From the developer of role-playing game classic Neverwinter Nights 2: Mysteries of Westgate and the former BioWare producer of the legendary Baldur's Gate 2: Throne of Baal comes a new RPG to the App Store called The Shadow Sun. This RPG has been three years in the making and now it's finally available to gobble up our free time.
Ossian Studios is a developer that was founded in 2003 and mainly created games that were based on Dungeons & Dragons and Forgotten Realms lore. With The Shadow Sun, they've created a whole new universe and condensed all of the trappings of a great Western RPG to the iOS platform. Given the time it's taken them to develop The Shadow Sun, one would expect it to be the perfect portable RPG. Truth be told, it comes very close.
You start off The Shadow Sun by creating your character and filling out their skills, attributes and name. You can create a male or female who can be a warrior, mage or rogue. I personally would have liked a few more choices, but since they're all based on your skills, I could accept the Holy Trinity of classes. This just meant that later on, my mage could be able to wield long swords and shields, becoming a veritable paladin of justice.
Once you start the story, you're immediately thrust into the role of an escort from the North, tasked with keeping a dignitary safe while you journey to the imperial city of Shar to find out what happened to your diplomats since they've been missing for quite a while. Upon entering the city, you come to find that a plague has taken over and all but the richest and most powerful of Shar's citizens are in danger of falling victim to it.
After fighting off some crazed plague victims in a quick battle tutorial, you and your compatriot Ashe are led by a member of the royal guard down a place called Cutthroat Alley. At this point, you'll probablysay to yourself, "Hmm. Must be a trap." And you'd be right, since the guard stands back as you're attacked by crazed zealots who follow the teachings of a man named Maljiin, the one responsible for spreading anti-Northerner rhetoric and convincing the people that the plague was brought on by the North.
From then on, The Shadow Sun opens up the city of Shar for you to explore and find out exactly what Maljiin is up to, as well as find out the truth about what happened to the missing diplomats. There are many districts to explore and non-player characters to talk to (or kill). Depending on your temperament, you can either win over the bigoted hearts and minds of the citizens of Shar by helping them out or you can perpetuate the myth that Maljiin has woven and be a total jerk to them. Whatever route you choose, you'll either gain or lose approval with your companions.
For example, your companion Ashe might approve of your good deeds, but refuse a monetary reward and she'll chide you, saying that you shouldn't let your softhearted ways win over more pragmatic choices. Different companions have different personalities, so be sure to pick one that aligns themselves with your moral compass.
The battles in The Shadow Sun feel very familiar to many massively multiplayer online role-playing games out there, which is most welcome. You can tap on enemies to target them and then mash the attack button in order to keep up the offensive. A quickbar on the bottom of the screen holds your learned skills, so you can use them on the fly. Just keep in mind that these skills have cooldown times, meaning that you're not able to abuse the same powerful spell or ability over and over. There's also a quickbar available on the left side of the screen, where you can place commonly-used items such as Health Potions and Antidotes.
If you fight and interact with the environment long enough, you'll eventually level up, giving you more points to put into your main stats and skills. I'd suggest putting at least a few points into the Persuade or Intimidate skills, as well as the Charisma stat. This opens up new dialogue options that can oftentimes allow you to skip battles and gain more experience points. It's also funny to see characters bend to your will. Jedi mind tricks, yo.
Even though folk have been comparing The Shadow Sun to Bethesda's games of old, it really feels more akin to Knights of the Old Republic or Dragon Age: Origins. Everything from the skills, companion approval system, plot full of political intrigue and especially the combat system make it feel like a good ol' BioWare game, which is never a bad thing.
The only chink in The Shadow Sun's nearly flawless armor is that the graphics are a little all over the place. While environmental designs and graphics look amazing at times, close-ups on characters make them look less than flattering. This is especially true of some of the larger characters that you'll meet in the narrative.
But the entire package is so impressive that you won't even care. This is a full-fledged RPG that you can take with you, just in case you want to escape to another world and become an epic badass. It might seem like a lot for $7.99, but keep in mind that you're getting content that far exceeds the price. If you're a fan of RPGs at all, then The Shadow Sun belongs in your Games folder.