Masquerada: Songs and Shadows is a pause-for-tactics RPG developed by Witching Hour Studios out of Singapore. Before even starting the main story-line they have you start off with a prologue which starts to tell you part of a story and at the same time is the tutorial. You’ll get to play using some of the more advanced skills which is nice to see but at the same time once you start the main story-line it’s frustrating only being able to hack and slash even though it’s only for a short while.
Soon after going through some of the story-line you’re given your first Mascherine and you’re able to choose your element. Each element gives the wearer different skills which will interact with the other members of your party. Use Water and Earth to get your enemies stuck in mud or water and fire to blast them with steam. You’re also able to control each member of your party if you want to. They will attack nearby enemies with standard attacks but to do the combined elemental attacks and have your party use their special abilities you can pause combat and direct them what to do. You also have the ability to change your stance which can help gain advantages when flanking your enemies or attacking them head on.
This fighting style is different (maybe more for me), with a mix between turn-based and just all-out combat and takes a bit of getting used to. I died a few times just trying to hack and slash my way through like you’d do in games like Victor Vran. While I’ll need many more hours to get myself used to the gameplay I’m not against it at all. The combinations you’re able to do with your party create fun options that otherwise wouldn’t be do-able.
The Story that Masquerada tells is done amazingly well through an artsy storyboard format with some animated scenes mixed in. More and more games are doing this and it’s starting to become an art-form more than just throwing text on images. Apart from the art it’s a very interesting story as you’re a war criminal who’s come back to help find someone who you later find out is a good friend of yours. You’re thrown into a city in the midst of a civil war and embark on a search to find your missing friend and uncover deeper conspiracies.
The levels are very nicely drawn with unfortunately just a few things that you can interact with. I’ve found some bottles that you can knock over while the crate right next to them is immovable. It’s also missing something that many games have adopted as their main theme, loot! You level up your skills and abilities through skill points and leveling but it’d be nice to have more interaction with the environment. The game runs smooth, I’ve had one section where the movement was slightly laggy but that went away and I didn’t see it again after that. Overall the game is a good play and once you’re comfortable with the controls you’ll enjoy it even more. If the game-play doesn’t keep you interested the graphics and story-line will.