“Shadow Warrior 2” is a first-person shooter game where players take control of a mighty ninja that spews carefree one-liners while fighting off demons and angry mobsters. The game is at its absolute best when the player is in the middle of the fray, fighting off various enemies. However, it does suffer from some odd and unfortunate gameplay design choices that its predecessor lacked, which interrupts the fast-paced flow of the game, ultimately making the experience not as great as it could’ve been.
Players are once again put into the shoes of Lo Wang, a ninja-like character with an entertaining and somewhat crude sense of humor. He has the soul of a young woman named Kamiko stuck in his head and is tasked to restore it to her body. The game’s story opts for a more comedic approach rather than a dramatic one.
The combat in “Shadow Warrior 2” is an absolute blast to experience. Throughout the game, the player has access to 70 weapons that are all unique and much more viable than their counterparts from the previous game. But the stars of the show are the melee weapons. Getting up close and personal feels satisfying, and the game provides you with different melee moves that can be performed in various situations.
There are also a wide variety of “chi” powers that add more depth to the game’s combat, ranging from a blast that knocks enemies out of the way to an invisibility spell that can get you out of a fight going south. Movement feels wonderful, as Lo Wang can perform double jumps as well as quick horizontal dashes that can make you travel a greater distance in less time. However, using the double jump and dash frequently in combat makes the game seem a bit too easy at some points.
The first “Shadow Warrior” title offered levels that were linear in design, with limited deviation from the main path and only a few nooks and crannies to explore. “Shadow Warrior 2,” on the other hand, changes this formula up and offers more open levels, some even procedurally generated at places. Unfortunately, this makes the levels seem less engaging, and they end up feeling empty with little reward for exploring off the main path. Toward the end of the game, I found myself simply beelining toward the main objective because I knew exploring around would result in a whole lot of nothing.
The levels also contain a bit too many bottomless pits for comfort, as I found a majority of my deaths were a result of accidentally dashing off the map thanks to Lo Wang’s agility. Additionally, “Shadow Warrior 2” features a hub world that the player visits between levels to accept new missions, which can now be played in a different order with the addition of side missions. Players may find frequent fetch quests bothersome, but the core combat of those missions isn’t any different from other levels.
The game places a new emphasis on loot found throughout the levels such as money, ammunition, new guns and collectibles from chests and defeated enemies. However, the most in-depth item the player can find are gems, which can be attached to weapons or armor to modify their properties. This sounds nice on paper, but the way it is executed in “Shadow Warrior 2” makes the whole feature seem like a chore.
In each mission, you can typically find about 10 or more gems, and players will find themselves constantly opening the weapon upgrade menu to swap out a current gem with a better one they just found. Initially this is a good feeling, as it’s satisfying to have your character progress and get better equipment.
Over time, revisiting the upgrade menu time after time feels tedious, and I would often wish I was playing through an actual level than managing my weapons inventory. There are also gems that give weapons elemental damage effects, such as poison, ice, fire and electricity. Equipping these on guns made them feel more unique, but the issue is it doesn’t work considering the fast-paced nature of “Shadow Warrior 2’s” gameplay. Players will see enemies that are resistant to certain element types but vulnerable to others, and they are meant to equip the weapon that is correct with that specific situation.
I would often ignore this completely since the combat requires you to always be extremely agile in dodging and attacking. Those who did stop to equip the correct elemental effect would quickly get frustrated because they would constantly be interrupting the flow of the game.
“Shadow Warrior 2” is an exciting and adrenaline pumping experience, but the developers took a risk moving away from the genre’s norms, and it didn’t exactly pay off. Even though the level design leaves a bit to be desired and the loot system feels out of place, the fast combat combined with the cheesy humor the game offers makes it worth checking out.