Reviews - Updated on April 15, 2022

Everyone who saw this title had a cry in their hearts: something new about vampires, in the spirit of Bloodlines and Redemption! No, Masquerada: Songs and Shadows has nothing to do with the cult universe of World of Darkness and its offshoot. But there are also many undercover intrigues, scandals, investigations and political games played by numerous clans and groups. And their participants also wear masks – however, in this case, not in a figurative sense, but in the most direct sense.Masquerada: Songs and Shadows game review

Airbenders attack enemies by playing their flute furiously. By the way, here we also have to protect the cradles.

“Mask, who are you?”

Masquerada: Songs and Shadows is a party-based tactical RPG inspired by the history and culture of Renaissance Italy. The authors came up with a very rich, detailed world, similar to the structure of some Florentine or Venetian society – many guilds, factions, some organizations with their own powers and titles, scientists, merchants. And all this is connected in a tangle of complex relationships, in which the aforementioned scandals, intrigues, investigations, political games and the struggle for power are inevitable.

The difference is that there is magic in this world. Its source is a phenomenon called The Mascherines, and the tool is those same masks. Typical and very beautiful Venetian masks, in which they went to masquerades, here give their owners not only a piquant mystery, but also special magical skills. Naturally, only representatives of the upper classes and especially privileged people have access to them, which together make up the very Masquerada. The underprivileged lower strata are called Contadani. At some point, naturally, a civil war broke out between them.

Politics is about you

The action takes place in the city of Citte della Ombre, and we play as a young man named Cicero Gavar. He also has the right to wear magical masks, because he is one of the best inspettore of the city – this is such a separate class of detectives and prosecutors rolled into one, who obey their superior comrades, but at the same time have very great powers to investigate a variety of cases, including state importance. Therefore, everyone respects them and, as soon as something happens, they run to them for help.

The problem is that five years ago, Cicero’s brother participated in the coup attempt in Ombre and was killed, so our hero was sent into exile. And then suddenly the mayor of the city (whom the brother wanted to overthrow) calls the disgraced inspector back, returns all the powers and asks to do a very important thing – to find the missing scientist who studied the origin of this very magic of masks.

Masquerada: Songs and Shadows game review

The picture looks very stylish and pretty.

Despite all the dislike for the ruler, which is understandable in this case, Cicero agrees – he needs money. He only asks not to be drawn into any politics. Naive. From this moment, an exciting political detective story begins, in which there is a place for insidious conspiracies, and magical artifacts, and covert operations behind the lines of criminal groups, and behind-the-scenes games.

Home reading

Masquerada: Songs and Shadows relies on the plot – no side quests, free exploration of the world and other liberties. Moreover, the authors tell an emphatically linear story. There are a lot of dialogues in the game, but we do not take part in them – we listen, read or skip. But doing the latter is strictly not recommended – the authors more than compensate for the lack of freedom and choice precisely with the fascination of the story itself, the depth of study and the world in general, and each character in particular.

In fact, we have before us an exciting interactive book – richly illustrated (look at the screenshots), equipped with stylish comic inserts, superbly voiced by professional actors, complemented by beautiful orchestral music and even heartfelt opera parts.

The game has a built-in code, which contains information about all aspects of life, about guilds, factions, titles, characters. There are just mountains of text. And if you read all this, then a wonderful world will open before you – with its own history, with a bunch of various details and nuances. In this case, everything that happens is perceived very whole – here you can dissolve, and then still demand a continuation and a real book based on motives.

About people

There are especially many entries about the characters that surround our hero. Every second person you meet is somehow familiar with Cicero, and some interesting story is connected with him. For example, going to the Hall of Singing Trees on business (yes, there is one here too), we meet a touching blind girl with a scarf on her face that hides her eyes. They hugged, said a few words, and moved on. And a whole story appeared in the codex, from which we learn how this girl once saved our lives and why she went blind. And so it is with everything…

Masquerada: Songs and Shadows game review

There are many different details on each screen, but as a rule, it is impossible to interact with all this.

The authors place special emphasis on relationships with the hero’s closest companions. As you progress, very different personalities join him. Here is an impulsive sailor, the brother of a missing scientist, and a strict girl with a sword, assigned to us as a kind of observer and spy, and a charming representative of one crime boss, to whom we are forced to turn for information.

Each has its own character – the characters can quarrel, disappear somewhere for a while, then return, or, despite our shouts, suddenly rush into battle, almost breaking the whole conspiracy. Most importantly, each of them has its own history, and some of them have very unexpected secrets. Therefore, relations with partners are constantly evolving, and more and more entries about them appear in the code.

Well, in general, in history, many things are connected precisely with the shadows and secrets of the past, including, of course, with the past of our hero. The same sailor first tries to help us cope with personal demons, then we extend a helping hand to him … In short, following all this is terribly interesting.

forehead mask

Develop all this magnificent story in Masquerada: Songs and Shadows not only dialogues and texts, but also battles. In general, they are quite typical for party RPGs – the characters attack and use skills in real time, but at any time you can pause the whole thing and personally give out instructions.

Abilities are associated with the magic of the elements – fire, water, earth or air. At the very beginning, you choose an element for your hero, and his partners have specializations predetermined. That is, someone will throw fireballs and erect fiery walls, and someone will throw mud and dust or blow off opponents with the wind. Each character has four of these “skills” that you develop as you gain new levels and ability points.

Masquerada: Songs and Shadows game review

A comic from the game would also be great.

However, given the unusual nature of the setting itself, here, of course, there are some nuances. Everyone also has access to one Ultimate ability associated with those same masks. It consumes a special energy that accumulates in battle – Mask Charge. Initially, there is only one such mask – for example, if you choose the element of water, you can periodically freeze all opponents around. Then others will come across, and at any time you can change them, choosing the ability for the current situation. But you can only use your elemental masks – you can redistribute points of ordinary abilities, but you can’t change specialization.

Brownian motion

In addition, stances play an important role in battles – they not only allow you to quickly attack in melee, go into defense or use long-range weapons, but also generate various passive skills, and also affect the rate of accumulation of Mask Charge. There is also a rudimentary “crafting” that allows you to create runes with passive bonuses.

In general, the battles turned out to be interesting and tense and resemble what we saw in Aarklash: Legacy – here, for example, in the same way, you need to constantly monitor the direction of attacks, taking your fighters away from massive strikes and magical “shelling”.

However, there is one but, and this is my only complaint about Masquerada: Songs and Shadows. It’s about the intelligence of our partners. Left unattended, they behave like berserkers and hysterics who have flown off the coils – they randomly run from one enemy to another, beat anyone and climb on the rampage with the zeal of a well-deserved kamikaze of the Ombre Republic.

You can give the order to hold the position so that this hysterical woman finally stands in one place and beats only those who are within walking distance. But as soon as you specify to use the skill, the fighter again goes into chaotic movement mode. Accordingly, setting up situations on whom and when the character will use this or that ability does not help much – during breaks, he will still run with weapons from one to another.

Masquerada: Songs and Shadows game review

To find new masks, you need to carefully look around.

That is, there are really not enough buttons “Attack my target” or “Protect the main character.” As a result, you have to do a lot of unnecessary gestures, constantly including a pause and personally poking everyone with your nose. Or turn off the AI ​​of the character, which at times complicates the micromanagement of the party in battle. Or even go to public humiliation and reduce complexity.

***

Masquerada: Songs and Shadows are two in one. A great interactive book in a beautiful package – with a fascinating story, Venetian masks and opera music. And a harsh tactical RPG with its own characteristics – and, unfortunately, with problems in the behavior of partners. If the authors deal with the latter (and in patches they make a special bet on polishing the AI), they will get all the highest scores from us – only Obsidian Entertainment makes such literary RPGs today. In the meantime – a well-deserved “commendable”. And yes, readers, learn English – you lose a lot …

Pros: a fascinating story, full of intrigue, conspiracies and secrets; well-designed world; superbly written characters and dialogues; dynamically developing relationships with partners; complex tactical battles; interesting mechanics of elemental magic; stylish picture; atmospheric orchestral soundtrack and expressive voicing of each dialogue.
Cons: not everyone will like total linearity; AI partners in battle frankly lame; no equipment and “loot”; You can save only by checkpoints.

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