Shiness: The Lightning Kingdom review (PS4)

Shiness: The Lightning Kingdom is now available for PS4, Xbox One and PC. We played the PC version of this brand new action RPG by French developer Enigami.

Kickstarted back in 2014, originally scheduled for release in April of 2015 and now finally released through publisher Focus Home, Shiness: The Lightning Kingdom has had a long development journey. It’s easy to see why Shiness won a number of awards early on though, as at times it can be hard to believe that this is coming from an indie studio.

For me, the most striking aspect in that regard are the game’s visuals. I’m a huge fan of Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch and can’t wait for the sequel to arrive, and I can’t remember playing anything that came as close to that vibe (visually) as Shiness does. Like Ni No Kuni before it, this is an animated movie come to life and it’s a joy to watch – even when not playing yourself. It may not be as polished as what we’ve seen from Ni No Kuni 2, but it’s downright impressive for a relatively small developer.

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Shiness starts off strong, as you’re stranded on an island after a crash and have to get back in touch with your partner. From there, the story starts to unfold which sees you travel to a number of different islands and worlds and sees you assume control of five different characters. Every character has a unique look and personality, and they all have their own special skills as well. This ties into combat, but also in some of the puzzles that the game throws at you.

Very often, these puzzles have to do with the environment you’re currently in and the challenges it offers. For instance, one of your characters is able to generate rocks – and those can be used to keep certain triggers pressed without having to stand on them. It’s not going to draw in hordes of puzzle platformer fanatics, but they’re fun little diversions from what’s at the core of the game – combat.

Combat in Shiness is frequent, varied and deep – and not devoid of problems. Playing out in real-time like an arena-based fighter (think One Piece, for instance) – it’s not going to be every RPG fan’s cup of tea. If you were hoping for a turn-based and more traditional experience, then Shiness is not your game. It’s also not the kind of action RPG experience that The Witcher offers, but rather offers up a fusion of two genres – RPG meets arena brawler.

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Engaging in battles means you have to mix up melee brawling with long distance magic attacks – skills that you carefully develop over time but will have to keep alternating between if you are to be successful against the large variety of enemies you encounter. Magic can be replenished by drawing power from sources within the arena as well, but this leaves you exposed at the same time. You can also switch between characters in real time, so if one isn’t working for you then you can try out a different tactic. This keeps the combat fun and diverse – something that can’t be said for many arena-based fighters. Combat is severely hampered by camera issues though, as it can get hard to stay aware of what’s going on. This shouldn’t be the case in a straightforward 1 on 1 situation – this isn’t Dynasty Warriors, after all.

I had mixed experiences with the game’s writing myself as well. I enjoyed the overall story arc, but wasn’t too impressed with the quality of the in-game conversations. Most of the game’s quest and sub-quests are also fairly generic, and didn’t get the same amount of love that the game’s visual and character design clearly got. Nevertheless, it’s those aspects that won me over, and make Shiness a game well worth checking out as long as you’re okay with the real time combat dynamics of arena fighters. It’s a combat-heavy title and the combat dynamics are deep – which some will love but will overwhelm others. For me… this will definitely help me bridge the gap until Ni No Kuni 2 is here.

Score: 7.3/10

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