The second quarter of the ShadowFlare series is much like the first. It is important to note that this and all other releases of the game are not sequels, but are merely extensions that give more gameplay to what is essentially the same game.
Nothing in Episode Two is different so much as it is new. Players coming from Episode One will be delighted to discover the appearance of several new enemies, equipment, and spells in the second quarter. It is my belief that the designs for these new objects are of a significantly better quality than those found in Episode One. While both have the same basic art style, the graphics of Episode Two’s objects seems to be a great deal more diverse and complex. Much like one would expect, the monsters have begun to look more menacing and the equipment has started to transform into things that appear to be more formidable. While this is not necessarily an improvement over Episode One, it does reflect the typical RPG-style progression where objects that appear later in the game seem to become more intricate.
What I find to be an improvement, however, is in the size of Episode Two compared to Episode One. Whereas the first installment was fairly linear and allowed for only minor exploration outside of a single path, Episode Two seems to give many more options to the player. Once can explore for many screens in one direction only to find increasing numbers of monsters that will provide a difficult challenge to an adventuring hero. Episode Two helped to balance off the increased size of the world with an increased variety of monsters and more of them to make the land appear to be teeming with life. Also, the monsters are a great deal more interesting to fight. While Episode One featured only battles which could be easily won by a character who runs in swinging and allows their companion to deal the majority of the damage, the second release of ShadowFlare will force players into battles where a direct assault may not be the best option. With a host of magic using creatures, the player is forced to keep a closer eye on his or her resistances as they have become increasingly more important. In addition, one can no longer hide behind his or her companion anymore. Your canine partner is, unfortunately, no longer powerful enough to turn the tide of battle in your favor. Instead, he is used more as a tool to trigger switches, fetch items, or distract your opponents’ attacks away from you. Battles are much more fun with the difficulty raised and demand a variety of smart assaults in order to continue winning. Skirmishes are almost always weighted in the favor of the monsters as you could be surrounded by as many as a dozen monsters at one time.
In addition to the enlarged landscape and more opponents, the player will be pleased to note that there is an emergence of new towns in Episode Two. These towns, each with a distinct appearance unlike what was found in Episode One, all feature lively NPCs who may tell a tale to the player in order to further the story or assign a quest for the player to complete. This helps to make the game seem a bit more diverse and distracts from the monotony of continuously returning to a single captain for the assigning of missions which are essentially only glorified fetch quests.
Aside from the minor advances in the areas that I have already mentioned, there have been no significant alterations to the gameplay of ShadowFlare in Episode Two. The controls remain the same, and this installment continues the quality of graphics and music/sound found in the first. The story has not been significantly altered in any way, and this episode only aids in further telling the story that has begun in Episode One. It should be expected by players of Episode Two that nothing new will be found in this release; it is only an extension of the game already begun in the first episode.
Despite the fact that Episode Two is only more of the same things that were found in the first release, I find that this extension plays well and should be enjoyable to all those who found pleasure in Episode One. While this episode will only take you to the halfway point of ShadowFlare, it should provide for several hours of quality gameplay that will be enjoyed by fans of action-RPGs. Episode Two can be downloaded from ShadowFlare’s website for the price of $15. Players must already have Episode One installed on their machines. Including the cost of the first release, the total cost of ShadowFlare has now risen to $30. Still under the average for many boxed games found in local retailers, ShadowFlare is a game worth checking out especially for those who enjoyed the first release.