Before I begin, I was provided a copy of the game in exchange for an honest review. This is not a paid review. If you would rather watch a video of this review check it out below and you can get your own copy here.
A couple of years back Gloom of Kilforth was all the rage. Well maybe not all the rage. But a lot of rage. It had a very successful KS campaign, then another very successful reprint campaign. I got in on the late pledge of that, and at the time there was an option to pre-pledge for Shadows of Kilforth (though it was called something else then). I was severely tempted, but since I had never even played the base game I figured I could jump in later if I wanted.
As far as Gloom goes, I enjoyed the game, played it quite a bit, and eventually sent it on to someone else when I wasn’t playing it any more. I thought it was a good game with great art, and some interesting gameplay mechanics. So when Hall or Nothing Games got in touch asking if I was interested in reviewing Shadows I said absolutely.
In Shadows of Kilforth you are exploring the world of Kilforth leveling up, and making your way through a set story deck of cards. Eventually after accomplishing your story you will get a chance to fight the big bad. Take them out, and you win, fail to do that and you lose. Oh yeah, did I mention that every turn another part of the world will fall into Gloom, which makes it significantly more dangerous to journey there.
You have a number of action each turn equal to the number of health points you currently have. So if you are at full health, you have full actions, hurt, you cannot do as much. For the most part, your actions boil down to moving, hiding (to avoid ambush), and interacting with events on various cards, whether they be friends, foes, or neutral.
Most of these interactions will require a test of some sort using your skills. These tests might be combat, stealth, diplomacy, or magic. Each stat gives you a certain number of dice to roll, and every 5 or 6 you roll counts as a success. Reach the set number of successes for the event before you are out of actions and you have won the event.
You will be traveling around the board doing these various events which will get you closer and closer to the final boss, and slowly allow you to get stronger and stronger. Beat the big bad before the world falls totally to gloom and you are dead and you win! I will note that there win condition is slightly different in multiplayer competitive, but that is not a version that I have spent much time on.
So what do I think?
The artwork of the game is gorgeous. Pretty much every card is one that you can stop and stare at for a bit. The artists are just incredible. I also particularly enjoy the keyword puzzle that goes into solving the various chapters. There is something delightful to me about collecting the cards you need, then having to make the choice of actually using them, or turning them in to advance the story. The choices are often tough, but good. I will also just add here that, initially I did not think I would like having actions tied to my health, but I find it really builds the tension of the game, and adds to the theme greatly.
I also appreciate how even when playing the same story, and the same boss, the random set up of the board guarantees a unique experience each time, along with that I appreciate the built in timer the game has, this keeps the tension up as you play.
Finally, I think the game really shines when you add in the boss powers, that get flipped out every time a certain type of land falls to gloom. This gives a fantastic additional choice to the game. Do you want to take the time to deal with that now, or do you want to just deal with a stronger boss later on.
While I really like that you have the option to play as male or female characters, I was kind of bummed that the standees do not give those options. To me this is a bit of a missed opportunity.
The second thing is the dice system. There is something that is not quite as satisfying about rolling a bunch of dice and hunting for 5’s, and 6’s to me. It just pulls me out of the game ever so slightly, I think if the dice had some kind of a success symbol and blanks on them, in the same ratio, it would not bother me, but as nit picky as it seems it is ever so slightly a bummer to me. In the same vein I wish the game game with more dice, though I certainly have plenty in my game room to add in.
I have already talked about the art be gorgeous. It is, without question. However, there are a few cards (not many) that seem to be sexier than is needed. Now, as I always say that is a personal preference to me, but it always pulls me out of the game when, for example you are trying to find the missing farmer’s daughter and when you find her she is scantily clad and sexy. This is not because I am a prude, but because it just does not make sense to me as far as the story of the game goes.
My other quibble is that though you are able to build your character to be strong in magic, or diplomacy, you better be strong in combat because the final boss is going to be solved through combat. This means that you are not fully able to build your character how you want, because you do always have to have the end game in mind.
Bringing it all together
Like its predecessor Gloom, Shadows of Kilforth is a unique adventure game that plays in a short time, and does feel like an adventure in a dark world. It has interesting mechanics involving keywords that I have not seen outside of the Kilforth series. The art is gorgeous, though occasionally it leans in the too sexy direction. I love that you have the option of choosing your gender, but am bummed that you the standees do not come with the same options. Though the whole game leaves you open to build your character how you wish, you are forced to shift in the end game to make sure you are able to kill the final boss in combat. Overall, Shadows is a worthy complement to Gloom. If you like Gloom, then you will also enjoy Shadows.
Less talk more battling gloom!
* Gorgeous art
* Some cool mechanics that you only find in the Kilforth series
* Game plays quick, and captures the feel of a high tension adventure
* Wish the game had unique dice, and some of the art did not lean towards the old school “sexy fantasy art” on occasion
* Awesome ability to build you character throughout the game, though at the end of it you are pigeonholed into building for combat
* Great replay value with the random set up, the game always feels fresh
* A worthy successor to Gloom of Kilforth, definitely worth looking at if you are a fan of the first!