General game information
Game name: Shadow Warrior 2
Release date: October 13, 2016
Price: US$ 39.99
Genre: First person shooter with RPG elements
Developer: Flying Wild Hog
Publisher: Devolver Digital
Shadow Warrior 2 is a first person shooter with light RPG elements and a loot system that would feel right at home in a Diablo game. Developed by Polish indie outfit Flying Wild Hog, this new title is a sequel to their 2013 Shadow Warrior reboot, and it builds upon its predecessor’s excellent combat and over the top humor.
Players will once again control foul-mouthed ninja mercenary Lo Wang as he takes on a job that may be a bit more complicated than he thought it would be. The story is mostly just a backdrop for the game’s magnificent combat and that’s actually a good thing, considering that this approach works perfectly. Familiar characters from the 2013 reboot will show up at certain parts of the story, and Lo Wang will always have something funny to say as he slashes his way through demonic hordes or Yakuza soldiers. Fair warning, Shadow Warrior 2 never shies away from a chance to drop a dick joke.
Flying Wild Hog has already proven that they are a more than capable studio when it comes to crafting fun and fast paced first person shooters, with both Hard Reset and their previous Shadow Warrior title showcasing their expertise on the matter, but Shadow Warrior 2 elevates the relatively unknown Polish developer to legendary status, as their latest title can easily stand toe to toe with id Software‘s DOOM, a title that I personally thought to be the pinnacle of first person shooters up to now.
The star of the show here is the game’s excellent combat and fast paced movement. Players can use more than seventy unique weapons to take on the demonic hordes, and every variation brings something new to the table, with guns having not only different stats but also looking the part. Using a sawed off shotgun to blow apart demons feels incredibly good, thanks to an extremely well done procedural damage system that lets players see the damage they are dealing in real time. Flying Wild Hog‘s latest title also makes use of its predecessor’s first person melee mechanics, letting gamers slice up enemies with different attacks. Melee combat is especially useful against human enemies, and the procedural damage system lets players target specific body parts with ease, something that puts Shadow Warrior 2‘s melee mechanics in the same league as games like Dead Island or the recently released Dying Light.
Aside from the refined combat mechanics, Lo Wang’s arsenal has been bolstered with an incredibly fast paced movement system. Players can now double jump and dash through levels at lightning fast speeds, since the movement abilities aren’t attached to any cooldowns. This means that combat encounters will always become a beautifully choreographed dance of destruction, as our ninja mercenary can dash towards an enemy’s face, unload a powerful shotgun blast, then dash away from the enraged beast’s attack and continue the fight unscathed. The game’s levels were designed with Lo Wang’s increased mobility in mind, and gamers will always be able to find multiple paths towards their objectives, and hidden treasures abound.
Shadow Warrior 2‘s maps are truly spectacular as well, and the technology that powers them is quite impressive. Most players wouldn’t realize this on a first playthrough, but parts of the game’s levels are procedurally generated. Thanks to the developer’s ingenuity, this doesn’t feel repetitive and samey like most procedurally generated maps tend to feel after a few combinations. Instead of generating the whole map through an algorithm, Flying Wild Hog‘s map designers chose a hybrid approach, where core parts of each level will always stay the same, but the rest of the pieces will change. It’s a sort of a building bricks mechanic, with parts that may be swapped out, like corridors or even entire buildings, and it works perfectly.
The new map generation tech means that Shadow Warrior 2‘s maps are a lot more open than the ones featured in the first game. There are still some mostly linear sections, but players will spend the majority of their play time making their way through open areas. There is a central hub where players may acquire new weaponry or accept side missions from different characters, and the game lets players teleport from side quest locations to the main hub at the press of a button.
Another important addition to the Shadow Warrior formula is the loot system. As gamers shoot and slice their way through the game’s levels, they may find new weapons, skills and mods, as well as money or health packs. Every weapon can be modded with different items that may add elemental damage (such as fire, electricity, ice, etc) or other properties such as faster reload times, increased clip size, or even the ability to place weapons as turrets. The amount of different mods on offer is staggering, and they aren’t just limited to the player’s guns or swords, as their armor may also be upgraded with a host of different stat-altering modifications. New skills can also be obtained as loot drops or quest rewards, and, while they aren’t necessary to progress in the story, making good use of them will definitely
The loot system is an integral part of Shadow Warrior 2‘s cooperative mode because the weapon and armor modifications work perfectly when the player is part of a group. The game features different skill synergies that turn fights into interestingly tactical engagements, and the open nature of the maps encourages flanking maneuvers and other moves that can’t be executed in the singleplayer campaign. Thankfully, the game was obviously designed with both co-op and solo play styles in mind, as I never found any situation that required the help of a buddy when I was fighting the demonic hordes on my own. A solo run of the campaign, completing most side quests and playing on the normal difficulty setting took me about 14 hours, according to the ingame counter.
Shadow Warrior 2 is a really good looking game. Cyberpunk environments come to life thanks to advanced graphical effects and high quality texture work, and beautiful temples and city streets let the player contemplate how peaceful life may have been in Wang’s world before the demons showed up. Developers Flying Wild Hog included a full suite of graphics customization options, letting players switch on and off different effects such as chromatic aberration or motion blur. Performance wise, the game had no issues running at 1080p max settings on a modest 3570k, 16gb RAM and GTX 970 machine. The framerate never dropped below 60 fps and my only complaint would be that loading times may feel a bit too long after extended periods of play.
Shadow Warrior 2 also features some remarkable audio design, with a main theme created by Michal Cielecki, Krzysztof Wierzynkiewicz and Adam Skorupa, an extraordinary promo EP crafted by legendary American composer Stan Bush and a marvelous dynamic soundtrack that kicks in when the player engages in a fight. The game’s weapons sound as powerful as they should, and the voice acting feels perfect, with Lo Wang’s cheesy one liners or improvised songs stealing the show just as they did in the previous title.
Ultimately, Shadow Warrior 2 is an excellent follow-up to Flying Wild Hog‘s 2013 reboot. Lo Wang’s latest adventure is bigger, meaner and bolder, letting players embark on the ultimate power trip as they shoot, loot and slice their way through demonic armies.
9.5/10 – Wangtastic!