Masquerada: Songs and Shadow is a top down action/adventure game by Witching Hour Studios and Ysbryd Games. You are dropped into the City of Ombre as Cicero Gavar a former Inspettore of the Citte. Cicero has been assigned the task of investigating the disappearance of important White Spire members. While the player is not given many details in the beginning of the game as to who Cicero is or what the world around him is like, players can piece it together as they go through the game. One thing the player does understand is the objects known as mascherines are weapons of great power; and the struggle for that power has left the world wounded.
Gameplay consist of running to quest markers to activating dialogue, battling enemies in pre-set areas of the game, and searching the map for pieces of information that better explain the world around the player.
Combat in the game is fairly simple. There are three different “stances” a player can have their character take, each with its own purpose. (Attack, Defense, MP regeneration.) While the players have basic attacks at their disposal, they also have more powerful magic abilities that they select themselves in a skill tree.
These magic abilities are activated by quick key commands on the (X, Circle, Square, Triangle) pad. Allowing a total of five abilities at once. This includes the R1 ultimate ability, which changes depending on what mascherine is equipped.
Different mascherines can be found and equipped throughout the game. These “mask” are based off the four elements. (Earth, Wind, Fire, Air.) The player gets to choose Cicero’s element type at the beginning of the game. Each type has its own virtue and play style.
Points for this skill tree are obtained by completing different task and collecting XP. The player will be able to design the strategy for the party that accompanies Cicero in his quest. This allows for creative and diverse methods of handling foes throughout the game. These skills can also be reset at any time, when the player gets to a certain part of the game, if they so wish to change one or all-party members abilities.
Things I liked:
The variety of ways build the party with abilities and AI commands is mind boggling. It encourages playing with the skill system to find the perfect team comp for the players desired play style.
Things I didn’t like:
Combat in the game somewhat takes a back seat to the story. Many of the fights in the game were too easy and it often felt like combat was just a way to fill in time from one cut scene to the next.
I give a gameplay score of 7/10. It’s obvious that a lot of time and effort was put into the combat and skill system. There is a lot of potential here. If only there was a way to make combat feel more fast passed and challenging, the gameplay would receive a higher score.
The control system for Masquerada is simple, yet effective. Many players who are used to battle arena type game will feel right at home with the control system. I found it easy to quickly memorize my different abilities and combo them as needed in fights.
Outside of combat, controls can be used to access lore pages, skill trees, mask pages and Cicero’s journal entries. The controls never take away from the gameplay and seem to serve their purposes perfectly.
The only issue I found with the controls was that you could auto attack while not standing next to an enemy and the controls would not auto move you to the nearest enemy. This would be a nice thing to add in the controls option.
I give a Controls score of 10/10. The controls felt right. They were not complex and could quickly be used to achieve the player’s goals.
The story, without a doubt, is where Masquerada shines the brightest. The world crafting is vast. The amount of extra information the player can obtain throughout the game, in the lore pages, could fill a small book.
Cicero may be the main character, but he is not the only character that has a story. The companions each have a story of their own.
Character development is superb. The different factions in the game do not always like each other and this shows in how party members initially treat each other. As secrets and insight into party members are revealed, Cicero’s bond with that character grows. In the end, you have a rag-tag team of unlikely comrades setting aside their differences to solve a greater issue. While this theme has been done before, Masquerada manages to do it in a manner that is not cliché. There were many times in the game when a character’s story would take me aback and hit me with something I was not expecting. (Gorge R.R. Martin fans, that’s your que to stop reading and start playing.)
While I was apprehensive about the story at first, because I was dropped into it with no information, I found that not knowing anything made it that much more intriguing. It does not take very long for the story to take off; and the further you get the harder it is to put down the controller.
Things I liked: The world and characters are completely fleshed out. The story could stand on its own, but so much supporting information is given its hard not to be impressed.
Things I didn’t like: At times, it felt that there was TOO much to read. So many new words and concepts to learn did become a little over whelming.
I give a Story score of 10/10. Well done. The game is worth playing for the story alone.
Graphics and Music:
The graphics in the game are charming. The cut scenes have a “story board” feel that blends well with the game as a whole. The environment in the game feels hand drawn and there is great attention to detail. While full blown cut scenes like the trailer for the game would be amazing, the comic style cut scenes leave something to the imagination.
The music for the game is ridiculous. (In a good way!) It’s called Masquerada: SONGS and Shadows for a reason. The music for the trailer is by far my favorite. (Can we get a movie please?) The music makes you realize just how complete the world crafting is. It sounds good, but unfamiliar. As it should be, because it’s a world all its own. The opera in the title screen gives hint to how the game was intended to be perceived. The story has different “Acts” like a play or opera, and by the end of it one cannot help but feel they have just witnessed one. A very good one.
I give a Graphics and Music score of 9/10. The reason it’s not 10/10 is because there were no fully animated cutscenes like the trailer. (And the trailer was too good gosh darn it!)
Masquerada: Songs and Shadows – EXTENDED Cinematic Trailer:
Over all I give the game a 9/10. There was an elegance to the story, graphics, and music that pulled me in. It was immersive and refreshing. While the gameplay was not all it could be, everything else made up for it. I would advise players considering this game to take that into account. I’d like to see more of this game. Maybe done differently combat wise or, even better, an animated series. I feel like there is much more this game has to offer and this may only be the start of something greater.
Here is the Masquerada: Songs and Shadows Gameplay Trailer:
Masquerada: Songs and Shadows is available for consoles and PC (Steam).