This isn’t the first time we’ve had a look at Masquerada: Songs And Shadows. Jim reviewed the game almost two years ago when it originally released for PS4, Xbox One, and PC, and in general its reception placed it as a decent game that could have tied together its story and action a bit better. Now Masquerada is coming to Switch and it feels like that the game was always intended to be on a handheld console.
Masquerada: Songs And Shadows has an incredible amount of lore within its world, but it requires players to do a lot of reading to get a full appreciation of the different factions and their relationship to the Citte, the nation of Ombre’s capital, the nation’s history, the people you encounter, and the major events that occur as you play. The plot revolves around the divide between classes, with those at the top having power through the magical Mascherines that the poor do not generally have. There are so many layers of lore that it feels like you’re spending as much time reading as you are playing. While I tend to tune out when all of this is on a big screen, on Switch I was reading everything, even the NPC conversations, just because it felt more convenient.
The condensed size of the action in handheld mode also gives it more of an impact. The isometric view coupled with the cel-shaded style gives Masquerada an eye-catching palette that evokes it Venetian inspired setting, from the outfits to the Rennaissance style of the Citte. While the game looks great in handheld, this still can’t make up for the original complaints about the combat, where battles are either over and done with very quickly, or you lose track of your character in larger battles due as a deluge of magical abilities dominate the screen. It really can be hard to follow who has the upper hand at times.
One of the issues with the Switch edition of Masquerada is the loading times, as each scene transition really hits the flow of the story. Some are snappy, but there are more than enough that break you out of the moment when you just want to continue with the plot. While Masquerada is essentially an isometric RPG, it is very stripped back with linear environments and all the focus on keeping the plot going. It makes sense in a way, due to the urgency of the narrative, but even a few side quests to broaden the scope could have helped add to the lore and stop it having to rely purely on the game journal.
Masquerada: Songs and Shadows is definitely one for those who enjoy exploring the backstory of a deep and fascinating world. This game has lore in spades with everything feels well thought out. However, as in our original review, there is a divide between the quality of the story and the quality of the action. Witching Hour Studios have created a vibrant and interesting world with a great, diverse, set of characters, but the core battling gameplay could have been better. Still, this concise 15 hour experience is still worth playing to get to grips with Ombre and its politics.