The story in Masquerada: Songs and Shadows is a continuous line that can be followed easily, so there is no reason to get stuck or lost in this game. In addition, all the collectibles of this game are easy to find, with the only requirement to move away from the linear path.
There is a lot of dialogue that can be skipped. I would block the ability to do this in the first playthrough since most of the game is based on those and skipping the cinematics would ruin the immersion apart from not having an idea of what's going on. At least, part of the chatting is done while walking to objectives.
I have encountered a few minor bugs that could be noticed with a naked eye, but that won't affect the gameplay. I'll go into more detail in a bit.
I started playing the game on normal difficulty and game over never appeared on my screen. With that, I don't recommend playing the game at the easiest difficulty at all, as it ruins everything the game has to offer. In its maximum difficulty, the game offers enough challenges causing the need to pause the game to get better positioning and swap characters, something way more flexible and complex to handle. As expected, you can’t bait the enemy by putting your allies in defensive positions, taking all the damage while you do the work because enemies are intelligent enough to defeat them in seconds.
As an advantage, you can revive fallen allies (in battle): If there is only one survivor, he is as well as dead but if there are two or more, there is still a chance due to revival not being something instant.
Anyway, if you feel like you can't defeat a certain boss, you can always change the difficulty in the middle of the game, without any need of restarting a chapter or the whole playthrough.
Thoughts about the AI
Enemy AI is much better than the allies AI. Also, I have to add that this AI gets better and better as the difficulty increases, allowing enemies to dodge the skills from time to time and their damage is also upped.
For this reason, you are allowed to swap between characters and stop time while in a battle to think about better strategies. This is a problem because you can’t control all the characters at the same time and it’s very very hard for them to survive, and unless you set your character skills in a very selective way, any ally may fall more than twice in a single battle. However, I suggest sticking to one single difficulty and not swap between battles, even if you find it too difficult, the correct combination of skills and allies can make the hardest battle feel like a tutorial.
Sometimes, you will be forced to play with an ally (due to the story) and choose between your current allies. Since there is no manual save in the whole game, this type of decision really matters and affects the gameplay, not only will it trigger different animations and dialogues, it also affects the difficulty of the battles ahead.
Content, price, and achievements
The game could originally be bought at 15€ while supporting the developers with Kickstarter, which surprisingly lasted a shorter time than expected. Honestly, if the campaign lasted another 15 days, it would have reached the peak of its goals.
€20 is the stable original price in steam today’s date (without the soundtracks).
With all the content, you should be able to finish the main story in 10-15h (depending on your skill and your reading speed), adding another 10 to get all the achievements. However, the campaign feels a little bit short and very summarized, something that has been fixed with the new game+ feature that I’ll explain later.
This game is filled with a wide variety of achievements, related to the story, collectibles (hundreds of them), and grinding objectives like activating certain skills more than usual (requiring a second playthrough).
I managed to get 97% of all the collectibles in my first playthrough but I was making sure to investigate everything, meaning that there are a few more hidden than others. Searching on the forums, I found that I wasn’t the only one missing a few pieces related to the lore. There was a known bug that sometimes would give the player the wrong collectible (fixed), so the thread that was used to talk about it became a thread to help people find their missing collectibles.
Meanwhile, there are achievements related to the dialogues, those can feel a little heavy and this may encourage the player to listen to all of them.
A piece of lore
The written lore in this game is very deep and extensive. In the beginning, it makes zero sense but after you put all the pieces together, you will discover more information about the past (and future) of all the characters related to the game making a very interesting story.
Replayability - A window of opportunities
By default, you can repeat any chapter that you have already unlocked in order to get more collectibles or to experience that part of the game again. However, it doesn’t become handy until you unlock new game+.
The addition of the new game+ mode adds more freedom and challenges to your new playthrough. It is very useful to play the game on the hardest difficulty if you haven’t done before. This wouldn’t be possible without the help of Kickstarter contributors (that barely reached the goal for this extension) and I’m glad they made this decision because, without this mode, the game would lose all its potential.
I had this major bug, where loading screen would enter into a loop (this was on the near end of the game) so I was scared of losing all my progress but in the end, I lost nothing. Don’t panic in this situation, even it is hard because the game doesn’t provide manual savings.
You can be path-blocked by your own allies in the middle of a fight.
Another point that can be easily noticed as you play is that you can get stuck between the enemies and your own allies. Enemies have a strange will to always be near their opposite teammates and allies, if you are caught in the middle no one would care. This can be easily fixed by swapping characters and moving one on your own.
This but only becomes a problem for the harder difficulties modes. On story-easy mode, players do not have a need for moving or swapping characters due to the simplicity of the combat and the facility to not lose much HP during battles. This allows players to essentially ignore ignore this bug 99% of the time. Once you step up the difficulty, the bug becomes very evident.
Music and voices
Most of the music is made to be played in the background while following the player and character voices. Somehow, some of the music gives me vibes of Disney's used on Sorcerer's Apprentice (Mickey Mouse). In general, very peaceful soundtracks
The game is fully voiced and there are, actually, a lot of knowns actors that take part in the game. One of the first that I noticed was Ashly Burch, who voiced Chloe from Life is Strange as well as my favorite character from borderlands.
On the other hand, Matt Mercer voiced dozens of AAA games and here as well as the protagonist.
There's a whole set of skills for each character as well as two paths for each skill, that defines your fighting style.
The only thing that stops the character from spamming one skill after another is the cooldown. The mana consumed to use these abilities does refill at a very fast rate though (unfortunately in my opinion).
You can always try out different paths, since, reaching certain points of the game (mid-late content), you will be able to reset your skills, but I recommend to stick to a single specialization till the end of the game. I do wish this game had co-op available in order to experience all the content with someone else (maybe even adding a new level of difficulty according to the number of players), sadly this is a dream of mine that I’m afraid will never happen.
Apart from skills, every chapter has one “attitude” that defines their fighting style, being one of three: sicario pavisierre or dirge.
Sicario mode focuses the character on a melee-based style of combat. Pavisierre is made to increase the chances of survival of the pack. Meanwhile, dirge is a target for characters based on ranged skills and attacks. All characters have one of these attitudes, with the exception of Cicero, the protagonist and main character that we control, being able to choose manually between all three options.
Most of the time, I was given the chance to select a limited number of allies to accompany me. Sadly, I always took the same people, maybe for the fact of getting used to their combination of skills, or for the way they look and unfortunately giving up on the others.
It would encourage me if some battles could happen with any character, but ONLY winnable with a certain combination of skills (up to the player to discover), adding an “out the box” difficulty.
However, it is true that some characters are more useful than others. There are those who can resist more attacks and their skills are based on a tank-style and others that are first-line soldiers that try to fight everything in their way.
I’m definitely proud to have discovered this game not “so far” from its release. Masquerada: Songs and Shadows deserves to have a larger audience and recognition due to the hard work put into it.
The immersion that the game has provided me and the time invested by my part is something I don’t regret, and I recommend for everyone to give this game a chance. Please support the developers paying full price because, definitely, this game is flying off the radar, missing lot of people’s attention along the way.