Shadow Watch

Moby ID: 2458

Critic Reviews add missing review

Average score: 64% (based on 19 ratings)

Player Reviews

Average score: 3.7 out of 5 (based on 12 ratings with 2 reviews)

Nice comic-booky introduction to the world of turn-based squad tactics

The Good
Shadow Watch is a tactical squad-based game in the tradition of good ol' X-Com, however a number of features set it apart from being a "me-too" copycat of said classic.

The first and most obvious original feature can be summed up by looking at the box. That's right boys and girls, the game has the graphic look and feel of a comic-book, complete with heroic broad-shouldered heroes and menacing villains all characterized by hand-drawn Batman Beyond-like illustrations and cel-shaded pre-rendered in-game sprites. Said look is supported by a great cinematic soundtrack that mixes pumping orchestral music with a little techno-flavor, very, very, VERY similar to Hans Zimmer's scores for movies like "The Rock". In short the whole style of the game is a definitive winner, giving the game a distinctive edge and a different feel from the rest of the bunch.

Another feature that has been given an original spin is the gameplay and campaign progress. The game gives you a fixed group of 6 operatives that make up the "Shadow Watch Force", each with distinct skills and defined roles that throw a nice puzzle element in the tactical turn-based portion of the game, don't worry though, save for one (the russian surveillance expert) every character is combat-ready and allows for regular tactical combat. You are just going to have to get used to the fact that if you want to sneak around you have to use a certain character, and if you want to snipe someone out you have to use another one. Standard tactical-role-playing gameplay except your characters are already fixed for you, In short: Commandos done right.

As for the campaigns, the game comes with 3 ones that take you to Hong Kong, Brazil or Russia. The order of the campaigns is completely random and changes every time you play, the object of each one is for your you to discover just what the hell is interfering with the local operations of "The Company" by messing around with the various factions that populate each location. The cool and original touch is that you start interrogating a local contact (selected randomly each time you start a campaign) and depending on the questions you ask him/her you will be taken on a specific path with it's own specific missions. Said questions and the resolution and choice of missions will determine the allegiances each character has so while Maria in Brazil ended up being a traitor that used you to get you in trouble with the police for taking that assault mission, if you had asked other questions and done a surveillance mission you would have discovered her plans early on, or find out that she was really an honest person looking for her dissapeared relative, etc, etc. I don't think the possibilities are infinite, but it's a wonderful way of integrating a semi-random mission generator into the game without losing plot coherence and still making it all work in the context of the main game. (don't worry, you also get a fully customizable mission generator).

The interface is super-simple, forgeting about the mouse for the most part and controlling everything with simple hotkeys, for instance, to get around a corner you don't select a tile with the mouse and wait for your character to get there, you walk to the edge (or run), turn around and keep walking, all with the arrow keys, then cycle among the available targets with the corresponding key and fire with ctrl. Yep, it's Crusader! Only turn-based!!

Sure the interface may seem heretical to a game like this, but coupled with a simplified action point scheme (every action in the game takes 1 point no matter what); a simple morale system that goes up depending on how many enemies/allies there are in the character's line of sight and gets you more APs (but increases the risks of going beserk); a simple accuracy system (your chances of hitting someone go up with each miss so eventually you'll always nail them), and other details that simplify gameplay (ie. there's no need to worry about ammo, the health comes down to 1 hit= wounded, 2 hits=dead, etc.) plus an extensive online help make the game a very newbie-friendly experience and easy to get up and running in no time.

The Bad
Too simple, too short. The simplicity of the gameplay is welcoming to newbies but doesn't pose any sort of challenge to a seasoned player, the campaigns themselves are extremely short and since the game focuses on close-quarters combat it puts the action in extremely small maps which result in thrilling infiltrations and frenetic shootouts, but are over before you know it. To sum it up, Shadow Watch's only really big problem is that it ends up being the kiddie version of what could have been a killer game in the genre.

Also as a personal note, I don't know if I'm alone in this but it feels somewhat weird to be playing with the Shadow Watch guys. You see, they aren't some sort of peace-keeping organization, they are the security force for "The Company", an all-knowing, all-seeing multinational corporation that has these private CIA wanna-bes butt-in with no remorse in different countries for the sake of their interest in some space project.... riiiiiiiight. Maybe that's all kosher by Clancy's Red Storm standards, but I've never felt that nice about playing Corporate least not when they are made out to be the nice guys as in here...

The Bottom Line
Ever wanted to hop in on the turn-based tactical squad-based bandwagon but felt too threatened by their overcomplicated interfaces and micromanagement elements? Then Shadow Watch's for you. A simple, easy and stylish game that's the perfect stepping stone for anyone to try this genre out.

Veterans to the genre will enjoy it's stylish elements, but will find it a far too small diversion. I can only imagine what Shadow Watch could have been if it had included more challenging gameplay elements and if it offered a longer-lasting experience.

Windows · by Zovni (10504) · 2003

A really fun game with tactical and some RPG elements, with some unique and original ideas

The Good
The game was quite fun and replayable. Everything was finely tuned and balanced, at the micro level in battles as well in the pacing of the campaign and the character development. The combination of randomization and player choices allowed for the same maps and basic scenarios to combine into several unique storylines (roughly 36 different possible campaign plots, differing in which sides were friendly and enemy on each map as well as in the overall story). The action-point system was quite different from the norm for such things, with only 5-10 APs per turn per character and generally each square of movement counting as an AP. Very tactically rich, with morale, adrenaline, opportunity fire, observation and alertness, and character special abilities all included.

The Bad
The campaigns were a hair too short overall, both in the resulting playtime (roughly 20 hours per campaign playthrough) and in the number of scenarios before the final battle - if you wanted to have all your characters fully developed for it, you needed to choose missions based on their character development potential rather than the story.

The Bottom Line
A unique and original take on the tactical RPG, with some interesting game mechanics that work quite well. I remembered it so well that I recently dug it out and played it all over again on my WinME box last year. I'd recommend giving it a try to any tactical RPG fan.

Windows · by weregamer (155) · 2003

Contributors to this Entry

Critic reviews added by Jeanne, nyccrg, Plok, Cantillon, Klaster_1, Scaryfun, Patrick Bregger, Foxhack, Cavalary, Wizo.