City of the Shroud from Abyssal Arts is an episodic strategy RPG set in the troubled city of Iskendrun. Iskendrun is a walled city with a mostly pre-industrial Middle Eastern feel with hints of diesel-punk.
Players find themselves entering the city in near destitute circumstances only to find the city is not much better off. Besieged by monsters appearing from mysterious portals and on the brink of major civil collapse, Iskendrun needs a hero.
How fortunate that you’ve arrived.
City of the Shroud Review
From the very beginning of playing City of the Shroud, you begin to realise that this game has quirks. In fact, it kind of feels like someone stumbled across a lost colony of quirks, put them all in a box and somehow, mostly, got them all to play nicely together.
Upon starting a new game, City if the Shroud immediately throws up the old portrait and text box system. This is the primary source of information regarding the story and the only means of interacting with NPCs. Not that you can really interact with them for quite a while.
The player character, whose portrait may or may not be a sack of potatoes, has scripted responses and it’s not for quite some time until you are given any dialogue options. So get ready to click through a fair whack of text boxes.
After a brief intro to the city, you’re introduced to the combat system. City of the Shroud uses a grid-based, real-time strategy combat system. Each character class gets an individual tutorial interspersed with more story elements before we get to combat proper involving teams of four.
Characters have a set number of action points that regenerate over time and moving or attacking uses these points up. In the single-player campaign, there is an option to pause combat while you decide what to do, but I think that negates the fun of the battle wheel.
The battle wheel is the player’s tool to give orders to characters, it’s based on a D-pad and tries to bring the combo system of fighter games such as Street Fighter to a new genre.
A total mish-mash
It’s a system that, combined with the real-time aspect of combat, adds a sense of frantic urgency. Flipping between characters and not just issuing orders but having to input the correct sequence of directional buttons to perform special moves.
If you take too long you give action point advantage to your opponents. Combined with relatively deep team customisation options, the combat in City of the Shroud really offers a challenge. Later in the game, you’re going to have to do some real strategic thinking.
Abyssal Arts is also promising some interesting developments in the story side of things. Once the game opens up and players make a choice of factional allegiance, there are numerous story branch choices to make.
The idea is that the collective decisions of the player base will influence the direction of the next episode. It’s a cool concept and I’ll be interested to see if they pull it off in a way that truly accounts for player choices.
Unfortunately, despite the often excellent sense of humour, I found it pretty hard to engage with the story. With multiple NPCs represented with the same portrait and boxes and boxes of text accompanied by a “writing sound” that gets very irritating after a short while.
It’s a shame because the story is interesting and full of political intrigue.
Overall, City of the Shroud offers an ‘OK’ RPG experience wrapped around a fun and interesting combat system core.
The PvP combat allows those who really enjoy the strategic system to test themselves against each other and between the story elements and advancing your parties abilities there is a bit to get out of this title.
City of the Shroud was reviewed on PC using a digital code provided by the publisher.
Game Title: City of the Shourd
Interesting ideas that don't always work - 6/10
Great story and drama - 9/10
Old school text and portrait storytelling - 4/10