31st Jan2019

‘The Shrouded Isle’ Review (Nintendo Switch)

by Britt Roberts

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A simulation game based on numbers that’s set in a Lovecraftian landscape, The Shrouded Isle is a well-designed title rich in ambience and with a desert-dry sense of wry humour but the mileage gained from it will depend on the players’ level of fascination with gauge-juggling.

The game casts you in the role of the high-priest of a dark cult worshipping an unseen Lord that has predicted the end of the world in five years’ time. The game begins with you holding domain over several houses, each full of possible future sacrifices to the Dark Lord, which need to be made at the end of each season.

Every character in the game is presented in a very gothic fashion with the monochrome visuals (there are different shades to choose from) represented with quite detailed character portraits and artwork but minimal movement, a dress fluttering here, a wig ruffling there, it’s all very low-key in that respect. The members of each house are also always shown with their eyes shrouded in darkness, adding an ominous tinge to the game which melds well with the eerie soundscape as you make the choices that move the game forward.

At the bottom of the screen are several gauges, penitence, Obedience, Ignorance, fervour etc. and these are vital in progressing through to that oh-so yearned for final apocalypse just half a decade away. Each season you choose a member of each house to represent said house and every selection will have a virtue and vice, put simply, virtues are good and vices are bad. For instance, one person may have the ability to whip the rabble up into a black religious frenzy, raising your fervour… but they may also be against flagellation, lowering the obedience level which will need to be raised by other representatives, each of which may have their own foibles which have a knock-on effect and so on and so forth, thus the balancing act begins…

To spice things up there are extra events going on, each season you will get various visitations from characters in the sect who will ask for favours, advice or gifts etc. all of which deepen the balancing act, they may please one house but lower the fervour or the standing with another, rival house, for example, There is the also the very real and distinct possibility of some of the citizens losing their minds or acting strangely, meaning they need to be locked away and ‘purified’.

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All of this adds up to a really fun game, reading the different outcomes and trying to survive until the end, keeping as many as I could happy whilst enjoying the games’ subtle humour was initially a breeze and quite satisfying but after an hour or so, repetition set in and I felt like I was just stat-balancing, the occasional messages from the unseen God demanding I seek out specific individuals for sacrifice or heighten certain aspects of the devout following did add some variety but after a couple of hours, I felt like the game had run its course for me (I also felt like the font was too uncomfortable to read in hand-held mode). That said, I can see on Steam that people have pumped tens of hours into this and the gameplay has really gripped them, so if you do enjoy this genre, it is a good example.

The Shrouded Isle is a fun game but the longevity really boils down to how much you enjoy the juggling act that is the gameplay, the pretty basic controls do make me wonder if this would be better suited to a tablet and there are also some nice touches such as being able to re-name the villagers so it feels like you are directing your own friends and family to their inevitable doom. I enjoyed being the leader of a death cult…but only for a couple of hours… maybe that’s enough?

The Shrouded Isle is available in the Nintendo eShop now.

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