City of the Shroud is an upcoming strategy RPG with a large dollop of humour. The game is developed by Abyssal Arts and will release on Steam for PC, August 9th for $19.99. The story of City of the Shroud will take place over four chapters, with each one following on from where the player last left off. A player-driven narrative is the style here. Talking to NPCs and making key decisions will affect how the story unfolds. Combat takes place on small gridded areas throughout the city, with either real-time or paused turn-based options available.
The player arrives in Iskendrun as a blank slate. An eternally faceless character, all we get is a name and some schtick about our cloak from some of the NPCs. The sense of humor in the game immediately drew me back to the Monkey Island series(if you don’t know what that is, ask a grown up). Its that type of biting, sarcastic, poke fun at the player humour. I found it delightful, and it’s easily the best feature of the game’s narrative. And that’s not a knock on the narrative.
City of the Shroud sees the hero confined within the walls of Iskendrun, a city under siege. There have been portals opening up over, around, and within the city, unleashing terrible monsters which prey on the helpless citizens. Naturally enough it’s up to us to sort the crisis out, one dialogue option at a time. The games primary play screen is a map of the city. Each city area is highlighted, point and click on one, and you’ll be brought there. Then simply click on whoever there you wish to speak with. It’s a very simple system but artfully drawn nonetheless. The game is fairly linear for the first few hours, then opens up to reveal team management and political party options.
Iskendrun has 5 main rival organisations that the player can choose from, adding a bit of depth and replayability to proceedings. Each organization has its own leader, with their own ethos, allowing us to roleplay as the type of hero we would like to inhabit. Combat in City of the Shroud is a 4 player arena battle, taking place on a small gridded battle map. Each character has Action Points with which to move, attack, or cast spells. There are several classes to choose from, and any combination can be used to compose a team:
- Brute – Melee specialist
- Mage – Spellcaster
- Duelist – Pistol shooter and wields a sword
- Gunner – Lays down fire from a machine gun
- Defender – Carries 2 massive shields
- Machinist – Can launch and control drones
Further to this, each team member can be aesthetically customised to the players liking. The key here is that the character is not really important to combat. The player’s team setup and overall skill is the determinant factor. Grinding doesn’t exist, as there is no XP. As the game progresses, new abilities and gems are unlocked, which can then be used to bolsters your team’s strength. The combo system is simple to use but will take time to master. Each move must be thought through, as running out of Action Points on all your fighters can be disastrous.
Abyssal Arts has done themselves proud with their very first outing. They’ve taken what is essentially a barebones concept, and, through nice art direction, witty writing and a progressive combat system, made a solid strategy RPG. There are no Mass Effect style dialogues here, and no XCOM style shootouts, but you wouldn’t expect that from a small Indie team on their debut. City of the Shroud is a fun, colourful, clever and sometimes taxing strategy RPG, and if that’s your genre of choice, it’s well worth a look.