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Developer:
Denyusha Co.
Publisher: Emurasoft, Inc.
Platform: PC
Release Date: December 10, 2002

by Eric Arevalo




THE BATTLE CONTINUES

Welcome back to a world in which fierce battles between humans and demons are still being waged. ShadowFlare Episode Two developed by Denyusha Co and published by Emurasoft was recently released on December 10. ShadowFlare is a four part episodic action RPG that can be downloaded and purchased at the official website for $15 per episode. Episode One was released in October, with the second episode released this past month, followed by the last two episodes coming in the next few months. Players interested in trying Episode Two need to understand that you must have purchased, installed and completed the first episode before you can play the second episode. I admired the first episode because it presented some nice elements through the use of mines, an animal companion, interesting puzzles and an engaging experience. Quests were also very interesting and at times there was even a bit of a story being told. I enjoyed the simplicity that was evident in the first episode and how one could sit down and readily get into playing the game. With such an interesting experience in the first episode, was this second episode just as good? Read on to find out.


NEW ADDITIONS

You continue this episode with the same character that you used to finish the first one. Human forces are being surrounded by even stronger and vicious enemies this time around. The call is sent out to find brave warriors who are willing to lend their aid to the human military forces. Even worse is the fact that a dragon has been awakened so not only must you stop the demons in this area but this new threat as well. This is where you come in, a warrior that has already proven his worth in the first episode. Where the first episode had many different forms of golems and goblins to the fierce gargoyles, this episode brings even stronger forms of the goblins, to tarantulas, boars and even stronger and more potent enemies. You will notice that the areas are much larger and more expansive than they were before.


Where towns and areas were located close by before, now you will have huge expanses of forests with huge hordes of enemies ready to deal punishment to you. There does not seem to be any new animal companions in the second episode beyond the dog companion that you used in the first one. There are a few new musical tunes along with additional art here and there, such as the color of some forests to differentiate when you are getting deeper into the forests to the new creatures. I like the dated 2D graphics used for displaying the many environments and creatures. They are not the best 2D graphics but they have a charm of their own and obviously they had to cut down on the quality of the graphics to keep the download size of these episodes as small as possible. Some interesting quests are introduced such as finding the cause of an illness that has spread through the villages and the need to find the cure in time.


One of the interesting things that you can do within Episode Two is find even more unique items to equip yourself with. The first episode had a few special swords and armor and the second one includes even more unique items that can be dropped by enemies or found in treasure chests. In the first episode I had this powerful sword named Ash that was helpful in dealing swift and deadly blows to the enemies. One of the other features that I liked about the first episode was that there was an area called the Tower of Ordeal which was used as a training center by the wizards. Within this tower one can fight stronger forms of enemies and gain valuable experience.


You could only complete the first five floors of this tower after you had completed all the quests in episode one and in the second one you will be able to complete even higher floors with stronger and more dangerous enemies after you have finished your quests. The creatures are all very difficult on these floors and you will need to use your teleport spell many times to teleport out and heal yourself and then come back. I liked the difficulty introduced in this tower and I wish that they would have left this level of difficulty here and not let it ruin the second episode. While the first episode had the right balance of difficulty implemented through it, the second episode appears so unbalanced in the difficulty area that I quit this episode in frustration many times.


A FRUSTRATING JOURNEY

As an avid RPG player I have played and enjoyed many types of RPG's. Yet in the best of them the system that is used to level up is balanced and adjusts itself to the player. It never comes to the point of being too difficult or too easy but lies in the middle of both. When you start the first episode of ShadowFlare there is a decent amount of difficulty introduced and I could use my animal companion and mines, as well as some powerful armor and weapons to deal with any of the enemies that came my way. Some of these enemies took some time to defeat, such as the gargoyles near the end of the first episode, yet it was not to the point of being frustrating but still very fun. This fun was thrown out the window when I started the second area as the difficulty level was raised beyond reason. I expected the enemies to be stronger because I was in a new area and episode but I never expected that my powerful armor and my Ash sword from the first episode would mean almost nothing. When I was attacking these creatures I was doing some damage but it was as if I had the weakest weapon and armor.


Where I was killing creatures such as golems in the first episode with the aid of my animal companion and mines within repeated hits, the forest goblins as well as spiders from the second episode took a long time to be brought down. I am not expecting to deal with these new creatures easily either but since they are the first ones in this new area, I was not expecting the creatures to have this level of difficulty so soon. It is probable that the designers believed that since the player has adjusted themselves to the game having played the first episode that this increase in difficulty would not matter. Yet it does matter and it is a frustrating aspect of an otherwise interesting game that should be considered before the remaining episodes are released. I was definitely expecting that my level 20 warrior equipped with very strong armor and weapons to fare better than this. Normally in other RPG's I would go back to easier areas to make my character stronger by fighting weaker enemies. Yet this would result in another flaw of this game. It seems that as you reach higher levels, it takes even more experience and time to level up your character.


This would be okay if it did not take many thousands of experience points to go up to the next level. Add to the fact that in the second episode, the mines as well as your animal companion do not seem to fair very well either against the new enemies you face. The official game website mentions that this is a difficult game and that with the aid of an animal companion you will do well. The problem lies in how they handled the difficulty of the second episode. You can't have a system that takes a long time to level-up your character, mines and animal companions that are not as powerful and then throw huge amounts of difficulty at you. I guess that I could easily use the attack and then run and heal method to defeat these creatures, but with this level of difficulty this would take many trips that would not be fun. I do not mind difficult RPG games as long as they are fun and the difficulty adjusts itself as you play. I do not understand how a player feels so powerful by the end of the first episode and then feels as if all their work meant nothing when you start the second episode. A frustrating and difficult experience never leads to a fun and exciting one when a player loses interest in a game.


OVERCOMING THE FLAWS

I liked the first episode of ShadowFlare because of its simplicity and ease of play. Yet, the simplicity is gone and the difficulty level in this second episode made me frustrated enough to quit the game and consider playing another RPG game. Why the level of difficulty was left in this state is beyond me. The first episode of ShadowFlare was indicative of the type of gameplay that rewards the player with fun and enjoyment while the second episode rewards you with frustration and headaches. As I said in my review of the first episode, each of us has certain moods that determine which games we will play, and it is those moods that ultimately decide if we will continue playing them.


I wanted to like the second episode because I had liked the first one very much. I do not care for the difficulty in the second episode but others may enjoy this type of gameplay and it is with those players that this second episode will find its place. I hope that the difficulty level of the remaining episodes will be reconsidered and prove to be fairly balanced. It is only then that we will all be able to have fun and enjoy this game as was possible in the first episode. If you can overcome the high level of difficulty and other flaws within ShadowFlare Episode Two then you may find an interesting RPG awaiting your enjoyment.


Official ShadowFlare Website


Review of ShadowFlare Episode 1


Final Grade: B- (80%)


System Requirements:

  • Pentium II Intel 450 MHz
  • Windows 95, 98, Me, 2000, XP
  • 128 MB RAM
  • Keyboard and mouse
  • Internet connection for downloading episodes and multiplayer gaming
  • Multiplayer- A maximum of 4 players can play together online



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