This time of year is often packed with triple a releases looking to make the holiday season and often times because of this smaller studios or titles can get overlooked. Luckily Shadow Warrior 2 was not one of them, developed by Flying Wild Hog and published by Devolver Digital this game is a follow up to the 2013 Shadow Warrior remake. Set five years after the events of the first game and the collision which has partial merged the Earth with the demon world. Warning this review contains massive plot spoilers, if you’re looking for a quick recommendation then go buy this game. If you would like to read a spoiler free breakdown of my thoughts on the game click here.
Starting five years after the events of the first game it has a fairly similar opening. Lo Wang is driving and Stan Bush is blaring on the radio when he gets a call about a contract he had accepted. The caller is one of local bosses of some yakuza and the contract is to rescue her grand daughter Kamiko. Kamiko had become one of the lead researchers of chi technology for Zilla Corporation. Zilla Corporation being the large conglomerate owned by Orochi Zilla from the previous game. Upon finding Kamiko Lo Wang realizes that something is off and he brings her to Master Smith a blacksmith and master chi bender.
From the Zilla Corporation experiments her body has been possessed by a demon and you help Smith seek out the ingredients to cleanse her body. However needing a pure vessel Smith has placed Kamiko’s soul in the body of Lo Wang. She frequently quips about how bad or how dumb he is as he is looking for the ingredients to perform the ritual. Unfortunately Zilla raids the compound after Wang finds everything that Smith needs, with his dying breath Smith creates the cure and places his soul in an ancient well of souls which allows his soul to live on and grants Wang the power to slow time and turn everything red using rage.
Kamiko’s body has transformed into a giant demon at this point and fled after being defeated by Wang. He is called to by Ameonna one of the goddesses whom was also featured in the first game. She has offered to help him in exchange for completing tasks for her. One of the things she has sent us to do is discover the father of Kamiko, it is here that her grandmother commits suicide in order to protect the identity of her father and with the dagger she used Ameonna sends them back to the gate, the site of the chaos that caused the collision in the first game. You find out that Kamiko’s father was Mezu whom had been hoping to reseal the gate and save both realms from the oncoming chaos.
Mezu warns us not to trust Ameonna and a second battle with Kamiko ensues, again victorious Wang learns that Ameonna was hoping to kill Kamiko as she wanted to use her body. Zilla now has the mutated body of Kamiko and flies it away to perform more experiments. Returning to the laundromat where Mezu is holed up you learn that he wished to use Kamiko to reseal the gates, but he cannot do so until she has been purified. Mezu sends you out to seek Xing whom would be able to find her body.
After a showdown with Orochi Zilla atop the Zilla Corporation building you learn that Ameonna had also double-crossed Zilla and has possessed Kamiko’s body. Having drank more black rain which has corrupted her body further you head to the gate which Ameonna is now seeking to destroy. You learn that Mezu using Ameonna to seal the gate left her alone for eons and that this loneliness drove her insane. After defeating Kamiko for a third time you find an elated Ameonna, happy that she is finally able to die. At the behest of Kamiko you kill her body before Mezu can use it to seal the gate dooming Kamiko to the same loneliness Ameonna felt. After doing so Kamiko uses the gate room as a well of souls and becomes a dragon to monitor the gate instead of sealing it.
In all the story is strong in some parts, weak in other and the dialogue is frequently cringe worthy. Reminding me heavily of the movie Big Trouble in Little China. The plot is serviceable in what it does however this is the kind of 80’s movie cheese that will not appeal to everyone. There is also a lot of juvenile humor, early on you are sent after a demon rod which basically turns the mission into a dick joke. Wang also often uses his own name for bad puns or humor, I found these events to be comical but I understand that not everyone will.
The music and sound design here is excellent and again reminds me of an 80s movie, sometimes kicking into hard rock, once a song that reminded me of thrash punk and of course Warrior by Stan Bush during the final boss fight. I also found the sounds for the weapons to be fairly good. The grenade launchers and shotguns sounded like they had a real impact. None of the weapons sounded realistic, but they had a nice arcade quality to them from a sound standpoint.
The game is fast paced and fluid, with the ability to double jump, dash, air dash and in some places run up walls. As you get kills you earn karma which is the in game experience, leveling up gives you skill points which lets you unlock skills ranging from more ammo to minimal health regeneration. I also found the game to be tough but fair, with no parts that had a sudden difficulty spike. The game introduced mechanics as you play at a reasonable pace. At this point its up to you get better or fail.
There are also tons of weapons, everything ranging from your trusty katana to automatic grenade launchers and mini guns. The game is anything but subtle and with weapon modifiers that increase damage, give you health regen or add elemental damage there is a lot to work with here.
On a technical level this game isn’t the most beautiful that exists, but it runs very well. The engine has been well optimized and other than one intense section where the framerate dropped I was consistently at over 100 fps with the game on ultra. The level of polish by the developers here should be commended. There are some bad textures here and there, but I feel the cohesive art style more than makes up for this.
In all I found the story to be enjoyable, the combat to be fast paced with plenty of fuck yeah moments and the length was nice. I clocked in around 11 hours on my first play through, with a lot of secrets and multiple difficulty settings some of which are level locked I have no problems recommending this game. My final verdict for this game is buy it.