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The Quixotic Engineer

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Shadow of Destiny

Shadow of Destiny

When I first read about Shadow of Destiny, it immediately struck me as a very peculiar game. It has elements in common with Indigo Prophecy, in that it involves a murder mystery and is somewhat like an interactive film. What interested me enough to skulk out eBay for it, however, was definitely its unique premise; you play as Eike Kusch, a recently deceased man who is given the chance to go back in time and prevent his own mysterious murder.

After being stabbed in the street, Eike finds himself in a timeless void where a creature named Homonculus offers him another chance at life. Dodging fate, however, is a daunting task; it seems that the young man has found himself caught up in a sequence of events that has spanned centuries. At the start of each of the game's eight chapters, fate catches up to Eike in a number of creative ways (which include being run over by a car, having his food poisoned and being pushed off a tall tower). Each murder that he manages to prevent gets him a little closer to the root of the problem.

The time travel mechanics, which occasionally reminded me of Chrono Trigger, play an interesting part in the puzzle solving. Some of the earlier puzzles are unfortunately very simple; you stop a building from burning down by going back in time and stomping out the flame that started it. The later puzzles were thankfully a bit more complex; one of my favorites involved finding a book about antidotes by convincing the ancestor of the art museum curator to make a library instead. The time travel is divided into four eras: 1580, 1902, 1980 and the "present day" of 2001.

Shadow of Destiny screenshot

Being a six year old game, it does have some serious flaws. For one, the voice acting is terrible. While the character models are surprisingly decent for a first generation PS2 game, the city is full of bland textures and feels devoid of life. Furthermore, the developers made some glaringly lazy choices at times. For instance, in the first chapter, the game blocks off certain alleyways to prevent you from exploring too far. The choice of obstacle? An angry dog... at every single intersection. Finally, the game is incredibly short; be prepared to see the credits roll in under seven hours.

Despite these glaring flaws, I don't regret my purchase. Unlike Indigo Prophecy, the plot doesn't fall apart towards the end. Quite the opposite in fact, the story was excellent and came at me with twists that I genuinely did not see coming. Furthermore, while the game is short, there are more than five endings to unlock depending on your choices in the game.

All in all, if you're interested in an interactive movie game with an excellent plot and are willing to overlook some major flaws, I recommend looking into Shadow of Destiny.



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