Capsule Review: Shadows Over Loathing

A Lovecraftian-themed comedic RPG with monochrome stick-figure art and surprisingly good music and sound effects.

Follow a trail of cursed objects to find your missing uncle while dealing with sidequests and random encounters featuring turn-based combat, puzzles, and a lot of humor.

This is mostly a bigger-and-better West of Loathing in a new Lovecraftian setting and with a more cohesive frame story (though many of the side quests and such along the way are still effectively standalone). It’s still warm and safe with no game overs and very few permanent fail states (and none in the main story),

Combat has become deeper through the addition of new systems (elemental damage types, skill points, and a crafting system for gear and consumables) and a slightly larger party (you can swap between several partners and combat pets). It’s still very optional, though - most situations that can involve combat also have non-combat solutions and it’s possible to get through the game without participating in a single fight. There are plenty of other ways to power yourself up to pass stat checks through getting XP from non-combat sources, getting gear, and using the crafting system. This means that the difficulty level is very much up to the player and they can use the set of systems they enjoy. In my playthrough on Normal difficulty, I frequently engaged in combat and paid attention to gear but completely ignored the crafting system and rarely lost a fight or struggled with a stat check.

The story has much more of an arc this time, though a lot of the sidequests and other content along the way is effectively standalone and could have fit into any story. The individual experiences are well-done and generally amusing and satisfying, and it’s nice to have the running thread of searching for your uncle, dealing with the curses, and learning more about the villains. The ending (or at least the ones I saw; there are a bunch) are still anticlimactic, though.

There is a huge amount of player choice here. You have a few choices when building your character that have some effect on the game’s content (most notably, you have a different nemesis based on your chosen class), a lot of ways to set up and develop your combat build, a ton of optional quests with multiple resolutions, and a variety of endings depending on what choices you’ve made along the way. As such, the game seems to be set up to be replayed, though to do so you’ll still have to repeat a lot of content that will not be as funny or surprising after the first time.

I Stopped Playing When: I finished a playthrough having done a lot (but not all) of the side content. The game saves right before the final point of no return, so I went back and tried for a different ending, but this involved a lot of unskippable dialog and credits (and both endings had been anticlimactic) so I didn’t bother going for more. As with the previous game, I don’t expect to replay it at least until enough time has passed that I’ve forgotten most of it and can enjoy the humor and surprises again.

Docprof's Rating:

Three Stars: Good. I liked the game enough to finish it (or just play it a bunch, for games that don't end). I recommend it to most genre fans.

You can get it or learn more here.