The beginning of Raid: Shadow Legends is a nice surprise, feeling like a big punch in the gut. A party of four very diverse warriors with tongues as sharp as their weapons rush to face an impressive dragon, only to end up eaten and scorched in the face of such unsurmountable odds. The use of high-level gameplay as a tutorial isn’t an unusual approach, serving as a way of showcasing the heroes and bosses at their full potential. Yet, it remains fresh and convincing after so many years.
Luckily, not all the champions are gone for good – a single champion is bestowed a second chance and it’s up to you to choose which one. Will it be High Elf Archer Elhain, Orc Galek, Paladin Athel or Dark Elf Kael?
Plarium is the developer of many acclaimed strategy games, mostly based on a tried-and-tested city-building template that has proven successful since the studio’s inception in 2009. However, Raid: Shadow Legends breaks with the tradition, instead being a turn-based role-playing game with more than 300 unique champions to collect.
Raid: Shadow Legends is a mobile game, but a desktop version is in the works if you prefer to play on your computer and aren’t too fond of emulators.
The main strength of hero collecting games lies in their roster. A great cast is more than capable of making or breaking a game, even if the core mechanics are polished to the brim. Raid: Shadow Legends is off to a great start with its enticing introduction and when the dust settles, it gradually presents you to its diverse modes and challenges. It’s a clever way of easing casual and veteran players alike, using your bastion as the hub for every possibility.
The visuals in this game instantly grab you from the get-go. While initially doubtful about the high quality of the intro graphics, when the campaign started it was clear that these were actual in-game models. Raid: Shadow Legends looks stunning, with some spectacular scenarios and environmental effects. The sheer diversity of the locations is enough to keep you going, always on the lookout for background details that makes the whole experience that little bit better – the beautiful snow effects in Ice Peak, or the scorching pits in the Minotaur labyrinth are a sight to behold. The same can be said about the bosses, with some attention-grabbing creatures such as the creepy Spider, or the devastating Fire Knight.
The champions are beautifully rendered and with detailed animations achieved through motion capture. The smooth movements highlight their different personalities, even in the case of the grotesque beasts or undead hordes that you get to recruit.
If there is one thing that would add to the immersion and mood of the game, it’s champion interaction. It was enjoyable to see the four warriors poking fun at each other during the intro sequence, although their detachment was somewhat worrying for the well-being of the party. It would be interesting to see something similar in the campaign, with an affinity system for each champion to express their amity, hate, or benevolence towards one another. This could build on the game’s universe and pave the way for interesting stories or side-quests.
There’s this unmistakable The Lord of the Rings vibe to the whole setting. The accomplished dark fantasy aesthetic is a breath of fresh air, moving away from the saturated cartoon or anime style that similar games tend to use to the point of exhaustion. This is a great looking game and one that will instantly catch the attention of onlookers in their search for the next collectible card RPG.
Your four-man party of champions can be comprised of units earned by advancing in the campaign, or by using shards to summon new heroes. Your progress will unlock better shards and legendary champions, with several means to upgrade your squad. There’s PvP, dungeons, faction war, and so many other options and regular rewards, that you won’t be thwarted by a level for long. It’s a multi-layered game where getting a new and formidable champion feels like a victory and a free pass for more challenging levels.
Despite featuring an auto-combat mode, this is a quality-of-life option that is better suited for re-runs and to earn additional experience using low-level champions. Using auto mode when playing the latter half of the campaign or PvP will only earn you shameful defeats, so it’s best to steer clear of it. Tactical prowess is necessary to advance, considering that the A.I. isn’t always going to make the best combat decisions in the long run.
Raid: Shadow Legends is a game that stands out from the competition, even if it doesn’t exactly push the genre forward. I’ve enjoyed my time with it and was thrilled at every new stage and boss fight. With great looks and a remarkable cast of champions, this is one compelling adventure that I will frequently return to.
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