Welcome back. The title for today’s review might look a little familiar to those of you have read my early stuff. Yep, we’re covering Ben ‘Yahtzee’ Croshaw’s horror-themed roguelike a second time, as it is now out of beta on Steam with a bunch of new features.
As before, we play an unlucky fellow in a universe about to be invading by a power beyond mortal comprehension. In 3 days, an Ancient will enter into the human world through Stonehenge, and things are going to get unpleasant for the human race as a whole real fast. At the intro screen, you are presented with 2 options: Kill yourself to escape the approaching nightmare… or fight back. There’s a spell that can expel the invader, but you don’t know the sequence. You don’t even know who exactly is trying to get through. You have a car, a pistol with a few rounds, and just enough information to realize how ignorant you are. So you travel throughout England, investigating towns suffering from the Ancient’s machinations. You save who you can, but you’re mostly just preparing for your little suicide mission. Because the Ancient and the banishing spell change between runs (like everything else), you can’t just make an end run on Stonehenge on the first day, even if you are good enough to fight your way to the ritual chamber under the monument from the word go. However, the more information you gather, the more your resources deplete and and the bolder the Ancient’s forces become. It was a solid game when I first played it, and it’s only gotten better since.
The game has undergone some heavy duty polishing. Controls were streamlined, magic was given more focus, and the bonuses granted for leveling up have been revamped into a unique new system involving constellations. On top of all this, some completely new stuff was added on.
There’s a few different challenge modes (a blessing, as the game feels a bit easier than it did before), and an endless mode, each throwing cool modifiers into the mix to force players to adapt. There’s 3 unlockable new characters, with their own strengths and weaknesses. I quite like The Warrior’s playstyle as the chronic lack of ammo in the original had already trained me to solve most problems with melee attacks. On the lore side, there’s now a beastiary, which fills out a bit at a time as you encounter monsters, and each run is capped with an entry explaining how well you did, your general playstyle, and how rough a shape you were in by the end of it.
The graphics are as bare-bones as ever, but the game still manages a solid presentation due to effective use of sound and leaving just enough to the imagination with the limited visuals and text. Even with the town descriptions and such being randomly pieced together like everything else, the quality of said descriptions is good and the writing still feels organic.
My one major complaint is that the Sanity management could use… something more. Plenty of things can demolish Sanity, some of which the player can do little to prevent, such as having to leave a room without killing a monster because something far worse is pursuing. Yet, the only way to reliably regain it is with a certain item that tops off the meter for several hours. There is a cooldown for using it again, but in my experience I was able to scrape along at low or even 0 Sanity until I was at Stonehenge, then just pop a syringe and brute-force my way through.
So that’s The Consuming Shadow: Insanity Edition. Pretty impressive that a low-budget game by a single critic delivers such a solid experience. If you want to see an indie horror game that isn’t a slender clone or following a creepypasta like a script, check it out. It’s $10 on Steam.