ShadowFlare – Episode 3


Review by · February 15, 2003

While most of the twists and turns of Episode Three are familiar from the first two quarters, there are plenty of new additions that make this release worthwhile to those who enjoyed the first two. Being that there is only one more release after Episode Three, I expected it to widen into approaching climax once the end of the episode drew near, and I am pleased to say that I was not disappointed.

I am finding that my character has gained quite a bit of diversity since play in the first episode. One of my major complaints was the seemingly small amount of diversity between each of the three classes, but it is great that the differences are starting to become even more apparent now. More powerful spells are available for those on the wizard path, and magic is starting to become quite a useful asset when facing off against multiple enemies at the same time – a condition that has become even more common in Episode Three. In addition, two-handed weapons are far more widespread in this episode giving the warrior class an option to choose high attack power with a lower defense over a more balanced approach. While many games that include two-handed weapons often fail to balance them properly with the rest of the weapons, which make their use either too much of a bonus or too great of a hindrance, ShadowFlare seems to have them balanced properly. Using the convenient button that allows the player to switch between a set of weapons and armor (something that I had often used to swap between a crossbow and a sword), I now find that proper utilization of a two-handed weapon along with a sword/shield array provides for diverse and clever combat. Whereas it is typical of hack and slash games to simply use the most powerful weapon to slice your way through the opponents, ShadowFlare makes the player think and plan their strategy before launching themselves into the middle of combat.

Much to my disappointment, I could not find much use for my animal companion in this episode. It was quite a shame that it was not until episodes two and three that the animal companions became diverse and interesting while, at the same time, obsolete. I tried many different companions in an attempt to find one that worked for me, but in the end I often kept it disabled and tagging uselessly along with me. It is fortunate that your companion is not targeted in battle unless it is directly participating because I think I would have to brave many trips back and forth between towns for healing supplies if the enemies decided to slaughter my helpless animal.

In any case, the difficulty level is still quite steep, and even with a dazzling array of powerful magics, weapons, and armors, it is likely that you will still suffer at the hands of the enemies. Careful planning is literally the only way to survive. Had my animal companion been a bit more useful in battle I may have been able to incorporate other strategies using it, but unfortunately it simply was not enough of a help.

Despite the obvious improvements made from one episode to the next, I continue to find it difficult to get excited at the prospect of a continuation. While it is true that many role-playing games are late bloomers, ShadowFlare seems to be slower than most. It took until Episode Three for the series to start doing correctly many of the things that were done wrong in the first pair of episodes. And while this quarter of the game is a vast improvement over the previous installments, it still does not give quite enough of a boost to make the entire series worthwhile. Seeing what I have thus far, it is difficult for me to recommend the game to someone who has not already played and enjoyed the first few episodes. Someone who is already having fun with ShadowFlare will undoubtedly enjoy the improvements to be found in Episode Three, but I cannot give high praise to nor recommendations for a series that took this long to pick up. If you found the first two episodes of ShadowFlare to be particularly enjoyable, then purchasing Episode Three is an obvious choice. In addition, even if you found that the first half of the game left something to be desired, but are willing to take a chance with the new improvements to be found in the beginning of the latter half, it is likely that you will want to give this episode a try. However, those who did not enjoy the first two episodes at all probably will not enjoy this one either despite the improvements. In addition, starting the series now in hopes of finding enjoyment by the third episode is simply too much of a long shot.

ShadowFlare is pretty fun, there is no denying that, but it is mediocre fun. In an era where Diablo clones are becoming trite and cliché it is hard to find much to praise in a clone that is only moderately good. While it may have been a huge hit when it first appeared in Japan, ShadowFlare just does not have the explosiveness required to revive a tired concept.

Overall Score 75
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Brian Cavner

Brian Cavner

Brian was part of RPGFan's reviews team from 2002-2004. During his tenure, Brian bolstered our review offerings by lending his unique voice and critique of the world of RPGs. Being a critic can be tough work sometimes, but his steadfast work helped maintain the quality of reviews RPGFan is known for.