Make no mistake: despite the obvious visual and audio overhaul, Shadowgate is still very much an old school (read: old) point-and-click adventure game that looks like it’s trying to be an RPG. But it is a remake of a 1987 classic, so there’s also that.
An evil warlock is doing evil warlocky things and you get to single-handedly storm his living castle to put a stop to it. Or die trying. That’s the far more likely scenario, really. As with the original game, there are a lot of ways for you to mess up and die. Getting roasted by that dragon early on is probably the simplest example. But there are definitely more ways to fail/die.
You’ll want to save fairly often.
But newcomers fear not! When you begin a new game you can choose between playing a more “classic” version and one that’s been updated with some of the creature comforts we often expect in more modern games – things like a hint system, a pop-up wheel of interaction options, etc. Having a talking skull walk you through some of the puzzles isn’t as satisfying as figuring them out for yourself, of course. Still, it’s nice for newbies to have that option.
The most immediately noticeable change has to be the overall presentation, though. Especially the graphics, which include some really beautiful backgrounds and the occasional enemy. No, seriously, this game is extremely pretty. I can’t drone on enough about how fantastic it looks (but I’ll try to anyway). It’s almost like interacting with a series of fantasy paintings. The audio has also been updated of course, and it sounds really nice, but I’m honestly in love with the graphical update quite a bit more.
As for actually playing Shadowgate, even with the updates it’s still a decidedly “older” game. Not to say that this is a bad thing, but it might catch you off guard if you aren’t expecting it. The animations are sparse and fairly simple when they’re there and some of the puzzles are a bit tough to intuit (if you don’t call upon the talking skull for help, anyway). More than that, it’s honestly kind of slow.
Having a slower pace also isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It builds the atmosphere well, and everything feels suitably oppressive. There are a lot of details to drink in, and you probably don’t want to miss anything important. But it’s definitely not going to get your blood pumping with action-heavy moments. Granted it’s more of a point-and-click adventure game at its core, so the lack of high octane thrills isn’t exactly a surprise, but it doesn’t exactly look like an adventure game from the screen shots so just be aware, I guess.
Really though, I think Shadowgate is a solid upgrade to the original adventure. It looks and sounds great, can be just as brutal or a little less brutal than it once was, and can be quite the nostalgia trip even with all the upgrades. So long as you know what you’re getting into (and you’re okay with that, naturally) I think it’s a journey worth taking.
And probably failing at more than a few times. 😉