Monday, January 21

Review: The Shrouded Isle [Nintendo Switch eShop]

While everyday life is full of decisions that can have both positive and negative effects on you, it could be tougher, at least you don’t live on The Shrouded Isle. Isolated and remote, this village survives at the whim of the god Chernobog, and in order to appease him every season they must make a human sacrifice. You play the game as the island’s high priest, put in the unenviable position of making this grave decision, and you’ll quickly discover that while finding and eliminating heretics is essential to survival in between there are many social and political decisions to be made as well. To maintain order you’re going to have to make tough choices and the blood on your hands won’t always be from the guilty.

Playing out in 3-month cycles every season you’ll start by choosing your advisors, one from each of the 5 major houses on the island. Each has a specific area of concern they’ll be responsible for working on (Ignorance, Fervor, Discipline, Penitence, and Obedience) but every person has both virtues and vices and the key to the game revolves around carefully discovering what those are. Every season you’ll have a limited number of opportunities per family to try to tease these out in advance, but you’ll need to carefully balance your need to know with upsetting the family from being nosy. Most of the time you’ll have to do your best and see how things play out, hoping to find the most unworthy among your advisors because, surprise, one of them will have to be that season’s sacrifice!

In the end the game is a mix of careful understanding of the nuances of language and carefully attempting to balance multiple concerns effectively. I note language because really that’s what can either help or sink you at times. The traits each person has don’t always easily map to direct meaning so when you’re trying to understand who’ll do the best job at promoting their area of concern and not sink you in some other area coming to understand the nuance of each word is vital. You ultimately have Chernobog to answer to on the high end, so you can’t allow any particular area to be neglected, but where it gets challenging is the fact that you’ll also have the morale of each of the families to concern yourself with as well. While ideally you’ll root out the sinners who are doing the most damage you may need to hold off and sacrifice someone less deserving in order to save face with a family you’re struggling to keep on board.

Ultimately the game is almost more of a puzzle to be solved with its strategies taking time to uncover and understand. There’s really no tutorial per se, you’re just thrown into the situations and will need to work out your path from there. Expect many early failures but as you observe and try out more strategies the game’s strategies will slowly become more apparent. A slow burn that may ultimately be repetitive but that throws new variations on you every time The Shrouded Isle should appeal to strategy fans who like a challenge and something that veers off from the norm.

Score: 7.5

  • Consistently challenging
  • A dark overall theme and situations that feel very different
  • Plenty of nuance to discover and understand over many playthroughs

  • May be a love/hate kind of game with its overall setup and style
  • Initially can be frustrating as not much is explained very clearly
  • If you’re not in tune with the nuances of words and language this may be particularly challenging