ShadowCaster tells the tale of Kirt, who is informed by his grandfather that he is not actually human, but was descended from a race of shapeshifters. Their people are few now, the result of a war between the good and evil shapeshifters. After much struggle, the followers of good, who were on the verge of victory, drove Veste and his evil followers into a temple. There, Veste mocked them and vowed he would someday see to the destruction of the good people. He then sealed the temple so that no one could enter.
The shapeshifters mingled with other tribes in the years that followed, and gradually, the power of shapeshifting faded away. Eventually, Kirt, the last one to have this gift, was born. The gods gathered to see the future of this boy, but they could see nothing: he cast a shadow over the future of the worlds.
To protect him, Kirt was sent away to a world where magic was unknown, and he grew up under the guidance of a man he came to know as his grandfather. Having told this tale to Kirt, his grandfather sent him back to his home before Veste and his minions could attack him, in order that Kirt might gain the power of the shapeshifters and save the rest of his people.
Kirt's ability to shapeshift is re-awakened by touching magical obelisks, the first of which is found soon after the game begins. The first shape that Kirt may assume is that of Maorin, a four-armed, cat-like creature who is very good at fighting and of great use early in the game.
ShadowCaster is played from a first-person perspective, and the interface is similar to that of Ultima Underworld. In the border surrounding the viewable area, there are icons which have various functions. To the right is a height gem, used when swimming or flying. Further to the right is your character portrait (showing your current shape), as well as your inventory and a panel of available shapes or spells. The lower border contains shape-specific icons and your hands (used to hold items or fight). There are also skill buttons, such as Maorin's special ability to see hidden things.
ShadowCaster is an action-adventure game, balancing combat with puzzles. While the automap allows you to get around relatively easily, there are obstacles that you can only overcome while in a particular shape. Each level must also be thoroughly explored in order to progress, as there are special items which you will need to solve puzzles.
Combat is fairly simple, especially initially. Clicking on your hands/claws will allow you to attack by clicking in the viewable area, and spells or items can be used for ranged attacks in a similar fashion.
Graphically, the game shows off a range of colorful environments, the only concern being repetitive textures that may cause you to keep checking your map to make sure of your position. The sound is quite good, with music specific to particular levels and a good range of sound effects for the different shapes and enemies.
There is perhaps a slightly steep learning curve, as the game puts you straight into the action, but the pace is relatively slow, allowing for a thoughtful approach. The puzzles can be a bit obscure and may have you reaching for a walkthrough on more than one occasion. Often, the gut feeling to push ahead can get you into trouble, as when you find you have missed an important item or have stumbled into an area that is beyond your abilities.
ShadowCaster often feels like a game that was far better in concept than in reality, and it does make you wonder if it was ahead of its time. A better engine with a modern interface would work wonders, I'm sure.
If you are looking for a deep RPG or a fast-paced shooter, I would advise you to look elsewhere. However, if you are looking for an adventure based in exploration and puzzles with regular combat to keep you on your toes, look no further! ShadowCaster may not be what everyone is looking for, but it is a challenging and rich experience with a concept rarely found in a game.
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