Shadow of the Beast – A satisfying mix of platforming, combat and puzzles

I found Shadow of the Beast (the PS4-exclusive remake of the 1989 Amiga-classic) while looking for games where you play as the bad guy.

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Aarbron in the Graveyard of the Fallen, the penultimate level, where he has to battle all of the foes encountered previously all over again.

You play as the titular beast, Aarbron, an ugly thing of impressive power, who was created by the evil mage Maletoth and who feeds on blood and the souls of his defeated enemies. Pretty dark, huh? But things start to look up when Aarbron frees himself of his bonds to embark on a rescue mission and confront his creator in an epic final battle.

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Meet Aarbron (middle) in the midst of combat. In the lower left corner you can find the health and blood bar (If the blood bar is full, you can use Rage Chain). Also, your lives, in this case nine, and the number of times you can use the Wrath of Aarbron, a special move that has spikes grow out of the earth around you. In the lower right corner the number of enemies is displayed and in the upper right corner you can see how many points you can make. The upper left corner shows the points you already do have.

Speaking of, Aarbron is a killing machine and will encounter numerous foes he has to best in combat. Apart from Attack, Stun and Throw, there are some pretty awesome special moves available, and you can upgrade Health, Armor, Strength as well as unlock some more evil skills like Dominance. Aarbron can also use Talismans to boost certain traits.

Combat is key
Combat is key in Shadow of the Beast, and that is meant quite literally. Aarbron has to battle his way across several beautifully designed levels that see hordes of Maletoth’s minions try to cut him down. The better you are at defeating your foes, the greater your reward.

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This was one of the rare times I managed to time the Rage Chain just right, but there are twelve enemies left…

Should you manage to evade being hit during any encounter, you will be awarded the platinum xp points and an elixir. This elixir can be used to resurrect Aarbron, should he die despite your best efforts, be it in battle or by accidentally plunging to his death, which happened to me numerous times.

If the enemy lands even just one hit, you still get a ton of points, but no elixir, and, should you die, you will have to consume a soul or rather, as the game stresses quite pointedly, an innocent soul.

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During the last level before the boss fight my Aarbron turned into a literal souleater.

That’s right, you’ll have to sacrifice an innocent soul for Aarbron’s life. That can’t be good. And no, it’s not. Which is why I, after my first playthrough, have vowed to become a better fighter, since all ended not well.

(Actually, you can always choose to replay the entire level instead of consuming either soul or elixir. But I wanted to finish the game, so I just went with it.)

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Worst rating ever.

Combat-wise, Aarbron can attack or stun his enemies, throw them into each other, use special moves or Rage Chain (linking kills by getting the timing just right) to finish them more quickly. Dodging is also essential, since each fight plays out in a restricted area and enemies will be coming at you from both sides. Overall, you really have to stay on your toes to gain the platinum award and that truly is a challenge, especially during the fights in the last level.

At one point, Aarbron will gain the ability to light up the dark and will also be awarded a gun, that will be helpful for breaking through walls and for a couple of boss fights.

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Meet Leviathan and welcome to a boss fight like no other encountered before (in this game).

That’s right, of course there is a boss fight waiting at the end of each level and I can safely claim that not one is like the other. Which is great.

The world is simply beautiful
The game is level-based, meaning you travel from one mission to the next, battle your way through said level and then either repeat the entire mission because your overall rating was so bad (that’s me), or tell yourself, what the heck (like I did), and continue to the next, the rating be damned.

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The Arid Wastes offer a mesmerizing landscape.

You will find lush grasslands, a creepy underground maze populated by strange insectile creatures and sleeping giants, a swamp dwarved by gigantic trees and populated by irritating monsters, an arid desert featuring many traps and a fearsome giant, a labyrinthine palace where traps (and wasps) and strange poisonous eye-things loom in the shadows and, finally, a nightmarish graveyard where you will have to face each class of enemy all over again, this time as ghosts, before you get to the final boss fight.

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The Visions offer insights into enemy classes and on how to defeat them.

In each level you can uncover seals and memories that serve to explain the story a little more. Since Aarbron is not the talkative type and every other creature is speaking in tongues you have to unlock to understand, that is actually very helpful. In my opinion you do not necessarily need to unlock the languages. I think that the animations are expressive enough to understand perfectly well what is going on.

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Aarbron is great at climbing, as you can see here.

Exploration is key to finding said seals and memories, and, thankfully, Aarbron is a strong climber who can even get up or down sheer concrete walls, thanks to his fearsome claws.

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To get to the boss in this level Aarbron needs to solve puzzles, by aligning the objects hanging from the ceiling with the painting on the wall.

One level features puzzles, which was a welcome addition to the gameplay, but I would have loved to have more of that.

The Verdict
For me, Shadow of the Beast was a welcome change in terms of gameplay, much like Feist. It is an intense, highly competitive experience and I must say that the levels are true beauties in terms of artwork and creative ideas.

Keep on playing!


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