The Shadow Sun Hands-On Preview

We first heard about The Shadow Sun back in 2010, so it’s been a long time coming. But when you start playing the finished game, which hits the App Store December 19, you immediately see where all that time and effort went. The Shadow Sun is an ambitious action-RPG, like Aralon or Ravensword: Shadowlands, that takes place in an intriguing new fantasy world.

You start the game by creating a character or choosing a pre-built one from standard fantasy types like warrior, rogue, and mage. Once you do that, you hop in and find yourself as part of a group of adventurers coming upon their destination, an ornate walled city called Shar. Your group is from a city in the North, and you’re investigating why the northern diplomats haven’t been been in contact in a while.

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Early on you get hints that strange things are brewing in the city, including the recent arrival of shady advisors to the king and a plague that’s getting out of control, turning citizens into crazed lunatics.

As you explore the city, you come upon plenty of city folk, soldiers, merchants, and others. You can talk to many of them, with branching conversations let you get as much or as little information out of them that you’d like. Some of them also have side quests you can accept if you’re feeling charitable (and would like more money and experience points).

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As you do missions, you also encounter a number of people and monsters to fight. Fighting takes place in real time, with you hacking, shooting, and casting spells while the other members of your party help you out. You can let your comrades do their own thing, or give them commands to make them focus on healing, ranged attacks, or melee encounters.

Enemies drop treasure that you can pick up and to your inventory. You’ll find all kinds of weapons and apparel, which you can sell or put in a chest back at your hideout. As you earn experience points and level up, you can pump points into your stats and skills to beef up your character. There’s an action bar at the bottom of the screen, with slots you can assign different actions, like spells and special attacks.

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The game tracks your quests in a journal, so you can easily see what needs to be done, whether it’s exterminating nefarious vermin in the sewers, or collecting unique jewels for a worried merchant.

And in case you’re wondering how deep the lore goes, check out the Mass Effect-like codex in the menu. It automatically updates with new entries every time you come upon a new character, enemy, location, historical fact, group, or magic spell. Once you crack open the codex, it quickly becomes clear that The Shadow Sun is a world that has been thoroughly thought out by its creators.

Action-RPG fans should clear their gaming schedule, because The Shadow Sun is big, impressive, and full of stuff to do. Look for it on the App Store on December 19.

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