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Masquerada: Songs and Shadows Review: Skull Duggery

/ Sep 17th, 2019 No Comments

Masquerada: Songs and Shadows Review

As depressing as it is, but politics dictates the core of human interaction. Who has power and what will they do to keep, and who wants the power and what limits they have in order to get it.

Masquerada: Songs and Shadows is a political driven story with deeply personal roots. It weaves a complex web of relationships both between different strata of society and different characters. The tactical RPG combat is fun and engaging, but its complexity can get a bit lost. Yet Masquerada never leaves you bored because its story hooks you so completely.

Climb the Ladder

Politics are the cornerstone of the Citte. The Masquerada holds the reins of society, while the Contadani have to scrape and claw for everything as they watch the 6 guilds fight amongst each other for power. It is no surprise that contempt began breeding amongst those without power resulting in an uprising of rebels calling themselves Maskrunners.

The rebellion as noble as it may have been didn’t pan out, and Cicero Gavar lost everything. His home, his people, and his brother. While he managed to escape a death sentence, he was forced into exile never to return back to his homeland.

Masquerada: Songs and Shadows Review
Cicero was forced into exile, but he was asked to come back when the Registry needed him.

What’s that saying, you don’t know what you got until it’s gone? That couldn’t be more true for Cicero because the Registry came crawling back when it needed a favor. However, what could make a man help out the people that took everything from him.

Call it a debt to an old friend, or being tired of working the docks, but Cicero agreed to work one last case for the Registry. His old friend, Ratizolf has gone missing. To find out what happened to him, Cicero will have to get mired in the politics of the Citte, make amends with old comrades, trust obvious enemies, and most importantly be willing to find out the truth at all costs.

Masquerada tells a story where many secrets must be uncovered as every step closer to finding your friend reveals an ugly truth about the history of the Citte. The tautly plotted adventure keeps you eager to find out more.

Masquerada: Songs and Shadows Review
Cicero builds strong relationships and bond with his team even if they all start off on shaky ground.

Every reveal is well timed to satiate your hunger for me, but doesn’t ever give away too much. The suspense is kept up until the last possible moment when the truth comes out and blows away what the characters knew about their world and what you expected from the case.

The narrative could stop at a great mystery full of suspense, but it does an excellent job of creating triumphant substories for its main characters. While they all may not trust Cicero at first, it changes over the course of the game as they let them into their flaws and their own personal troubles. The resolutions for these are cathartic and heartwarming with their friendship feeling earned. They all may have been thrown together by circumstance, but they become a true team by choice.

Formation

Mascherines are the foundation of combat prowess and status in the Citte. The civil war brewing between the powerful guilds and the rebel Maskrunners is over control of the dwindling supply of Mascherine. These masks give the wearer the ability to channel elemental energy into powerful attacks and defenses.

Combat in Masquerada involves real-time tactical battles with your squad of three against all types of enemies from mask runners to fey. Battles are often smozes with a ton of enemies attacking your squad at once. To overcome the often superior numbers, you need to think quick, switch between team members, and utilize their special skills and ultimates.

Masquerada: Songs and Shadows Review
Combat is fun and there is a good layer of strategy, but can suffer from spamming cool downs.

As the main character, Cicero you have the ability to choose the mask element you want to use. The choice is between earth, fire, water, and wind. No matter what mask you choose, you’ll have the ability to upgrade your moves and passive skill bonus as you progress through the game.

Don’t worry about agonizing over the element choice because you’ll get 4 other team members over the course of the game that have each elemental affinity. Like Cicero, they have the ability to upgrade their moves and passive skills.

The rather robust upgrade system in Masquerada is a boon as it allows you to experiment with different types of skills and upgrades for effective loadouts. Each squad member can have up to 4 moves plus an ultimate skill that can be used to attack enemies. Later in the game you can reset your skill points to further refine loadouts and attack combinations among your squad.

Masquerada: Songs and Shadows Review
Boss fights are tough and require strategy to best them.

Battles take place in real time, but require strategy and tactics to be successful. There is a complexity to battle, but tinkering with AI strategies may feel too cumbersome resulting in battles feeling more like a spamming of attacks as cooldowns reset. Compounded with how busy the UI is and many may miss the nuances that make the combat satisfying.

Regardless of how complex the systems in Masquerada can be, there is a lot to love about the combat. While the linearity of levels is a bit of a shortcoming, it actually works in the game’s favor due to how tautly plotted it. The battle and exploration pacing works deeply in the game’s favor because you’re constantly given new revelations about the story.

Overall

Masquerada: Songs and Shadows is tautly plotted with a rich world. It is filled with compelling characters who have triumphant moments and breakthroughs as the complex story unfolds. The strategic battles may feel at times overly complicated, but the are more often than not satisfying to play. Masquerada’s gorgeous art style and robust upgrade system round out a solid package.

Masquerada: Songs and Shadows was reviewed on a Nintendo Switch with a code provided by the publisher.

 

Kalvin Martinez

Kalvin Martinez

Senior Editor at Gaming Illustrated
Kalvin Martinez studied Creative Writing at the University of California, Santa Cruz. He writes reviews, prose and filthy limericks. While he is Orange County born, he now resides in Portland, OR. He is still wondering what it would be like to work at a real police department. Follow Kalvin on Twitter @freepartysubs

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MASQUERADA: SONGS AND SHADOWS REVIEW: SKULL DUGGERY

Gaming Illustrated RATING

Overall85%

GAMEPLAY8.5

The tactical meets real-time combat is engaging and fun, but it does suffer a bit from being a bit chaotic at times and the complexity of it boiling down to spamming move cooldowns.

GRAPHICS7.5

Masquerada has an incredible gorgeous art style, but the Switch port has some issues with artifacting that mars the beauty.

SOUND9

The voice acting and score is remarkably good helping to bring this complex tale to life.

STORY9

Masquerada tells a tightly plotted complex tale involving revenge, betrayal and a society in upheaval. It keeps you hooked with each expertly time reveal.