel, a talented musician, who allows the streaming of his music via bandcamp.com. I recommend playing the game with headphones if possible.
The game does suffer from minor issues. Firstly, the game frequently loads new areas and sections, and load times can feel too long at times. Masquerada is also very linear in design, so it offers little in terms of exploration. This may disappoint some players but the story more than makes up for this disappointment.
I like Masquerada: Songs and Shadows a lot. Great visuals, sound, and a deep story make this an adventure worth experiencing, as long as your prepared to bask in the game’s extensive background story.
I’m somewhat mystified by the games current age rating. In the UK, the game is rated 16, and even though it’s filled with battles, death, dead bodies, and the odd mild swear word, there’s nothing here I haven’t seen in games or movies rated 12 and 12a. Obviously, I recommend all readers to abide by the age rating system, but I’m currently baffled as to why Masquerada: Songs and Shadows has received the age rating it has.