Day 93 – Shadowcaster

I’m back from holiday and ready to start another game. This time its a Raven Software game that was published by Origin with some involvement from Origin employees. Raven went on to produce add-ons and sequels for games using existing game engines which isn’t so far off what they did here. This is a first person action RPG based on the Wolfenstein engine.

Its the first game I’ve played so far thats been on CD. It initially came out in on 5 3.5 floppy disks but like so many other games an enhanced version was released a year or two down the line when CD drives were taking off. I played the floppy version through at least a couple of times back in the day but I’ve never seen the CD version before now.

The first obvious difference is that the intro cutscene is completely different. This has full speech and is all done with some ropey 3D animation.

In all honesty I’m not sure the original intro wasn’t better. 2D graphics stand the test of time just fine but this early 3D stuff looks worse than what you would expect inside the game these days. The voice acting isn’t too great either.

In the intro your grandfather is explaining how you are not actually human but are the last in the line of a race of shapeshifters. Your race was wiped out by Veste and you must go and defeat him.

All of this time the stone statue behind is coming to life. I’m magiced away before it attacks.

I’m dumped straight into a fight with a bouncing thing but it dies pretty fast. The engine for this game is certainly smooth anyway. Everything is at right angles unlike Underworld and there is absolutely nothing in real 3D. Its very similar to the Doom engine really even though this game came out first. It looks identical to the disk version as I remember it – it appears the game is exactly the same except with a little added speech, some cutscenes and at some point a couple of extra levels. After touching an obelisk just around the corner from here, I’m granted my first shape to shift into, a giant 6 legged cat who will be my fighting shape for about half the game.

I get a brief cutscene to introduce the next world and my new shape. The text at the bottom of the cutscenes doesn’t match up with the audio which is pretty distracting to say the least, if you are expected to listen to one while reading the other. I’m in the ruined city of my people now ruined by Zardaz. There is one of these scenes to introduce each new section from here on out and these were not present at all in the original version. Its good to get an intro and they also give me some idea of what I’m supposed to do.

The main enemies here are plants that look straight out of Little Shop Of Horrors. There isn’t anything much to the combat – just walk up and click. Its possible with most enemies to hide just around a corner and their A.I. isn’t up to walking around so you can hack them to death with impunity.

Theres also an upgraded version of the bouncing monster from earlier which fires bolts at me.

After a bit of exploring I find a teleport to another level – this has a nice mist effect which we are all used to these days in 3D games but was new at the time. I can’t seem to kill this skeleton so I run back to the first level to finish exploring that first.

I find some quicksand. When I kill one of the plants on it, it drops a seed which grows into a safe path – all the plants have been dropping these seeds so I use them to make a path for myself.

At the other side is a suspicious looking area that launches a dozen fireballs if I walk into it and kills me off.

Using the “seeing” power of the Maorin I can see the route through.

This leads me to another section with some flames and a little rune hovering above each one. I destroy all the runes with a wand I’ve found.

This leads me to find a stone head which I take.

Just outside I find a shruiken lying on the ground which I missed the first time. This is like the boomerang in Ultima 6 and flies back after each use.

There was a floating chest in the middle of the map. I kill it off with the shruiken and use the triangle it drops on the nearby pedastel. This slides a big statue of Zardoz away to reveal another teleport.

This takes me to a flooded building with some bat things scurrying around on the roof. They are pretty tough so I avoid them as much as possible.

In the corner of one corridor is a chain which when I pull drains the level of water.

I find a skull which I use on this skeleton – it comes alive and I have to kill it but a new section opens up as well.

There is some nice armor in here which I give to my Maorin.

I head back for the misty city and am much better equipped to cope with it this time. I walk into a trap at one point where when I pick up a broken key spikes come out of the ground and I’m surrounded by little one eyed things.

At the end of the level is a use for all the stone heads I’ve been finding. I place four of them into the gaps.

This raises the middle and a stairway appears.

This gets me into yet another new terrain. The textures for the game are certainly varied if nothing else.

There is another destroy the rune type puzzle only this one moves.

Behind here is the guardian I’ve been looking to destroy. I do the usual hiding round the corner trick and finish him off.

Cue another cutscene. Our people are being changed into werewolves and I have to go and kill the werewolf lord.

I also get a new form. This little guy is useful primarily for healing up. He only has 20 hit points and has a heal power. I’m dropped into Veste’s dark temple from here which is a hub for most of the rest of the game and I will keep coming back after completing each world. I teleport from here to the werewolf world.

When I enter the tower I’m immediately attacked by a werewolf. They aren’t tougher than anything else so far.

I pull a chain to release a cleric locked in the prisons – he asks me to kill the werewolf lord also but doesn’t have any useful information.

There is a new type of floating enemy on this level. These are a bit tougher but I have my caun to change back into when I need to heal so its not a big problem.

The caun has a few other powers, including telekinesis which I use to fetch this armour from the middle of the quicksand.

There is a fairly lethal library area here full of these red robed mages. After running away to heal a few times I clear it out. I don’t learn much new but there is one book that tells me about power pools which will restore my power (the blue bar). This is used to change shape, use powers etc. so this is worth knowing about.

So far I’ve mainly just waited around to recharge in human form. This is something you simply have to do in this game a bit. I always end up leaving it running on my pc when I have finished for a bit – its a bit dull but does encourage you to have breaks I suppose.

The werewolf lord is at the end of the level. He fires magic at me but doesn’t take much finishing off.

I get another cutscene to introduce the next world. The caun are enslaved in the gems mines of their world and I have to kill the slave drivers and restore their tree of life. Since I didn’t get this cutscene on the disk version I think I just went round slaughtering everything including the caun….

I’ve got another form – a gazer like floating eyeball. This is useless in combat but does have a few magic powers.

I have to use one of these straight away back in the temple to freeze the fire burning here.

The central hub room now has one complete obelisk – when I complete the lot I get to go to the final world.

The mines have a whole new set of textures and monsters as ever. The slave drivers are pretty easy to hack to death.

The slave lord is a lot tougher and I have to retreat to heal once before I can finish him off.

These mushroom things are also pretty nasty but there are only a few in the corner of the map.

I find a lever to restore the tree of life which drops some power/health restoring fruit.

The next level is full of spiders. We get little ones that crawl on the ceiling and floor. These look innocuous but really hurt and I can only hit them with the shruiken.

There are giant ones as well which hurt more but I can attack them in Maorin shape with a sword.

There are a couple of acid areas which I use my Opsis form to float over. I seem to remember that this is pretty much the only use for this shape. I get to another obelisk at the end of this.

In the next world I have to kill the sea king and use his tablet to restore the polluted waters.

My new shape is conveniently suited to this being a frog-man. Each world is basically set up for me to use my new shape at some point.

The watery area is locked up so I have to search around a bit first for a key. I also find equipment to arm my Kahpa with.

I dive beneath the water and am immediately set upon by a load of floating mines. This doesn’t go well so I try diving at a different point of the map. This time I’m able to clear out the level a bit at a time. This is fairly hard going and I keep having to retreat back to land to heal up.

I get to the sea lord in the end and blast him with the water cannon I found earlier. Unfortunately I manage to teleport out of here and save the game without picking up his tablet so I don’t get to see the cutscene…

I still get my new form and get to go to the next world at least. My new form is a dragon of sorts. He becomes my new fighter class and can also float over stuff so this form pretty much replaces two of my earlier ones.

The next world is pretty hostile with lava everywhere and some huge monsters around.

There is a very dungeon master like puzzle where I have to place a couple of boulders onto pressure plates.

At this point the ceiling slides up to release a chain which opens up a teleport to the next level.

The next level has a giant frog mouth on the wall. I have to send some flies at it, either through the caun spell or using the horn I found earlier. This puzzle stumped me for a bit first time around as I recall.

There is a tipless obelisk in the level but it keeps moving around. I have to use an hourglass in the wall to stop it. When I use the obelisk I get my new form.

This is a giant stone golem who will now become my main fighting form. I’m sorry to say at this point that the game crashed. When I tried to reload it – the savegame was corrupt and I never seem to learn to keep more than one savegame so this meant restarting from the very beginning..

90 mins later I’m back up to the sea king level only this time I can actually do it right and purify the water.

This gives me the cutscene that I’d previously missed.

A little later still and I’ve caught up to where I was. The new shape can bash through some walls. Behind one I find a book of credits with all the game designers names in.

After some more wall bashing I’m back in the central temple. All the obelisks are complete and I have a new teleport to Veste’s realm.

This is a strange place with living walls. They all use animated textures which is a first for Origin.

I can dive beneath into the blood and there are some sort of antibody creatures down here.

This gets me to an inaccessible area with a barely noticeable heart on the ceiling which I have to destroy and take the crystal that drops off. I definitely needed a walkthrough to figure this out first time round.

In another section the walls are lined with screaming faces. I find a stone statue but can’t do anything with him for now.

Thats as far as I got – without the restart I would have finished this I expect but I can’t be that far away. I’ve not seen any sign of the two new levels yet so they must be right at the end and still to come.

I’m not hugely impressed by this game really. The best thing about it in 1993 was the graphics which are extremely smooth and colourful. The game itself isn’t a patch on either Underworld though. Its a pretty dumb hack and slash on the whole with a few obscure puzzles thrown in. The storyline is really poorly presented also – the cutscenes help a bit but if you want to know the background for each world the only way to get it is to buy and read the clue book.

The music uses general midi as opposed to MT-32 for the first time in an Origin game and while its ok doesn’t really do anything for me. I’ve heard the battle winning music far too many times for my liking. Like most people,  I didn’t own an MT-32 back in the early 90’s but had an AWE32, this game did at least sound like it was supposed to on affordable hardware.

Its not a bad game, its just that if the main selling point is its cutting edge technology then its going to date pretty badly and there isn’t that much reason for playing it these days. I’m looking forward to seeing the 2 new levels however.

One thought on “Day 93 – Shadowcaster

  1. Glad to see you back.

    I didn’t like this game that much myself, but I liked the idea behind the different forms and the different altitudes in the levels. I think that was the most innovative thing this game had. The story is really bad, or at least not very well presented as you point out.

    I have finished the floppy version, but I have never finished the CD one. Someday I will, at least, to see those new levels

    Personally, I liked the old 2D intro better than the new 3D one. I think the ending would be better in 2D too.

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