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If you’ve been following iOS games for a while, then you’ve probably heard of The Shadow Sun at some point or another. Originally announced way back in August 2010, RPG fans were instantly intrigued at the idea of an original, 3D, Western-style RPG. This was especially the case considering developer Ossian Studio’s pedigree of having individuals that worked on games such as Baldur’s Gate II. However, after that announcement the hype machine went silent until this year. Now, over three years later The Shadow Sun [$4.99] finally makes its debut. While it may not necessarily match the hype of a game three years in the making it’s still a worthy addition to a growing library of impressive Western-style RPGs.

Billed as an RPG in the vein of the Elder Scrolls games, Shadow Sun offers glimmers of Bethesda’s massive games. True, you won’t find a persistent open world (players fast travel to locales using a static map) and maps are pretty small (most likely to match its mobile medium), but Shadow Sun does great job of offering independence and content. While there’s always a story mission in play that offers players the opportunity to advance the story, there are a ton of side quests offering experience, gold and items. There’s plenty of opportunity to get sidetracked doing odd jobs for the citizens of Shar which I’d recommend not just for the added rewards but also to learn more about the lore.

Speaking of the story, I’m pretty impressed with how well the world is fleshed out in Shadow Sun. A simple escort mission to an exotic kingdom rife with history turns into  a decent tale of politics, subterfuge and the requisite evil protagonists. A full codex offers plenty of information ranging from characters to locales to historical world events. It takes some effort on behalf of the player, but I highly recommend reading every entry discovered. There’s always room for improvement as I would have liked more character development between your character and your companions. However, considering the game’s conclusion left me anticipating the second tale, I’d consider the story a success.

Shadow Sun offers players the opportunity to explore its world via three general playstyles: the physical Warrior, the spell-slinging Mage, and the sneaky Rogue. Like any good Western-RPG, Shadow Sun also allows players full reign to customize their character across all three routes. Each ‘class’ is viable on its own, but I felt the system really shined when I started dabbling in all the available traits and abilities. Similarly, the wide variety of weapons and armor also provides even more customizability and I thought the whole system was balanced pretty well. I also give Shadow Sun credit for offering a fairly detailed strategy guide available as IAP within the game’s store which offers further advice on character creation (as well as a detailed walkthrough). While character packs with extra weapons and quests are also available, I can attest that they are not required to finish the story.

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Alas, other aspects of Shadow Sun aren’t quite as up to snuff as I’d like. The game’s visuals are a mixed bag with some environments looking impressive but most character models looking dated. Also, I was surprised to encounter occasional bouts of stuttering a framerate on my 5S. I don’t know if it’s a side effect from being in development for so long, the game simply looks dated and reminiscent of similar titles that have been out for awhile. There’s certainly not enough here to actively detract from enjoying Shadow Sun, but the game’s graphics are definitely not its strongest suit.

There are a few other minor complaints that I’m hoping can be addressed. The lack of a mini-map (or map shortcut) is probably the worst annoyance I encountered, although I also didn’t care for the item/inventory management system. There’s also the controls, which felt were a bit cramped on small iOS devices (particularly with the movement stick). Still, like everything else I mentioned, it’s all manageable and not excessively detracting.

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Despite its 3+ year development cycle, Shadow Sun is far from being a ‘perfect’ RPG. However, it doesn’t have to be perfect to be enjoyable. Sure, there are a few areas I would have liked to see improved, but I think Shadow Sun succeeds in the areas that matter the most. With a compelling story, plenty of content, and a character customization system that works, Shadow Sun succeeds in its goal as a Western RPG. I only hope that trend continues and we see future outings.

TouchArcade Rating

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  • funny_man_vanya

    In my opinion the game plays more like Dragon Age 2, with a similar fast travel system, companion relations, and level up signal, as well as the overall gameplay. It doesn't feel much like the elder scrolls at all - that was aralon.

  • funny_man_vanya

    In my opinion it plays more like Dragon Age 2 , like the map nav and fast travel system.

    • Ramaz1234

      Why post same thing dos times

      • funny_man_vanya

        Srry first time post didn't show up so I reported and then I saw it.

  • Dr. Woodenstein

    So what other Western-RPGs are out on ios? Aside from Baldur's Gate that is.

    • mothman99

      Check out Ravensword: Shadowlands (the first Ravensword is also worth a look)

      • Dr. Woodenstein

        Played some of that one, Aralon as well. I was afraid there may have been some super awesome ones I was missing out on.

      • Zdgames

        There is the quest series by redshift, if you don't mind oldschool first person RPGs they are the best on the system and there's like 20 odd expansion packs each with 10 to 20 hours of content and a new area...

      • Dr. Woodenstein

        Is that the one everyone says is like Daggerfall?

      • Soarel

        Yes. It's awesome.

  • JJE McManus

    So this is the dilemma, is it?
    I fully buy into the notion that this games is remarkably fleshed out behind the scenes. Intrigue, choices, wacky characters; the devs have my attention. That they could build such a house of cards and have it run deserves respect.
    But then, you know, I caught a few minutes of video. The waddling avatars, the under animated zombs, the obvious rail you're riding; it was all there. Staring at it reminded me I never finished Aralon.
    If I buy it maybe we'll see improvement updates, maybe we won't. Probably we won't hear from them for another three years ( but I joke). So I guess I'm thinking they came in a bit high on the price side considering everything.
    But I do believe they created a solid first try.
    It's a dilemma.

    • metalmandave83

      Look at it this way. If you want quality RPGs instead of the same old runners and other casual garbage that everyone seems to eat up on this platform, then you need to speak with your wallet. I see what you're saying and I agree, but I want more of this and less of KingHunt, Temple Run, Cut The Rope, etc. You know why devs make those shit games? Because people actually buy them or the IAPs they have. I bought the game because it looked decent and money talks.

    • MrAlbum

      The devs actively communicate with players in the forums. I'd ask them about what's coming next, since I know that they have some sort of plan. Also, the game is compatible with a huge list of devices. My guess is that graphics quality had to be scaled down as a result.

      One of the biggest draws of the game is the story, and it's got a great initial hook. The character customization is pretty deep, and the dialogue is on par with Bioware's offerings around their Knights of the Old Republic era. Graphics are not so polished because this game started development when the most powerful iPhone model was the 3GS, and it more than makes up for that with a dusty, ancient Arabian aesthetic. Aesthetics make most any graphics pleasing to the eye; it is why cartoony graphics are so popular, for an example. Why else did the first Zenonia catch on, if not for its 16-bit sprite aesthetic?

      It takes time to work out what you want for your character. It takes time to read through all the lore. But this is one of those games that rewards patience with immersion, something that is rare in iPhone RPGs. If you look through the RPG category, it's dominated by Square Enix's ports and several experimental titles on one hand, and free-to-play nonsense that has no business being called an RPG on the other. There are exceptions (Infinity Blade).

    • bilboa

      Regarding "price a bit on the high side", it's good to try to keep some perspective. The price is about what a meal at McDonalds costs. Really, does the graphics and animations have to be up to par with $60 console or PC games to consider buying it? If you like this type of game, at this price just buy it.

      • ElectromagneticMelaniePulse

        AAA games can frequently be had on Steam for $5-$10. I'm not saying that the pricing of this game is unreasonable, I don't think it is and I appreciate premium games on the app store, but it's not as cheap as you're making it out to be. A lot of people never pay more than $20 for their big studio games. Unless you're Nintendo, games don't stay at full price forever.

    • JJE McManus

      Well, that's why I called it a dilemma. My favorite all time games are mostly RPGs. I like story, I like character building, I even like the grind. I'm not going to criticize anything that was started before the iPad2 existed. But nothin happens in a vacuum. 2013 showed us that experiences with depth will cost between $5-10, SquEnix notwithstanding.
      As devs approach the golden $10 price point consumers expect them to bring more of what makes iOS such an interesting gaming platform. Ossian in this case went for more depth rather than cleaner resources. I don't think that's wrong but I do think there's a negative consumer expectation cost that comes with that.
      To be clear, I will most likely pick this up after the holidays. But you can't miss the forest for the trees and not expect to be called on it.

  • praxcelis

    It looks decent and might have a good story. But it also lots like a PC/console game wedged into a mobile device.

    Western RPGs (and JRPGs) are why I game. Or used to. At 42, married, working, with kids, etc I don't play like I once did. But anyway… I love me some RPGs. I want 'em on mobile.

    However, every platform has it's pros and cons. I've yet to see a western RPG that plays upon the pros of mobile while working around the cons so well I don't even notice them. It takes a great imagination to make it work.

    I have no expectations of Skyrim on mobile. I do want something that pushes the envelope for mobile— and that will take more than watered down clones of the big, open, detailed worlds that are possible with PCs. Give me something that rethinks RPGs on mobile that plays on all the pros and isn't hurt by the cons and I'll pay much more than the "high price" of $5.

    • symmetrian

      Keep an eye out for Battleheart Legacy, then.

    • http://www.AppUnwrapper.com App Unwrapper

      Interesting... That's what I think of the Infinity Blade series. Especially with IB2 & 3. Lots of RPG character-building without the time-consuming part of walking everywhere. I think they really found what works on a mobile platform. You can easily spend a few minutes or a few hours on it at a time.

      I've tried to get into Aralon, but I just don't think I have the patience for truly exploring a vast world on my iPhone.

  • Alan Miranda

    @funny_man_vanya – Our goal was to make a BioWare-style story-driven RPG like Dragon Age, which is why you get that vibe.

    @JJE McManus – We were aware of the 2013 playing field by the time we released the game (vs 2010), and the potential criticism we might receive on our graphics. But our goal of providing a deep story-driven Western RPG experience for iOS remained unchanged. In my opinion, our graphics are quite good but not awesome. But as an RPG gamer myself, I don’t rank graphics as the most important feature of an RPG. TSS offers so much beyond graphics and that’s where I believe our great value lies. This was the exact same attraction of two of our previous games – NWN: Darkness over Daggerford and NWN2: Mysteries of Westgate – definitely not awesome graphics but awesome RPG experiences.

    @praxcelis - Given all that you’ve said of what you expect from a mobile RPG, I absolutely recommend TSS to you. You won’t be disappointed. :)

    • JJE McManus

      Well said.
      It is what it is and don't think I don't give you credit.
      My only hope is that you'll realize enough for TSS2

    • timb

      This is a bit of an aside, but since you mentioned Neverwinter Nights...

      I played NwN for around three years, obviously all of the standard stuff (expansion packs and premium modules) but what I think really made it shine was the multiplayer, community, DM mode and Aurora Toolset. There were insanely huge Persistent Worlds that spanned dozens and dozens of servers, containing orders of magnitude more explorable areas, quests, mobs and NPCs than contemporary MMORPGs like WoW or EQ2. Plus you had real people acting as DMs, possessing NPCs and mobs, creating entire world changing story lines (or just a fetch quest) right then and there. Every day when you logged on it was new and exciting.

      If multiplayer wasn't your thing, you had The Vault, containing thousands of user-created single player modules, some of which were later picked up and sold by Bioware (which I'm sure you know a little something about).

      That's why NwN was so highly acclaimed. It wasn't one particular expansion or module. It was the entire package! Your $50 wasn't just buying you 30 hours of RPG gameplay, it was giving you access to a virtually infinite dragon's horde of content, plus access to the tools that could allow you, the player, to make anything your little hairy halfling heart hoped for! :3

      That's why, ten years later, there's still a good amount of NwN persistent worlds (plus combat arena, social, etc.) servers still active.

      Somebody needs to release a fresh, modern RPG engine for iOS, iPad and Mac that supports multiplayer and also provide a world builder for it (even if it's Mac only) and I guarantee a huge community would form around it.

      Oh, one more thing: Darkness over Daggerford was fantastic, so thanks for that as well!

      • Alan Miranda

        Thanks for the DoD kudos, timb!

  • dudeitsvinced

    So should I play this, or play ravensword shadowlands? I have already purchased ravensword, but never committed the time to start playing. Is this a better game?

    • Alan Miranda

      It might depend on what you’re looking for. If you’re wanting a story-driven, BioWare style RPG, like Dragon Age, with great real-time combat, then you’ll have a lot of fun with The Shadow Sun.

  • Goggles789

    I'm enjoying this game after a couple hours, but the combat feels weird to me. Why do the enemies just stand there while I absolutely wail on them? They get one attack every 8-10 swings I take. Bug, or design? Any thoughts on the combat? That was completely ignored in the review, by the way. Getting tired of TA incomplete, surface level reviews.

The Shadow Sun Reviewed by Eric Ford on . Rating: 4