- Do battle with 70+ monsters.
- Explore 10 unique dungeons scattered throughout a massive randomly generated world.
- Take advantage of many different items and weapons.
- Improve your skills, become a legendary warrior, and vanquish the Evil God.
- Defend your flock of sheep against hordes of enemies in Survival mode.
What We Think:
Shepherd Slaughter is an adventure game and roguelike, using a top down perspective with relatively simple graphics. The game has an impressive features list highlighting the variety of monsters and environments on offer in its randomly generated world. Developers Blindhack have clearly focused on complexity and so Shepherd Slaughter naturally must walk the tightrope between depth and accessibility; not an easy balance to achieve.
The Lamb Strikes Back
As with many good adventure games, Shepherd Slaughter opens with an introductory narrative. The overarching story has a small population of humans left under the tyrannical rule of an evil god after their benevolent deity was ousted. One of the villagers, Samuel, decides to set out to find an ancient artefact that allows mortals to slay gods. He sails east to a mysterious island where this artefact is said to be scattered in ten pieces. This is where the player jumps in to explore this new world.
There is a lot for the player to manage in Shepherd Slaughter and the controls are reasonably complex. Thankfully there is a comprehensive tutorial in place to help players pick up some of the more advanced controls and menu systems. Also, the “H” key opens up a complete listing of controls for the game- very useful.
Jumping into the main game itself, the only character creation decision you will be posed with is what “background” you have. An old man will make this query and reward you with a set of equipment relevant to your play style. Some of the choices include knight, sorcerer, warrior and marksman; which you select will determine how you fight in the early stages of the game.
After you’ve made your choice you can set out to explore the island. The game is, as mentioned, top down and involves moving from screen to screen. A noteworthy issue that arose early in playing is that, as the game randomly generates each new screen, the loading process between areas can be a little jarring, ranging from under a second to a few seconds while it generates the next panel of the world. This may not sound like much but if you’re using a lower end machine then this is something to watch out for as waiting a few seconds for each screen to load can be tiresome.
Thy Rod and Thy Staff
The game play of Shepherd Slaughter is of classic adventure game fair with a few neat twists. Using the WASD keys to navigate coupled with other controls to hit and shoot, you’ll explore a vast randomly generated overworld. Weapons each have very different secondary uses- axes can be used to level trees, for example, while shovels can dig through dirt. Movement can be a little sluggish but thankfully you can run through areas not populated with enemies.
Combat is a matter of timing hits with melee weapons or aiming shots from ranged weapons and magic wands. Melee fighting can be quite repetitive after a while as tougher enemies require a lot of hits from some of the weapons and thanks to the timing based combat this generally involves patiently battering them over and over again until they perish. Ranged fighting is more fun and somewhat more challenging against the faster foes.
Shepherd Slaughter features a skill system that lets you use points to upgrade various abilities ranging from your strength to your magic power. This, coupled with your initial choice of equipment, goes a long way to help customise each adventure and make the experience unique.
One Simply Walks
The goal of the adventure is spread over a set of ten dungeons that are dotted around the overworld. To access these dungeons you require a key of the same colour as the dungeon access icon. Naturally this necessitates a lot of travel across the overworld. You’ll find a fair amount to keep you entertained while travelling, from forests with some sneakily hidden ents to labyrinths and mini-bosses. Unfortunately, while the world is generated as you explore, you’ll occasionally find yourself coming across area sections that you’ve seen in previous adventures- random terrain generation can only go so far.
The save system is what could be described as hardcore. You can save your game but only so you can return to your adventure later. If you die you’ll be presented with your score and your game will be deleted, forcing you to start again. This may please some and repel others, in either case this mechanic works well to keep things exciting and tense. It does, however, compound a problem with the way in which you navigate the world. It is possible to enter a new area and immediately be set upon by a monster; this can kill if your health is low and it feels like a very cheap way to lose your adventure.
Beyond the main game Shepherd Slaughter also offers a survival mode in which you fight off waves of enemies to protect your herd of sheep. You can also build walls and traps to help fend off the invaders. The lifespan of this game mode feels quite limited as the combat of Shepherd Slaughter isn’t exactly its strongest facet. It’s a nice distraction, however, and should not be dismissed out of hand. Another nice addition is a “monsters seen” section that catalogues all of the creatures you have encountered on your travels.
Old Testament Visuals
The graphics of Shepherd Slaughter are, to put it gently, aesthetically unrefined. The style can be described as retro-focused, and this works well for the game, but the graphics could definitely be improved upon without changing that. The music, on the other hand, sets up an atmospheric sense of exploration and feels right for the game. Sadly, there are no sound effects but maybe this is something that could be remedied in the future as sound effects often provide valuable feedback signaling to the player events taking place within the game.
Shepherd Slaughter is an interesting adventure game with a good atmosphere and level of depth. Unfortunately, it is held back by sluggish combat, repetitive terrain generation and the fact that it isn’t really doing anything new. Despite this, if you’re a fan of adventure games it’s worth trying the demo; there’s a sizable amount of content to explore here and if you can break through the niggling issues then you might sink a few hours into this.
Cost: $9.00, free demos for Win/Linux available