I went into Masquerada: Songs and Shadows blind, not really knowing what I was getting myself into. With little indication of what to expect, other than the fact that it was a 2D isometric RPG, I was pleasantly surprised by the diversity of the cast of characters I got to control, as well as the depth and lore that seems to be present in the game’s world.
The Masquerada PAX Prime demo put me in control of three main characters: Cicero, Kalden, and Tiziana. From what little time I spent with them, it was already easy to tell that these were going to be fleshed out and well-developed characters. Cicero returns to the city as an exile, Kalden is a mage who carries personal burdens of his own, while Tiziana takes on the role of a spy who isn’t particularly concerned with the political plays of the Venetian-inspired city.
While the demo was more focused on the gameplay than the story, it was interesting to see how these characters played off of each other in the little snippets of dialogue I got to hear – something that I’ll be looking forward to even more when the game is officially released. In the world of Masquerada, masks are used as a show of power and class. But more importantly, they also enable their wearers to use magic. And boy, does the magic look good onscreen.
Visually, Masquerada is a feast for the eyes. The animations and attack motions are fluid and just bursting with color. Calden in particular was a joy to play as because of his ability to summon a gorgeous water wall that pushed back your enemies. Your other two companions control the elements of fire and earth, and their animations are equally breathtaking as well. Each character has a set of spells that you can use in battle, and you can also swap freely between them anytime you wish.
There’s also en element of strategy integral to Masquerada’s gameplay. You and your enemies both have blue and red bars next to their avatars, indicating the amount of focus and health they have. In order to lower their health, players will have to deplete their enemies’ focus gauge first before they can start doing some real damage. To make things easier, you might want to consider positioning your characters behind your enemies before attacking, as they’re usually undefended from the rear. If you’re anything like me and you’re terrible at real-time battles, you can also do a tactical pause to plan out your next attacks and movements.
Unbeknownst to me as I was playing the demo, some of your character spells also have the ability to interrupt enemy attacks, and there are various elemental combinations that you can exploit to deal even more damage to your foes. Simply put, there’s just a lot of depth to Masquerada’s battle system. The demo only gave me a little taste of the gameplay, but this showing at PAX Prime certainly looks very promising for what is to come in the final product.
It’s clear that Masquerada is a labor of love when it comes to the effort that’s gone into its design, world building, and the sheer depth of the combat system itself. This RPG promises a lot on the fronts of social commentary, fantastical discoveries, and a tightly woven narrative. I went into the demo blind, but I’ll certainly be looking out for this title when it’s finally out next year.
Masquerada: Songs and Shadows is set to be released on PC, Mac, and consoles in early 2016.