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Masquerada: Songs and Shadows Hands-On preview – Pause and party

For a game that’s only been in development for five months, I was really impressed with what Masquerada had to show. There’s a lot to look forward to in this 2.5D isometric RPG. Developer Witching Hour Studios wants to create a compelling game, drawing on influence from classic RPGs and story-telling heavyweights like Bioware.

Throughout the demo, the developers and I were frequently and comfortably able to draw comparisons to the Baldur’s Gate and Dragon Age franchises. Those comments are welcome to Witching Hour. They are attempting to draw players in with a familiar structure and style so they can put forth a unique and engaging story.

What they brought to PAX was relatively short, but gave me a good indication of what the bulk of game would feel like once it’s finished. We started somewhere in the middle of the story to give us access to a full party of three. There will be five characters to choose from once you’ve encountered each throughout the game.

The characters backstories and orientations are more diverse than I’m used to. This is where you’ll find more layers to peel back on top of the main character and campaign.

Controlling the party was familiar for me coming from a background playing MOBA games. You can swap between active party members with the function keys, and cycle through their abilities with the number keys. Outside of combat, and when you’re controlling specific party members, the WASD keys get you around.

I was reminded a few times that positioning and synergy were the main pillars of combat. The pause feature lets you take a step back and plan out your strategy while queuing up your party’s abilities. As I got used to how the enemy NPCs moved and attacked, I was able to spend less time with the game paused, and more time swapping between party members in real time, firing off abilities as I went. The latter was fine for encounters with small packs of enemies in tight dungeon hallways, but I really appreciated the pause feature once I got mixed up in a boss fight.

Laughing was the natural reaction the first time I tried to run in gung-ho and wound up with all three party members stunned and losing health fast. Once I got my bearings, I was able to pause and use the variety of support and healing spells to get my team back in fighting shape.

I can see where the game would be able to draw in both hardcore players and people who are newer to the genre. One of my concerns with bringing up a game like Baldur’s Gate when talking about Masquerade’s development is how large a game of that style can get. I was happy to hear the developer say they were shooting for a more focused experience, with around 18 hours of solid story for your first play through, instead of the hundreds you can pump into the older Bioware titles.

Witching Hour is hoping to get the game out on PC, Mac and consoles in early 2016, with the possibility of a tablet version in the future.


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Mike White

Mike is a life long lover of PC gaming. His parents never believed in buying consoles for their kids because it was "too much like the arcade."...