Gaming tends to follow trends. Someone tries something different, it becomes massively successful and then multiple other developers offer their take. It’s a process that works because each version resonates with players differently or adds something to the genre as a whole. For a while, many games have tried to capture the Soulsborne experience at various levels of success. One of the latest is Shattered: Tale of the Forgotten King, an early access game that is now finally complete and available on consoles. Does it have the same potential as other Early Access games or should it have spent a bit longer in development?
Shattered: Tale of the Forgotten King presents the narrative in a rather unusual way. Part of it is told through optional, somewhat hidden, NPC characters, with the rest locked behind collectibles, bosses, or out-of-the-way things. The basic idea is that King disappeared and you’re piecing together how the world became so twisted and broken.
It makes for an interesting adventure, though it falls on players to have that genuine interest to see it through. Similar to how games like Elden Ring explain things in an esoteric way, players need to recognize, pay attention, backtrack and complete everything to get the full picture. Not to mention finish things a certain way to see the various endings. It will appeal to some, though not everyone, something that is a real shame since the story is put front and center. As a result, players will either be quick to note the events or immediately disregard the cryptic and vague accounts scattered across the world.
While the narrative clearly takes a page from the Soulsborne genre, it’s often hard to tell what type of game Shattered: Tale of the Forgotten King wants to be. Initially, players are thrown into a bleak world with a couple of strong enemies, with a brief tutorial stressing the importance of dodging or the ever-popular parry. Sword enemies pack a punch, with ranged enemies doing a disproportionately low amount of damage. It isn’t until players encounter the first large enemy does it feels like gameplay is punishing.
One of the Various Bosses
These questions extend into the first real area, where the lines start to really blur. At this point gameplay struggles are apparent. Enemies can easily kill you, though striking first is not only more reliable than a parry, it stuns most lower-tier enemies. This makes stamina and powers the most important metrics, as a lot of the difficulty can be circumvented by simply killing enemies before they can react. Instead of making enemies more reliably punish this tactic, such as the shielded enemies will commonly die without trying to save their life, Shattered: Tale of the Forgotten King opts for what players would likely consider cheap.
By this I mean, certain extremely problematic enemies are put in places where they can’t be eliminated without dealing with more immediate issues. It also isn’t uncommon for enemies to have an annoying placement. I’ve opened a door and got shot by an enemy watching before I knew what was happening, enraged enemies by just teleporting to an unknown location to my favorite example and the first death, hiding an enemy that teleports in a way/place you can’t really anticipate and will likely take damage before you understand what is going on.
Some Examples of Settings Done Well
Like other games in the genre, your currency can be reclaimed by fighting the foe that bested you, it just is unfortunate that a lot of places feel like the situation is hard, over the task. Especially when certain elements in Shattered: Tale of the Forgotten King doesn’t always work as intended. Like I can sometimes hit enemies with Ether Bolt to draw them near me to control how the encounter goes, whereas other times enemies will not move from their set position. I’ve noticed no consistency, which in a game like this, is an unfortunate outcome.
Another is exploration. If there is one thing Shattered: Tale of the Forgotten King does right, it’s making the world fascinating. There are a lot of inviting locations or strong iconography that immediately suggests to players what is about to occur. A lot of the locations also have a curious sense of dread or intrigue based on how things are illuminated or presented. It’s so well done it draws players into exploring every inch of the world, it’s just unfortunate so much of it is empty.
A good example of what I mean is the Raven vender. He is located to the far left in a location called Agora. He is found by going the normal path, just instead of going through the door with the aforementioned enemy that is ready to shoot you, head upstairs. There will be a series of buildings, along with a couple of items, scatted above that takes you to an oddly snow-covered area. Head there, jump on the ice to the left, loop around and he is located kind of in the middle of nowhere over there. It’s nice that secrets exist to reward players, it’s just unfortunate so many of them are behind massive empty areas or require a lot of seemingly pointless exploration before finding something big.
Boss is another solid point for Shattered: Tale of the Forgotten King. Most of these involve tactics and force players to figure out their tricks, with a generally favorable result. The only negative is some bosses introduce mechanics that are designed around tricking players or creating unwinnable situations where it’s likely to take damage. By this I mean, you need to time two dodges in such a way to avoid two attacks that happen to sync up, while also paying attention to what one type of attack is. It likely won’t kill you, though it can make otherwise fun bosses frustrating.
Similar things can be said about the platforming sections as well. A lot of these are neat puzzles, one that doesn’t take away your loot for falling to your death (will need to restart though), with some weird ideas coming into play. Most of these are fun, it’s just once you reach the ones designed to be a dead-end and kill you or are rather difficult to see or changes in perspective make it awkward that they fall flat. Especially when a lot of these are presented in a 2D landscape, removing camera controls so you can’t get a good idea of the next intended step.
Shattered: Tale of the Forgotten King Review Verdict
While I wouldn’t say Shattered: Tale of the Forgotten King is a bad game, I am not exactly sure who it is for. It takes a lot of elements from the Soulsborne games, sometimes to its detriment like poorly explained items, without a lot of the things that people enjoy. Outside of bosses, the average enemy has limited variety and poses no real threat outside of unfortunate choices. Even this can be overcome by just overwhelming them, making it more of a chore to fight through the handful of enemies. It’s a shame too since the art is nice and the concept could go somewhere, it just isn’t quite there in its current form.
[Editor’s Note: Shattered: Tale of the Forgotten King was reviewed on PS5 and a copy was provided to us for review purposes.]