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Shadows of Adam

Platform(s): Nintendo Switch, PC
Genre: RPG/Strategy
Developer: Something Classic Games
Release Date: Feb. 23, 2017

About David Silbert

I'm a recent college graduate from Boston, MA. When I'm not writing for WorthPlaying, I'm probably researching Celtics trade rumors or struggling to keep up with the growing library on my Nintendo Switch.


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PC Review - 'Shadows of Adam'

by David Silbert on Oct. 9, 2017 @ 12:00 a.m. PDT

Shadows of Adam is a classic JRPG that brings a compelling story, fast-paced battle system and modernized visuals to a beloved genre.

The Japanese role-playing game (JRPG) is one of the most celebrated genres in gaming. Heralded for its charming characters and intimate storytelling, the JRPG differentiates itself from its Western RPG brethren with its more linear approach to world-building and exploration.

In recent years, however, more and more western developers have attempted to emulate the feeling of the JRPG. Games like Undertale and Cosmic Star Heroine cite Earthbound and Chrono Trigger as primary sources of influence, adopting similar turn-based battle systems and creating worlds full of secrets, shops and towns. As cases like these show, the grit and essence of the JRPG doesn't necessarily lie with its Japanese roots, but rather with its creativity, ingenuity, and strong emotional pull.

Shadows of Adam, developed and published by Something Classic Games, represents the most recent effort to rekindle the joy of playing an old-school JRPG. With its enticing world, tactical gameplay, and gorgeous pixel art, Shadows of Adam makes for a compelling role-playing experience. However, generic characters and a lack of distinct ideas hold it back from true greatness.

Shadows of Adam takes place in a world torn apart by magic. Kellan, a young, orphaned boy raised in the town of Adam, befriends a girl named Asrael, who'd been brought to the village as a child. Asrael has been endowed with the ability to use magic, a practice deemed the equivalent of witchcraft by the villagers of Adam. After Asrael is blamed for a recent outpouring of crop-killing darkness, she and Kellan descend into a mysterious marsh to rid the town of its plague.

After a series of battles that serves as the game's tutorial, the pair of adventurers save the town from impending doom. Soon after, Kellan's father, Orazio, who has long been thought dead, appears before Asrael as an apparition, asking her to find him. With the town saved and a magical book in tow, the ostracized girl and abandoned son set out to find Orazio and solve the mysteries behind the world's destruction at the hands of magic.

While it may sound elaborate for a setup, the story of Shadows of Adam is surprisingly simple. Over the course of the game's 10- to 12-hour run, players navigate a traditional overworld, hopping from town to town while clearing dungeons in order to collect four shards and save the world.

Sound familiar? In creating its medieval fantasy world, Shadows of Adam borrows from many classic settings of JRPGs of old. The collection of four elemental crystals was the basis of the original Final Fantasy. Likewise, the idea of a world ruined by magic seems heavily inspired by Final Fantasy VI, while the gargantuan dungeons and larger-than-life bosses provide a dark, stylish aesthetic reminiscent of Chrono Trigger.

This inspiration is hardly a bad thing. After all, there are few stories as powerful in gaming as those of Final Fantasy VI and Chrono Trigger, and Shadows of Adam learns from the very best when crafting its story.

At the same time, I can't help but feel like the game developers went too far in pulling from classic JRPGs for ideas. Just within the first few hours of the game, a village stealth mission echoes a similar level from Final Fantasy VI, while a later encounter with a band of merry pirates could have been pulled right from the script for Final Fantasy II. Even the maniacal, satanic villain shares several parallels with the infamous jester, Kefka.

While the story of Shadows of Adam offers some interesting ideas, especially with the father-son dynamic of Kellan and Orazio, I too often felt reminded of similar moments from games I'd already played.

Exacerbating these story issues are Shadows of Adam's characters. Over the course of their journey, Kellan and Asrael befriend two additional companions: Curtis and Talon. The exploits of these four adventurers make up much of the story, as they banter and bicker through hundreds of lines of written dialogue.

Despite the attention the characters receive throughout the game, their personalities fall flat. Between some hokey exchanges and a verbose writing style, the characters of Shadows of Adam lack the charisma and aren't as memorable as those in the games it tries to emulate.

Thankfully, what the title lacks in originality, it makes up for in execution. From start to finish, Shadows of Adam is a well-paced and exciting journey filled with harrowing moments and engaging set pieces.

Helping to keep Shadows of Adam fun and entertaining is its smart and intricate turn-based battle system. Like Final Fantasy, players select from a list of attacks, magic and items to use during a given turn before watching all four adventurers' actions play out in succession.

Battles are a mix of careful decision-making and satisfying resulting action. Each character specializes in his or her own area of expertise, allowing for a system that rewards thoughtful planning and tactical thinking. Between Kellan and Asrael's healing powers, Curtis' aggressive attacks, and Talon's enemy de-buffs, Shadows of Adam has just enough layers in its combat to keep battles engaging throughout the meaty campaign.

It's a shame, given such strong gameplay, that the battles in Shadows of Adam are oftentimes far too easy. Action Points (the equivalent of Magic Points or MP in other JRPGs) regenerate at a healthy rate between turns, allowing characters to spam their best attacks frequently and without consequence. As a result, enemies don't put up much of a fight, especially with so many healing magic and potions available to the player at any given time.

Additionally, as opposed to JRPGs that employ random encounters, Shadows of Adam elects to have its enemies appear in static places throughout the game world. While this makes for an excellent quality of life feature that allows players to approach battles at their own pace, it also removes any surprise from the equation and makes dungeon crawling less challenging than it ought to be.

While its easy difficulty may be disappointing, Shadows of Adam's audiovisual design is anything but. Composed of sharp, colorful pixel art, the world of Shadows of Adam pops as players navigate its vast and varied landscape. From port towns and regal castles to foggy forests and intimidating towers, the areas of Shadows of Adam each feel distinct, in large part thanks to their detailed textures and expressive scenery.

Aiding with this effort is the soundtrack, which sports an expressive mix of rock and jazz music. While many tracks are reminiscent of old 8- and 16-bit JRPGs, others, like the victory theme, feel surprisingly modern. The boss battle theme also deserves particular mention for being especially catchy thanks to its upbeat synth instrumentation and addicting melody. With an expansive selection of over 44 tracks, the music of Shadows of Adam brings the world to life in an elegant, foot-tapping fashion.

Shadows of Adam is a worthwhile romp through classic JRPG nostalgia. Fans of the genre will appreciate the '80s and '90s callbacks and expansive world. At the same time, newcomers to the genre should find the title accessible, especially with its easier battles and exclusion of random encounters.

While it might not display the same creativity of top-of-the-line JRPGs like Final Fantasy or Persona, Shadows of Adam executes its ideas well, and more importantly, is simply fun to play.

Score: 7.8/10

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