Wang is back. The wise-cracking, sword swinging, first-person action hero from Apogee’s 3D shooter and Flying Wild Hog’s excellent 2013 remake has returned for another demon-slaying adventure, this time changing up the run and gun first-person formula for loot-filled action in Shadow Warrior 2. But does messing with a winning formula make it an improved sequel, or does it keep Wang from making a successful comeback?
Shadow Warrior 2
Developed by Flying Wild Hog / Published by Devolver Digital
Available on the PC.
*Review code provided by Devolver Digital
In Shadow Warrior 2, Lo Wang has gone from hitman to super powered ninja warrior, helping deal death and destruction to human and demon foe alike. When a mission to save the daughter of a cult leader goes wrong, our quick-thinking, quip-slinging hero steps up to the plate to battle evil once again before it’s too late.
Story-wise, Shadow Warrior 2‘s plot is a fun time, bringing an action-packed and silly adventure to the masses that has players face off against legions of enemies in a world where demons and humans co-exist. The writing is funny and the various violent and thrilling scenarios will keep you entertained throughout, and while not every joke is effective, overall it’s a good, demon-slaying time.
Now, when it comes to running around, riddling enemies with bullets and slicing them up with a blade, Shadow Warrior 2’s gameplay is excellent, though it feels a bit different. While Wang once again will take on foes from a first-person perspective, shooting from afar with a variety of weapons or use a blade to cut them to pieces from up close, enemies this time around have health bars that whittle down when they take damage. If it sounds familiar it’s because it is, as it plays somewhat similarly to Borderlands, with players attacking and shooting bullet sponge foes until they die. Players still have access to the rich swordplay mechanics, like special moves and combos, or abilities that make them more superhuman than your typical first-person shooter hero, but this time around it’s more RPG-like.
You can see the RPG influence in just about every element of Shadow Warrior 2. The game is now a loot fest, as players will not only collect cash and health from enemies and bosses after killing them, but they’ll also drop new weapons, equippable stones that increase damage, add elemental effects and more. Players will also be able to purchase a variety of items or collect them from chests that will help deal with a variety of tough and deadly enemies, strengthen their armor and weapons, and acquire new abilities and skills by collecting Karma and leveling up. It’s not what I expected after playing the 2013 remake, but it works, allowing players to tinker and experiment with their loadouts as they face the mobs of demons looking to take them down.
Stages are also larger and more open this time around, allowing players to take on enemies from a variety of angles and use different approaches. While the original was pretty large despite being a linear experience, Shadow Warrior 2‘s stages feature tons of space to move around in and face off against foes, and tons of hidden stuff to find. Environments are also procedurally generated, so revisiting locations will make for different experiences each time. It’s slightly different, but it’s a great improvement.
The game also features a cool addition: four player online co-op. Here players can join other ninjas and clear the game’s campaign, leveling up and earning new loot as they take on increasingly difficult challenges and side quests. Players will also be able to customize their character, allowing players to take on baddies according to their strengths and weaknesses. It’s a great option that adds tons of replay value to the game as players take on the campaign together and check out higher difficulties in search of better loot.
Despite being a fun game however, Shadow Warrior 2 is plagued with issues that keep it from being a great experience. During my first playthrough I’ve experienced plenty of issues, ranging from the game crashing upon launch, to crashing while playing the game. Upon investigation, I found out that these weren’t isolated incidents, and plenty of users where experiencing similar errors that kept them from enjoying the game to its fullest. While incoming patches will probably help with these issues, it’s a bit of a hassle to play the game as it is right now.
Overall, Shadow Warrior 2 is a solid action game, building upon what made the first one so much fun by adding even more enemies to kill, more weapons to use, and a whole new RPG spin that gives player plenty of stuff to collect and options to explore. While it’s a fundamentally different experience, it’s still a good time, though a number of issues keep it from reaching its full potential. Later patches will probably fix these problems however, so despite the issues, it’s still a good time, and the new additions to the mechanics make it a worthy action shooter that fans and newcomers will enjoy.