Often viewed as “the most anticipated game of 2011”, Gears of War 3 is set to burst from its emergence hole on September 20th of 2011. I don’t drive a pickup truck, don’t chug beer out of a football helmet, and can spell my own name (on occasion) and guess what haters … I’m a huge Gears fan.. The Gears of War series gets a bad rap for being “another space marine game”, or “digital testosterone”, but I disagree. I’ve played the games, read the novels, and truly believe the Gears of War franchise is a rich and adult science fiction universe. But how does Gears 3 play you ask?
Masquerada: Songs and Shadows is a tactical action RPG set in a hand drawn 2.5D isometric fantasy world. Previously available on PC, Xbox One, and PS4, it is now conveniently portable on Nintendo Switch!
This game perfectly caters to both fans of tactical action RPG games (like Transistor) and narrative-heavy games (like Dragon Age), complete with an expanding codex of lore and other tidbits about the game’s various factions and characters. However, if you’ve been along for the ride with Nerd Appropriate for any amount of time, you know that we love voice actors here… and we think you do too. That being said, Masquerada is fully voiced and features an insane amount of talent, including Matt Mercer, Catherine Taber, Rick Wasserman, Michelle Lukes, and Robbie Daymond. You’ll also find many past Rated NA interviewee’s in this game including Jennifer Hale, Fryda Wolff, Ashly Burch, Felicia Day, and Courtenay Taylor.
Story-wise, you play as Cicero Gavar, an inspector of sorts. He has been recalled from exile to the Venetian-style city of Ombre to determine the fate of an important figure who has gone missing. Meanwhile tensions are rising as the various guilds and factions within the city struggle to recover from a years-long war. At the heart of all this are masks that imbue the wearer with magical powers, which further divide the citizens of the city into the have’s and have-nots. More troubling, masks are becoming more scarce as they either go missing, or disintegrate when the wearer perishes. Interestingly, the game starts with a lot of story and the combat is a bit of a slow-burn; I’ve come to appreciate this as the story slowly pulls you into something interesting and engaging. I recommend taking the time to inspect the codex as you unlock it, as it really furthers the understanding of the game and characters before the combat intensifies.
Masquerada’s approach to combat is very thoughtful. As the player, the game allows to use ‘tactical pause’ to micromanage the movements and actions of each of your party members. However, should you choose to ‘barrel though’ combat and never pause, Masquerada is cool with that too: characters can be assigned behaviors and will be controlled by the AI if you are not using them. Personally, I enjoy a mix of both action and tactical combat; flanking is important, and I also like to set up synergistic combos between characters. Each character has a different set of skill trees and abilities to explore, corresponding to elements in nature. Different masks within each class grant different ‘ultimate abilities’. Finally, has three combat modes to choose from: Normal, Hard, and Story. Again, this all speaks to the thoughtful design of the game to appeal to both RPG narrative fans and tactical RPG fans alike.
As this game has been available for a while, it is worth mentioning a few aspects about the Switch version. First, it looks and sounds just as great as the PC counterpart. I do notice slightly longer loading times between maps, but it is certainly not a deal breaker. The PC version also had a number of different PC-specific configuration options, which are absent from the Switch version. I actually appreciate this as it gets the tinkering out of the way and allows for more focus on the game. Playing undocked, the text is quite read-able throughout almost all of the interface, with only a couple button callouts feeling a little on the small side.
Masquerada: Songs and Shadows feels like a great game for the Switch. So often I feel like time spent at a desk or on the couch is limited, and I tend to skip over codex entries or speed read dialog because of that. I even remember playing an early version of the game at PAX and wishing I had more time than the few-minutes demo you get on a show floor. With the portability of a game like this, I feel like there is more of an opportunity to listen to every bit of voiced dialog and really get into the codex to develop a better understanding and appreciation of the world that Witching Hour Games created. If you’ve waited on Masquerada this long, now is the time… or maybe you’re ready for a second playthrough!
Masquerada: Songs and Shadows was reviewed on Switch with a review copy provided by the publisher.