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Nathan Wright
Nathan Wright

Shadows Over Loathing

Shadows Over Loathing is a role-playing game. Set in a 1920s Lovecraftian setting,[1] the player controls a customizable player character who must explore Ocean City to recover relics and find their missing Uncle Murray. Gameplay is split into six chapters, as the character hunts for relics in a different part of the city while completing side quests.[4] To find the relics, the player character must solve puzzles and fight in turn-based combat. Combat involves using a variety of items, such as foods that grant buffs and throwable objects like baseballs and seltzer grenades.[2]

Shadows Over Loathing

The player plays as a character they created who has been summoned by their Uncle Murray to go to his antique shop in Ocean City for something important. However, upon arriving, he is nowhere to be found. The character will have to find cursed objects in hopes of finding a trail to Uncle Murray. Throughout the chapters, the character will gain partners to accompany the character throughout the story. The character will also have encounters with fishpeople, hobos, the mob, vampires, Rufus (the protagonist's younger brother in West of Loathing), gatormen, shadow beings, and even a nemesis (depending on the character's class). As the story progresses, the player learns more about their nemesis and the owner of the cursed objects: the President of Shadows. Upon being summoned to Government Valley, the character will come face-to-face with their nemesis one last time before defeating them and being able to access the Black House, where the President of Shadows is holding Uncle Murray captive. Previous dream sequences and Uncle Murray reveal that the President of Shadows is Margaret, a woman who, after her dog dying, being made fun of for wanting to become God when she grew up to let dogs live longer, and an explosion in her family barn, the source of the cursed objects, she became the shadow president and gains power with the shadow energy from the cursed objects. The entrance to the Black House is locked by three pillars of Shadow Energy. If the player has helped the Hobos, the Mob, and Rufus with their side-quests, they can destroy the pillars for the character, rather than battle them. Finally reaching inside the Black House, Margaret reveals that she is opening a giant portal to control the Shadowcaster, source of the shadow energy, to become Empress of Shadows. The player can decided to sabotage the portal whenever they want, a point of no return and triggering the final boss. Depending on the character's actions and partner's sidequests, there are many endings the player can receive, with them mainly starting with the defeat of the Shadowcaster by the player or their partner, or the Shadowcaster winning and absorbing everything. The rest of the ending sequence depends on the sidequests the player has or has not completed and their consequences. The game saves before the final boss, so the player can go back and try to get a different ending.

Part RPG and part adventure game, Shadows over Loathing sees your malleable and very impressionable protagonist travel to Ocean City at the request of their antique shop-owning uncle, only to find themself wrapped up in the strange circumstances of his disappearance. This mystery involves cursed objects, dream dimensions, strange creatures, and countless quirky characters. Lovecraftian horrors mix with prohibition-era America, jazz and hobo culture, and none of it is taken seriously.

Shadows Over Loathing is such a massive improvement over its forerunner West of Loathing that if you played the previous game - whether you liked it or not - you owe it to yourself to at least check out the new one.

Mainly, it was down to the overall feel of the game. Kingdom of Loathing is a game that never takes itself seriously at all and revels in absurdity and surrealism. West of Loathing, on the other hand, ended up being an unexpectedly dark and gritty title, and that was not what I was anticipating.

Shadows Over Loathing is technically a sequel to West of Loathing. Both are set in the same pseudo-American world, with Shadows set a few generations after West in a Depression-esque time period. It's an age of speakeasies, gangsters, freight hoppers, and flappers, but one with unspeakable forces bubbling just under the surface. This mingling of film noir and weird fiction is key to the overall tenor of the game, with the minimalist art style enhancing the experience.

Both games are old-school open-world RPGs closely akin to something like Wasteland or Fallout. The player travels between discrete areas on an overworld map, running into random encounters on the way. These encounters can reveal new locations and new quests, or they may simply be stumbling blocks. Quests themselves usually have multiple solutions - using learned skills, solving puzzles, or simply knocking around enough heads.

None of this has changed, and anyone familiar with the mechanics of West will pick up on Shadows quickly. However, the overall structure of the game has been changed in a way that's going to make it easier for new players to get into the action.

While I'm sure that some open-world purists might grumble about this, it makes the game much more manageable. In West of Loathing, one could easily miss 90% of the game on a playthrough, with some of the sidequests being so arcane that you need a guide to find and complete them. By staggering the pace, Shadows give the player more of an opportunity to discover everything that the game has to offer.

The overall style of the game really contributes to this. Stick figures and simple black-and-white illustrations are a trademark of Asymmetric games, but they are an especially good fit in the film noir world of Shadows of Loathing. Even within the limitations of the minimalistic graphics, the developers find ways to play with light and shadow in ways that contribute to the sense of creeping dread.

This is the sort of clever silliness you'll discover roughly every 30 seconds when you step into Shadows Over Loathing (opens in new tab), a new and completely unannounced (until today (opens in new tab)) 2D stick-figure RPG from Asymmetric Productions, makers of long-running online RPG Kingdom of Loathing and 2017's ridiculously funny singleplayer RPG West of Loathing. It's out on Steam right now, just like that.

I know it's not Starfield, the game that was supposed to launch on 11/11/22. But does Starfield let you eat interdimensional hot dogs or drink bottles of pork soda while you're beating gun-toting fairies over the head with a guitar? I'm guessing it doesn't.

While I didn't love the turn-based combat in West of Loathing, I'm enjoying it mightily here, probably due to the sheer number of different items I can use in the fight, from revolvers to sporks to an ice-cream scoop that does cold damage, not to mention the potions I can glug or the "food" I can eat before a fight to give me a multitude of buffs. Add in all the throwable objects like baseballs, globs of unbaked dough, seltzer grenades, and a leftover rocket from the Cola Wars, and every battle feels like I'm spoiled for options.

Shadows Over Loathing starts with a conventional gothic horror hook. Your character receives a letter from their eccentric uncle, asking you to take over the family business of locating and preserving cursed artifacts. Shortly after you arrive, it is revealed that your uncle, as well as several artifacts, have gone missing. In addition, as you look for more clues about your uncle and retrieve artifacts, you keep having mysterious dreams, foreshadowing a dark fate for the realm of man by some unseen force.

A great example of this is in Shadows Over Loathing's opening. You start the game wandering into a diner with a newspaper covering your face from a breeze. No one can understand you since your voice is muffled. The waitress even says she won't serve you until you get your face sorted out. It isn't until you bumble your way into the bathroom and remove the newspaper that you can customize your character.

But even if Shadows Over Loathing's skewering of cosmic horror doesn't fully click for you, the underlying gameplay has some depth. In the broadest strokes, it is a classic turn-based RPG. While you do pick a starting class, the game is flexible and allows for different playstyles. Muscle determines how much you can lift as well as your skill with melee weapons. Moxie determines your persuasion, acrobatic ability, and your skill ranged weapons. Finally, Mysticality determines your overall intelligence and how much power you can coax out of magical kitchen utensils.

In Shadows Over Loathing, there is Mudhenge, a location where players must go through specific doors in the correct order. This guide explains how to discover which doors are real and how to complete that specific level.

Shadows Over Loathing is a vastly larger game than its Wild West cousin, featuring authentically baffling 1920s slang, strategic turn-based combat (but only if you want it), inappropriate fishing, cursed antiques, a corrupt government to be overthrown at your leisure, an infinitely tall building, sentient math, and much more. 041b061a72


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