This First Impression article is based entirely upon my experience with the game up to shortly after the end of the second dungeon, which you can see in the above video, as well an an initial playthrough of the demo, which ends at the title card drop after the first dungeon. This article is not necessarily indicative of the game as a whole. This includes the score at the end.
Full Disclosure: I received a free key for this game from the developer, which I accepted after trying out the demo. This has in no way influenced my opinion on the game, the contents of this article, nor the content of the above video.
Shattered God is an action RPG where the focus is heavily placed upon its rather unique combat system, though the rest of the game feels competently made as well. Outside of combat, the game mostly plays like a standard RPG where you bounce between dungeon delving and talking to NPC’s in towns, though it’s not made in RPG Maker so it does benefit from the addition of a few mechanics which are difficult to replicate in that engine and it has a distinctive appearance. The combat system is the heart of this game though and it is a wonderfully frantic, surprisingly difficult, blend of timing and multitasking.
There’s quite a bit to cover when it comes to the combat system, so let’s start with how fights begin in the first place. All enemies are visible on the field and you need to physically touch them before being taken to the combat screen. All enemies are represented by their own sprite on the field and are never representative of a group. In other words, if you touch a yellow slime you will be fighting exactly one yellow slime while touching a blue slime will result in a fight against exactly one blue slime, which for this game in particular is a great choice over using generic ‘monster’ sprites or using single enemies to represent groups.
Enemy positions in a room are randomized, but they don’t respawn until you move to a new room. Each enemy has a field of view represented by either a cone or a circle and they will charge at you if they see you. Combat isn’t turn-based, but there is still a ‘first strike’ mechanic; you can swing your sword at enemies in the field and if you hit first, even if they’ve spotted you, the enemy will start the fight with reduced health. One final thing which is definitely worth mentioning is that not every fight is a one-on-one affair as nearby enemies will team up against you.
At last it is time to dive into the combat itself. Fights take place from a first-person perspective and, though you can have party members who help out a little with a few attacks or spells, you only control the protagonist. Regardless of the total number of enemies in an encounter, every fight starts with only a single enemy with the remaining participants represented by skulls at the top; skulls shake shortly before the next enemy in the queue joins in and if you don’t finish off your current opponent quickly you’ll have to deal with two or three enemies simultaneously.
Combat is divided between melee, magic, and items. You control your melee weapon with the mouse and attack by clicking and dragging to create straight lines. Larger lines deal more damage, but accuracy is a huge factor here. Your sword only lands a hit if the enemy is in the exact center of the line and, since enemies are constantly moving around, this creates a risk/reward system where large attacks which take more time to create are harder to hit with. On top of this, the relative positioning and angle of your slashes can be a factor against certain types of enemies. For example, Death Crabs take more damage from vertical slashes aimed at the tops of their skulls. These crabs were the only enemies I encountered where slash orientation mattered, but it seems like a safe bet to say that there are similar enemies later on.
Other than your sword, you also start with access to a spear and a staff which you can easily swap between with the mouse wheel and they each work differently. You recover health equal to a portion of the spear’s damage whenever you land a hit and the spear hits at the end of a line instead of the middle. It’s easier to land hits with the spear and it’s the ideal choice for enemies near the edges of the screen, though it can’t compete with the sword’s damage for enemies closer to the center. As for the staff, it deals damage to enemies at the start of the line and it greatly increases your mana regeneration rate while you’re using it.
Defense is extremely important to combat. Melee attacks from enemies are represented by a red circle which shrinks down to overlap with a green circle. Right clicking within the circles when they are perfectly lined up fully blocks the attack while clicking before they are lined up results in taking partial damage. It’s a simple system, but some opponents, like the two bosses I fought, can set up attack chains. Trying to block an attack chain or just multiple incoming attacks when fighting more than one enemy while also trying to get some hits of your own in quickly becomes very tricky. Even normal enemies can deal huge amounts of damage if you completely fail to block their attacks; I died several times within the second dungeon so this is absolutely not the type of game where the only challenge comes from boss fights.
Items and status ailments are a little different from usual. You can only bring up to eight items with you into combat (not stacks of items) and you use these with the number keys. Other than healing and mana potions, there are rare items found in chests, such as one which quintuples the experience of the current fight, and a whole bunch of status ailment recovery items. There are two tiers of each status ailment recovery item and it seems like the lower tier either is only a partial cure or has a drawback judging from the description (the early enemies don’t use status ailments so I’m not sure). The only status ailment I ran into while playing was a blind effect from the first boss, which turned the entire screen pitch black aside from attack circles, and judging from that it’s probably worth using up a slot or two on status recovery items.
The final part of the combat system, and my personal favorite part, is magic. Spells don’t have cooldowns, but they do cost a fair amount of mana and most of them take some time to cast, which can leave you vulnerable. You can only take six spells with you into combat, bound to the QWEASD keys, and since the Steam page description puts the total number of spells at 60 you have quite a few combinations to choose between. Enemies can also cast magic and, unlike melee attacks, spells can’t be parried. Instead, you need to knock the enemy out of its spell by damaging it; three quick slashes was enough to consistently stop the spellcaster enemy I fought.
The sheer variety to the spells is what I like the most about the magic system here. The first dungeon lets you play around with nine different spells right from the start (which get taken away soon after) and two more spells are introduced within the second dungeon. There are a few standard spells like a heal and a lightning bolt which hits where you’re aiming in a vertical line, but most of the spells are a bit more involved. Snow Cannon has no cast time and instead rapidly shoots out low-damage ice blasts which can temporarily freeze enemies after a while. Meanwhile, another spell reverses gravity, temporarily taking any nonflying enemies out of the fight for a few seconds by flinging them above the screen and then dealing damage when they slam back to the ground.
Many other spells, like a poison cloud and a fire pillar, stick around for a few seconds and some of them move around; these types of spells can make the screen feel a bit too graphically busy, making it harder to see enemies and attacks which they are overlapping, though not to such a degree that I stopped using them. If you prefer to focus on melee, enchantment spells also exist, such as one which automatically blocks attacks as long as your weapon is hovering in the correct area. Each spell also scales with your spell power in some way, meaning that, while I doubt all 60 spells are perfectly balanced, there is way more variety here than in a game which only gives you multiple tiers of the same handful of spells.
How you play the game is going to depend a lot on how you distribute your stat points. There are six stats to distribute points between; each stat starts at two, you get three points per level up, and you have 48 points at the start (stats initially cap at 18). For something which has such a major influence on your playstyle, I wish the stat descriptions were a little more clear. You can get a general idea of what each stat does primarily, such as that strength boosts melee damage, endurance boosts health, and intelligence increases your spell power, but most stats seem to boost multiple things and it’s difficult to tell how they compare to each other.
For example, both strength and endurance imply that they increase your defense (strength says “…his muscles protect him from damage” while endurance says you “…can more easily shrug off attacks”), but neither gives you a clear idea of how much this boost is. Do they boost defense equally or does one give more defense per point and, if so, just how large is the gap? Dexterity is an especially confusing stat as it increases the effectiveness of your parries, but it also says “…spells are cast with perfection, enpowering[sic] them”. I assume this means it gives a small boost to spell power on top of its parry boost, but I honestly have no idea. At the end of the day, I was still able to make a fun glass cannon caster built by dumping most of my points points into intelligence for spell power, wisdom for mana, and agility for reduced cast times, but clearer descriptions definitely feel like they are needed.
This is an RPG after all, so what’s the writing like? This is actually a fairly tough question for me to answer from what I’ve seen of Shattered God because there are parts of it that I really like, parts that I don’t like at all, and some stuff that falls somewhere in the middle. Let’s get the bad and mediocre out of the way first. The setup is a fairly standard fantasy one where there are two factions which have recently entered into an uneasy truce and each faction has a powerful magical object. The main cast so far is also on the generic side and consists of a naive protagonist who dreams of going on adventures as a hero, an older mentor figure of sorts with a mysterious past, and a magic-wielding girl being chased by a cult.
These characters thankfully don’t feel one-dimensional, though their basic roles and the setting are certainly cliché so I hope a twist comes along at some point. However, the biggest offender here is the swearing. To be clear, there is absolutely nothing wrong with a game having swear words, but the characters swear so often at times that it starts to look forced and unnatural. It’s not a constant issue, but sometimes the writing feels like the video game equivalent of a teenager trying way too hard to look mature and edgy.
With that out of the way, let’s move on to what I liked about the writing. First, this game has a good chunk of humor and, while some of the jokes fall flat, there were also a fair number of times when the writing made me smile. The characters are also all likeable and, while I’m still not far enough into the game to tell just how three-dimensional they may actually be, they don’t come off as stereotypical despite their generic roles in the plot. The game also often lets you choose between three or four options when selecting dialogue for the main character. The protagonist isn’t a complete blank slate, he gets a fair share of lines which you don’t have control over, but you do have a good amount of say in determining just how he interacts with the rest of the cast and none of the options I was presented with ever felt out of character.
Interactions with NPC’s are also rather interesting. You don’t freely move through towns and instead pick which location to go to, such as the inn or a shop, so most of your time in towns is spent talking to NPC’s rather than wandering around. Most NPC’s have rather large lists of topics you can talk to them about for lore and sometimes one topic opens up a new topic or leads to a sidequest. How much an NPC is willing to tell you depends on their disposition, which is easily raised via two minigames. The ‘chat’ minigame involves lining up your cursor with the correct wedge on a sort of wheel of small talk while the ‘bribe’ minigame involves tossing coins past hands at the disposition bar while dodging speech bubbles. I liked the bribery minigame much more, though it costs a very small amount of money. This all comes together rather nicely as a sort of tutorial before the second dungeon of the game as you need to ask an NPC about a location, use the minigames to get their disposition up, and then ask them to serve as your guide once they like you enough.
It’s worth noting that the pacing is good, or at least it has been so far. The game begins with a slow text scroll which you can make move much more quickly or you can skip it entirely, which is great if you’ve already seen it on a previous playthrough. Once you have control of your character there is a tutorial, but it only consists of some yellow text on the screen which familiarizes you with the controls and guides you through a training fight with a dummy; the whole tutorial is painless, doesn’t take long at all, and can be skipped at the press of a button.
There is a fair amount of dialogue once you get to the first town, but this comes after you get to go through an entire small dungeon. Cutscenes and downtime where you’re focused on talking to NPC’s in towns are expected parts of RPG’s, but far too many games in the genre force you to wait 10+ minutes before you even get a tutorial fight, so I really do appreciate Shattered God‘s decision to start with a healthy dose of combat. Dialogue within the dungeons is also handled well; characters talk to each other just frequently enough to prevent the dungeon crawling from becoming monotonous while the conversations are short enough that they don’t get in the way.
My favorite part of the writing I’ve seen involves a small spoiler as it’s about the way the first two dungeons interact with each other. You start off as a level 18 hero with a cloaked mage companion in a monster’s lair without much in the way of context. Upon defeating the boss it is revealed that the whole dungeon was just a dream and your protagonist is only a lowly level 1 sweeper in the city. This is certainly not the first game to have its opening turn out to be a dream of some sort, but the ways in which the dream dungeon relates to the first real dungeon, the city sewers which the protagonist is familiar with, are rather clever. To begin with, the dream dungeon is a ruined castle of some sort, but the middle of it turns into a sewer in a way which doesn’t make much sense structurally; the bizarre sewer section didn’t raise any alarms for me when I initially went through the dungeon, but it’s a clever and subtle use of foreshadowing.
Aside from the bosses, the monsters on both locations are identical as well because, after all, these are the creatures the protagonist is familiar with. This may sound like a flimsy excuse to use the same enemies for two dungeons on the surface, but the experience of fighting them at level 18 with three weapons and a bunch of spells is extremely different from fighting them at level 1 (or slightly higher, level ups carry over) with only a sword and three spells which you find along the way, two of which are different from those in the dream. The merchant NPC found in the dream also turns out to be that older mentor figure I mentioned earlier. I was genuinely surprised at all the little ways in which the dream dungeon tied in with the protagonist’s reality and I hope this same level of attention to detail carries over to the rest of the game.
Dungeon design was decent for the most part with a few small issues balanced out by some nice touches. Even though enemy distribution is at least partially randomized, the number of enemies in each room always felt right; there are enough enemies that you’re likely going to have to fight at least a few of them though never so many as to make exploration a slog. Save points are also plentiful, which is great considering how abruptly you can die in combat if you mess up. You aren’t fully healed at saves, but you get the healing spell early on and your mana gradually regenerates so even if you’re in bad shape you can bounce back by casting it in a fight; getting stuck is impossible. Both dungeons also had at least one merchant within them to let you stock up on any consumables. Furthermore, treasure chests are color coded and are valuable enough to make exploration feel worthwhile; brown chests have standard items, gold chests have rare consumables, blue chests have new spells (you don’t learn spells through leveling), and red chests have relics, which include weapons and items which give permanent passive boosts.
The downsides to dungeons are mostly minor. Your default movement speed is outright glacial and running (which you can thankfully flip to being the default) is decent, but still feels like a brisk walk. A recent patch has increased the movement speed, but that patch wasn’t out when I played this game for the purposes of this article so I can’t say how much of a difference it actually makes. I didn’t come across any puzzles in the dungeons either. The closest thing to a puzzle so far has been finding levers to flip to open gates, which serves more as a reason to explore rooms than as a puzzle.
The gates themselves are also somewhat annoying because they reset to being closed whenever you leave a room. An alternate set of levers at the end of each room allows you to open the gates if you’re backtracking so you’re never locked in, but this does mean that if you go back to a dungeon because you forgot something on your first time through you’ll have to hunt down the levers all over again. With no puzzles or major mechanics beyond lever flipping, the dungeons felt a bit bland outside of combat and the third room of the sewer dungeon in particular, which is dark and needs to be navigated using a lantern, could have benefited from being condensed.
On a final note, Shattered God looks great. Every enemy is well-animated in combat and comes with additional animations for things like attacking and dying. I especially like the ‘death’ animation for the Death Crabs where the fearsome skull falls off to reveal a cute crab which scuttles away. Outside of combat, every character has a portrait when talking and these portraits are animated with mouth movements. Animation is even great on the world map as your character is represented by an arrow with his head above it, which twirls around and leaves behind small red dashes as you move. For the record, the soundtrack is rather solid as well, but the animation here goes far beyond what is found in most indie RPG’s.
Shattered God – Quest for the Divine Relic is a very ambitious game and, for the most part, that ambition pays off. There are enough little issues with various parts of it that they do start to add up after a while to a point where their impact on the overall experience can’t be brushed aside, but there are also plenty of other parts which feel polished and the most important element, the unique combat system, is excellent in both concept and execution. If you’re looking for an action RPG with a combat system which requires more finesse than a generic hack-and-slash game, then Shattered God looks like it has plenty to offer for a very reasonable price.
First Impression Verdict: Good 4/5