I’m always a sucker for SNES style turn-based RPG’s, which makes it not shocking at all that I jumped on Shadows of Adam from this most recent Nintendo Switch E-Shop sale. After doing some more research, I learned that Shadows of Adam originally started as a Kickstarter project back in August 2016. Developed by Something Classic Games, it generated $22,913 and had a total of 768 backers throughout its Kickstarter run. It was later released on Steam and various other platforms in February, 2017 and made its way to the Nintendo Switch on May 3rd, 2019.
Shadows of Adam kicks off in, predictably, the village of Adam. The world around Adam has recently gone through the Wraith War, which saw the disappearance of magic and destruction of a kingdom. In Adam, a ghost appears of Orazio, a man that disappeared 10 years earlier, leaving behind his two children Kellan and Asrael to deal with the aftershocks.
The story of Shadows of Adam feels deceptively shallow in the beginning. Once you’re on your adventure, you’ll end up needing to go to various dungeons and collect crystals, something we’ve heard a great deal or before in many other RPGs. As you get deeper into the story, I found myself forgetting about the generic nature of the crystals.
I also really liked how each character intertwined with one another in believable and realistic ways. Main characters being connected never felt shoe-horned which can happen when you’re trying to force a specific idea or narrative when it doesn’t make a lot of sense.
Instead of there being the typical fire, water, earth and wind crystals, Shadows of Adam introduces the Wraith Crystal, which focuses on magic in general. There’s also a lot of character interaction with the idea of the Wraith Crystal bringing loved ones back to life, which is something that always interests me in games, books and other entertainment.
There is also a larger dynamic that’s introduced with Kellan, our main character, and his father Orazio. This gave me real Tidus/Jecht vibes from Final Fantasy X throughout the game and got progressively interesting as the game went on. Overall, It isn’t the deepest story content you’ll see, but for a game this short and small in size, the story done well and stood out to me during my playthrough.
The first thing that stuck out to me about the gameplay in Shadows of Adam, is that instead of having random encounters in maps and dungeons, you see just about every enemy you’ll encounter before doing battle with them. They are also stationary, which means you can explore areas to your content without getting stopped every ten steps to take out an enemy group. While I liked the change of pace with the encounters in Shadows of Adam, there isn’t any flair to the mechanic. A game like Lufia II had a similar setup where enemies were visible on screen, but they moved and you had sub weapons to stun them while you explored. It doesn’t look like that was a focus here with Shadows of Adam.
Once you’re in the thick of things and battling enemies, you’ll see the familiar setup of characters, moves and abilities at your disposal. One changed aspect here, is that instead of having MP or a mana bar, it has been replaced with an AP bar. Each character spends AP to use their abilities. Your characters then refresh AP after every round of attacks, and if enemies are defeated. Each of the characters you’ll obtain also have an ability to refresh a larger amount of AP at the end of a turn (at no additional AP cost). All in all, the system feels balanced. I didn’t feel overpowered being able to spam my best attacks round after round, but I also never felt the AP amounts were unfair for any enemy group or boss that I faced off against.
Speaking of enemy encounters, this setup also means that there are no enemy encounters on the world map, which means that if you are inclined to do some grinding and level up, you need to completely leave an area, then re-enter a dungeon area to refresh enemy spawns. A little inconvenient, but as long as I fought every enemy I saw in each dungeon, I didn’t feel that there was a need to even attempt grinding.
Battles in general feel very smooth and do not have a lot of downtime in between attacks or rounds. There also aren’t attacks that I would call excessive (Knights of the Round from Final Fantasy VII being the extreme). Everything felt well paced in this department.
There are some great quality of life additions that I’m sure other turn-based RPG fans will appreciate. The default movement speed is walking, slowly, but you have the option to press and hold B to run (and the options even give you the ability to keep it on all the time without holding B). You also have the ability to save anywhere, which isn’t really that common. The combination of being able to see 99% of the enemy encounters before you jump in, and the ability to save anywhere means that you will rarely lose progress while you play through Shadows of Adam.
Though I liked some quality of life inclusions, there were some areas that could have gotten a second look. The main offender for me is that you don’t have the ability to ‘defend’ or even ‘wait’ which becomes an odd choice in certain situations. Some enemies cannot be affected by physical attacks and can silence your party. I was put in the situation multiple times where my party members were silenced and can only use physical attacks to fight enemy that would be unaffected by physical attacks. You can either attack use an item or run from battle, no defending just to wait out the silence.
One last thing I found out entirely too late in my playthrough of the game, was how to stop an enemies Blur status effect. Blur, essentially increases an enemies evasion to ridiculous heights, making them nearly invincible until the effect wears off. The main character, Kellan, actually has a move called Taunt that focuses all enemy attack onto himself, but also removes an enemies Blur effect. Don’t be like me, read the tool tip for the moves your characters gain.
Guild of the Artificer
The Guild of the Artificer can be found soon after the first dungeon. Oddly enough, I found out that after I had completed the game, The Guild of the Artificer was actually DLC that was released later on for Shadows of Adam. Knowing this, I feel that the base game would have been a lot less interesting. As I detail below, the Guild offered a lot of fun and interesting things to do and check out.
Forge: My favorite aspect of the Guild and item system in Shadows of Adam, comes from the Guild of the Artificer’s forge. Here, you gain grand reliquary’s, which allow you to combine three artifacts into one, letting your players equip essentially three times as many artifacts. You can’t do this right away though, because you need to find ‘Essence’ out in the world. Once you do, you can use this essence and gold to combine artifacts. Nothing is permanent, as you’ll be able to remove artifacts and add new ones without having to find more essence to do so.
Black Market: The guild houses a variety of shops that hold items you will not find elsewhere in the game. Besides being able to purchase things like Mega-Elixir’s here for a cool 100,000 each, you’ll be able to find some pretty great artifacts for purchase. Early in the game, the price tags will be brutal, but there may be an easy way to get them sooner than you’re supposed to.
Battle Arena: The Battle Arena in Shadows of Adam acts as a welcomed distraction from completing story beat after story beat. After a major dungeon, I would head back to the Guild and take down the newest Battle Arena challenge, which is separated by level suggestions for completion.
Most of the arena challenges have stipulations attached to them and each require you to defeat five enemy groups. The Bronze Tier has enemy magic doing 150% damage instead of the normal 100%, the Gold Tier sees enemies deal enhanced physical damage and the Wraith Tier only allows you to use your characters skills once per battle. The first time you complete an arena challenge, you typically get an array of items which will include a new artifact for your characters to equip, but after that on repeated completions, you receive a chunk of gold.
I found that this gold reward could really be taken advantage of if you want to, even early on in the game. The Bronze Tier for example, rewards you with 7,000 gold each completion after the first and the level suggestion is level 12. I found that even around level 15, this challenge flew by and I was able to complete the five battles within a few minutes. Do this multiple times, and you have the option of purchasing a more overpowered artifact from the Black Market than you’re intended on having at this point in the game.
It doesn’t break the game in any way, but having that extra 20% HP with HP regen for a squishier character like Talon or Asrael could help tip your next battle over the edge in your favor if you are finding yourself having a difficult time.
Quick Travel: Once you unlock the guild, you have the option of warping back at every save point that you encounter. It’s a nice way of getting back to shops wherever you are without needing to worry about back tracking through a dungeon and needing to re-fight enemies getting back. If you accidentally warp to the guild, don’t worry, you can warp right back to where you were in the game and get back into the thick of things.
Character Archetypes: Towards the beginning, your first three characters felt very much like the typical warrior/red mage/monk archetypes that you find in many other games. Kellan as the warrior, can parry attacks and do high physical damage, Asrael is your basic red mage, having both black and white magic and Curtis, the Monk, can meditate and do spirit damaging attacks.
The inclusion of Talon as the fourth character changes this up. I was expecting a thief, which you get in the beginning with his poison attacks, but he’s also gambler, using card attacks such as Setzer from Final Fantasy VI. From here, the other characters opened up a bit. Kellan gets a party healing ability before Asrael, Talon gains the ability to blur an ally which increases their evasion and so on. Like my feelings on the generic story in the beginning of the game, the character archetypes seemed like they slowly got away from the norm, and created something more unique later on.
Sprites/Color Palette: This is very good a noticeable throughout the game. Some games can get a bit boring to look at due to the dreary nature of the narrative, but Shadows of Adam manages to keep things interesting with its color choices. The Water Gardens in particular stood out to me.
Post Game: With the Guild of the Artificer DLC included, you’ll be given the option of completing a few extra side areas and fighting some extra bosses that would be too difficult to face before the final area of the game. It’s a nice added addition that harkens back to extra bosses in a myriad of other RPGs of this type.
I usually don’t check out a video games website until I’ve completed the game and am ready to put my thoughts down, which was the case here as well with Shadows of Adam. When I read the developers words on what to expect if you purchase the game, I thought that it was refreshingly accurate to the final package you receive.
I can’t complain with anything they say here, and it sums up a lot of what I would refresh here in my closing. There are a few down sides worth mentioning if you’re a player looking to get into a new RPG and are considering Shadows of Adam. There are quite a few repetitive boss battles, some are even just re-skins of previous bosses.
Puzzles, while welcome, get repetitive as well the further you get into the game. I loved going through the vines, air shoots, mine carts and eye puzzles for the first times. After that, especially with the eye puzzle being using liberally throughout a large portion of the game, it got tiresome at times rolling up to the next puzzle section.
The final dungeon ends up being the greatest offender of both of the above points, making the player roll through re-skins of the majority of the game, section after section.
Even with these hangups, I can’t say that I didn’t enjoy my short time with Shadows of Adam. The color palette was never a chore to look at, the music, while maybe overstated as saying you’ll be humming twenty years from now, was enjoyable enough to listen to and never felt repetitive. It gave me that retro SNES feel, as promised, and reminded me of an older time that I enjoyed as a young gamer.
Thanks for checking out my review of Shadows of Adam. If you want to check out a similar style RPG like this, look at my Dragon Sinker review here. I also reviewed Battle Chasers: Nightwar here if you want a more modern turn-based RPG that can be found on the Nintendo Switch.