Wot I Think: Shadowhand

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Fans of bodices and inheritance might remember card game Regency Solitaire. Pip and Adam enjoyed looking for tea sets underneath piles of cards in that tale of gambling and gossiping. But I’m in charge of the card games now. So I get to review highway robbery follow-up Shadowhand. If I were a member of the polite, ball-attending society of the game I might say it was frightfully untaxing. But I’m not, thank fuck. So I can just say it’s boring.

It’s set in Costume Drama World, where your character, Lady Cornelia, has adopted an alter ego – Shadowhand – who robs and kills on the highway. She does this by playing cards with herself. The basics of this game are the same as its predecessor. It’s a type of solitaire with cards numbered zero to nine, and you siphon them away from decoratively arranged piles in ascending or descending order. You might throw in the occasional joker as a wild card, or one of the purple ‘spare’ cards which let you start a new chain with a fresh number. Or you might use some special powers to muddle up the arrangement or zap away face-up cards in a flash of light.

There are other powers and complications later. Lantern cards let you reveal what’s hiding in certain face-down piles. A new power-up lets you blap a card into another number. A scene set in a masquerade ball introduces some cards with masks that have to be lifted twice to be removed from the “table”. There are also standard suits, like ‘pistols’, ‘swords’, ‘jewels’ and so on, which are mostly important for keeping track of the deck but also become significant in combat (we’ll look at this later). In spite of these tweaks, the game itself still resides in thinking one number up or one number down and squirreling away as many cards as possible in a single combo. It’s solitaire with extra bits.

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The simplicity of this I’ll cover shortly. First, let’s look at the 18th century theme and its corseted chatter. This kind of dialogue is hard to do convincingly and here it descends into that familiar faux Austen toffspeak. Nobody says “goodbye”, they say: “I take my leave”. Ball guests put “do” in front of things. “Oh do speak to us later,” says one couple. It isn’t the language that annoys me – I am stunned by how the writers of the 1700s construct a sentence. But the pantomiming of that language makes my brain retch. The style in Shadowhand is exaggerated, and while a game about being a beard-wearing highwayman in a corset can be expected to ham it up, that doesn’t make the constant poshtalk any less aggravating. Sometimes, people in the 18th century just said “hello”. I quickly found myself skipping the story sequences. “Oh, do join us for a spot of croquet in the evening, Shadowhand.” No good sir, I shan’t, for when one talks like one has been masticated and expelled by a Defoe machine one tends to loathe oneself.

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The game itself is slick-looking and functional, both easy to understand and unsatisfying to play for anything longer than a few minutes. It soon introduces a kind of combat system, in which you duel computer-controlled foes, who aren’t so much playing against you as playing themselves on the same board. Here you combo cards until you’ve charged up the ability to slash your enemy with a sword, blast a musket at them, or throw bottles of grog into their face. Whoever loses all their health points loses the match.

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Other special items can be used. A shaker full of make-up powder will stun your enemy, making them miss a few turns. A restorative tonic gives you points of health back. And weapons and armour with special properties can be equipped. A pirate’s cutlass has a chance to make opponents bleed, losing a bit of health each turn, while a rapier has a chance to pierce any armour that would normally deflect a few points of damage. I wore a beard that raised my stealth stat, making it more likely I’d get the first turn in a fight. There’s also a levelling-up screen that lets you pump points into things like “finesse”, “prosperity” and “guile”, increasing your chance to collect more gold from fights, draw better cards, or find more jokers and wildcards.

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Here’s the key word buried in that last paragraph: “chance”. Shadowhand is built entirely on a foundation of muddy luck. Sometimes the cards come up in such a way that you can combo twenty or more in a row. Sometimes you have to pass your turn over and over again, waiting for a useful 7 or 5 to show itself. That’s why I find it unsatisfying. There aren’t moments of challenge, so much as moments of obstruction. Occasions when the cards just don’t show up and there’s nothing to be done. I often describe games like this as ones “that play themselves”. In other words, games that are ruled by a dice throw or numbers on cards, where whatever you do after the cards come up is more or less preordained. There may be small choices to make – take a 4 from this pile or a 2 from that pile – but there is too often an optimum set of moves and, if you think for only five seconds, it’s always the move you’ll take. Sometimes the optimum move is the only move – i.e. to end your turn having done nothing at all.

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The combat sections feel like they’re trying to liven this up. But trying to be combative when your sword thrusts and gunshots are reliant on luck more than any other element means there’s barely any thinking or strategy involved. You just stack the stats in favour of yourself as much as possible and wait to see what comes up. The worst moments come when you’re waiting multiple turns for a decent card to come up, so you can do something other than sighing and gesturing to your opponent to have another go. Sometimes, when my computer-controlled adversary was stuck in the same unlucky loop, I found myself envying the fact that they were a machine and thus incapable of feeling the tedium that comes with saying “pass” for the fourth time in row.

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Here’s a good test for whether you think this is a fun way of introducing combat to a card game: Would you play this game against another human, or would you rather play a CCG like Hearthstone or Duelyst? Would you play it over Magic: The Gathering or Netrunner? If you answered “YES, because those games are collectible trash!” that’s fair. But then, would you play it over Jaipur or Condottiere? Or Spit or Yaniv? I wouldn’t. Shadowhand lacks tactical variety, relies too heavily on a big spinning RNG wheel, and ignores a single vital ingredient – decision-making. Most decisions you make here are destined according to the will of the heavens. You are no more in control of the card game in Shadowhand than your AI-governed opponent.

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If you’re happy to count up and down and all around, seeking something that requires less calculation that those aforementioned collect-o-trash, but don’t want to look at the face of another repugnant human, then I recommend getting Jaipur on your phone and playing it against the computer. It’s a game of Indian mercantilism in which you flood the markets with rubbish leather and steal camels from under your opponent’s spice-dusted nose. It has the same basis in luck but with more risk-taking and chicanery.

Shadowhand, by contrast, is not for me. I’ll put Pip and Adam’s love of the previous game, which looks to be the same mix of cogs and odds, down to a monumental clash of tastes. Where they found that blend of petticoats and card-plucking soothing and thoughtful, I found this one boring in the extreme and stylistically overblown, floating through a brief few hours with it in a somnambulic state (I couldn’t bear to finish it) occasionally roused enough to tut at an uncooperative deck or the hackneyed dialogue. Constant reminders that the game has more Austenisms than whatever BBC Radio 4 period drama is currently torturing British motorists. It’s a blessing you can skip the dialogue. As for the game? Reader, I uninstalled it.

Shadowhand is out now for Windows and Mac, and is available via Steam for £11.39.

64 Comments

Top comments

  1. Relenzo says:

    I must interject, illustrious sir. I must formidably object to the misapellation of the illustrious Android:Netrunner in with the rest of what you call 'collect-o-trash'.
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    Aerothorn says:

    I appreciate that RPS really does celebrate the individual tastes of reviewers. As someone who played through and enjoyed Regency Solitaire as a late-night chill-out game (much like Hexcells) I do wonder how this compares, and hope that Pip will review it for PC Gamer (or maybe Adam can give it a second take here).

    • wackazoa says:

      I do believe she has…..

      • Jake Birkett says:

        Yes and sadly Pip didn’t like it either. But other press and players do like it (check the 90% positive reviews on Steam and make your own decision). I am sad that a reviewer who doesn’t even seem to like costume dramas OR solitaire, played it. What a shame.

        • MisterFurious says:

          Yeah. No one should be allowed to review something unless they’re going to like it.

          • Stropp says:

            It’s not so much that, more that a reviewer should be at least a fan of the genre.

            It would be like me reviewing NFL 2K17. I’m bored to tears by most sports and have never played a sports game. (I even had to Google the NFL 2K17 thingy.) It would be terribly unfair to the game if I reviewed it according to my taste.

            I felt that about this review. It didn’t really seem fair to me.

          • Caiman says:

            It’s a tricky one, because clearly someone who likes the genre is far more likely to enjoy the game and thus agree with a reviewer who enjoys the game than someone who hates it. We want reviews to be unbiased, but we also want to know which games we’re more likely to enjoy. I can’t stand PUBG for example, and I’d likely give it a pretty negative review if I played it, but that’s hardly relevant to anyone who enjoys the genre.

            If you think games are bad, you should try music reviews. Such a pointless exercise given how widely tastes vary.

          • Elgarion says:

            This review seems a little bit unfair : the game didn’t stand a chance.

            I hope someone else will review it again, who likes this kind of game.

          • Hyena Grin says:

            Well, I mostly read reviews of games that appear interesting at a glance. Maybe it’s in a genre I like, or has a theme I like. I don’t read reviews for MOBAs because I don’t like MOBAs. But I do read reviews of, for example, Ubisoft games, and I get frustrated when a reviewer who hates their formula is writing the review.

            It is completely useless to me, as a consumer of both games and reviews, if myself and the reviewer have wildly different tastes. They can’t tell me anything useful about whether or not I will enjoy the game. And while I’m very much in favor of the idea of the subjective review, assigning someone to review a game they are almost certain to dislike due to their on-the-record disdain is a predictable outcome. I don’t need to read Brendan’s opinion on every single Ubi game to guess his response to a new one. On the contrary, I’m much more interested in whether a game has succeeded in appealing to the demographic it is targeted at.

            I think that if I have to go to a completely different site to feel like I’ve gotten a useful review of a game that looks interesting to me, then the site has failed to provide the service I am looking for. But that is also just my opinion.

        • Beefenstein says:

          “I am sad that a reviewer who doesn’t even seem to like costume dramas OR solitaire, played it. What a shame.”

          I am sad that a commenter who did not like this review commented on it. What a shame, and a missed opportunity for someone who appreciates hard work to have instead had their voice heard and this time supported the author.

          • Landiss says:

            I agree. I don’t get why someone who is not a great fan of the genre cannot review the game. The review is very useful for me. With all the hype around this game on RPS, I was thinking of buying it, but I’m definitely not a fan of this genre.

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          Dios says:

          A positive rating on Steam means “This game is not fundamentally broken” and tells you little of the quality of the game beyond basic competency.

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          Graham Smith says:

          To interject here: I asked Brendan to review it because it’s a card game and he likes card games. He’s covered Hearthstone, Duelyst, Gwent and Elder Scrolls Legends for us, among others, both positively and negatively.

          We always want someone with an interest in a genre to review a game, because you want them to have experience, expertise, and the chance to like the game. I think there’s a point of diminishing returns in that, however – you wouldn’t want a niche obsessive to review every game within their niche, for example, because it might only be useful to other niche obsessives.

          Brendan likes card games but didn’t like this one. He explained why with plenty of detail beyond “I don’t like Solitaire and period drama,” including criticism of specific mechanics and writing. He also made his tastes clear, so readers can decide where they might differ. I think this is what the best reviews do.

          • Sir_Deimos says:

            But this game is nothing like Hearthstone, Duelyst, Gwent, etc… You can’t just look at the trailer and say “this game has cards” and assume someone who enjoys completely dissimilar TCGs will be the right fit. This would be like saying everyone that enjoys Mario Kart will appreciate Gran Turismo or Forza.

          • Babymech says:

            “This would be like saying everyone that enjoys Mario Kart will appreciate Gran Turismo or Forza.” But the goal is not to subdivide genres until you find a person guaranteed to appreciate the game, right? The goal is to find someone who is sufficiently familiar with the overarching category that they won’t be perplexed by what they are faced with, but it doesn’t have to be a genre buff – especially not with a fairly small staff.

          • Deano2099 says:

            It’s more like Hearthstone than most other PC games though. RPS has a pool of maybe 10 people in staffers and regular freelancers. I’m not sure who you think would be better placed to review it? Is the card game guy ideal? No. But neither is the MOBA guy or the FPS guy. Or maybe they just shouldn’t review it at all?

            Brendon wasn’t a good match, but he was the best match (Pip left, although she didn’t like it either).

        • TheBetterStory says:

          A link to Pip’s review for the lazy or curious: link to pcgamer.com

    • armaankhan says:

      I haven’t played Regency Solitaire, but I love this style of Golf Solitaire (with way too many hours of Faerie Solitaire under my belt to admit), and I found Shadowhand to be boring as well. The hands where you’re playing by yourself are just as much fun as you would expect, but the duels quickly become tedious slogs. I like the concept the devs tried to go for, but the execution fails miserably, sadly.

      • Baines says:

        To be honest, I found Regency Solitaire itself to be inferior to Faerie Solitaire. Regency already had too much luck built into its core mechanics.

        I guess I should drop Shadowhand from my “keep an eye on it” wishlist, and just wait to see if it ever shows up in a random cheap bundle.

        • Jake Birkett says:

          Hi, I’m the dev. I’m interested as to why you feel Regency had more luck built into its core mechanics than Faerie when both games are based off a deck of randomly shuffled cards, so in theory should have the same amount of luck…

          • Baines says:

            Since I never uninstalled Regency, I played a few hands before making this post. I’m not sure, but I think it is the card layouts.

            The card layouts in Regency might create fancier visual patterns than Faerie’s more utilitarian structures, but Regency layouts feel more restrictive. (Note: Faerie had some fairly restrictive layouts at time. I’m talking as much about feeling and memory here as objective fact.)

            With the Regency hands, it rarely felt like I was tasked to make a decision. I spent most of my time burning through the draw deck, trying to find a playable card. When I did find a playable card, it felt like there was often little decision on what card to remove. Either there would be no choice at all (only one card was immediately removable) or the possible choices were nearly identical.

            Wild cards make the hands still clearable (unless you are unlucky), but it feels like a cheat or a bit of a surrender to burn wildcards just to finish clearing the board.

        • Jake Birkett says:

          Great, thanks for replying with your thoughts. I understand what you mean. The problem we discovered is that, if we made a layout too “open” then you can get giant combos, and so can the enemy, and it made the outcome feel too random. So we made more restrictive layouts to counter that (though for some levels we left them open if the chapter had say a high combo goal). However, some of the layouts may be too restrictive. There’s a balance to be found between both types and we may edit some of the duel layouts later.

  2. Babymech says:

    I hereby call on all of the polite, ball-attending society of the world… to attend my balls. Politely.

  3. Sir_Deimos says:

    Shame the reviewer wasn’t the right person to look at this game. Many of the criticisms are personal preference in game mechanics, not an objective negative quality of the game. No mention of the artwork or music which are great coming out of a 2 person team.

    I played countless hours of Regency Solitaire with my non-gaming partner and plan on putting lots of time into this over the holidays. I’m glad to see some deeper mechanics for me to play around with than just going straight from card game to card game.

    • Babymech says:

      Oh come on. Firstly, we know by now that it’s not possible or even useful to have objective reviews. Secondly, if we’re looking for objective qualities, I don’t think “great for a 2 person team” will be a part of it. Is Zelda BotW ugly because a huge team worked on it? Does Nier have awful music because orchestras were involved? Doing a good job with a limited team should make them proud, but it doesn’t make the game better for the player than if there were three, four, or five hundred people on the team.

      • Sir_Deimos says:

        I’m not saying that game reviews should only talk about objective values of the games, but they should at least address them. What I’m saying is that the reviewer should at least be someone that appreciates the genre – you wouldn’t ask someone who mostly plays puzzle games to give a fair score of Call of Duty. Most people who aren’t going to like this game can tell right away just from looking at the trailer video, I would hope that a “full review” of the game would come from someone who was interested in the game enough to have a similar view point as a potential buyer.

        • Babymech says:

          I get what you mean but… I’m a potential buyer. A potential buyer who has never played a game like this before, and would be interested to hear what it’s like. It could be argued that the people you call potential buyers – who are already fans – don’t really need the review as much as I need the review, phrased in terms I can relate to.

          For me it helps that we don’t just have genre fanatics reviewing their own little corners of the game universe. If I wanted that, I would read punk fanzines from the ’90s. I think in this review the reviewer played up his antagonism a little but still gave the game a fair shot, which is as much as I can ask any reviewer to do.

          • Sir_Deimos says:

            I certainly agree that if genre fanatics were the only ones reviewing those games it doesn’t help anyone. What I’m trying to say is that the site shouldn’t be putting out a review just for the sake of having one. If a game is bad, and even fanatics of the genre think so, than that will be apparent to any customers doing research. But when a reviewer is immediately put off by it, as it sounds like Brendan was, then its worth asking if it’s because of the quality of the game or the personal tastes of the reviewer. Personally, I think if its the latter than its not a review worth publishing.

            I admit this pretty much sounds like “don’t post bad reviews” but I hope you can pick up the nuance of what I’m trying to say. I also think that it’s a lot harder to do with such a niche game – for example, there are plenty of reviewers who have played enough first person shooters to give a fair assessment of Call of Duty or Battlefront but if you tell someone who’s never enjoyed a sports game to go review FIFA you shouldn’t be surprised when it’s not a very good one.

    • Asokn says:

      “Wait a minute, you and your friend have just flooded my bathroom. You’re terrible plumbers!”

      “Did you not realise we were a two person team?”

      “Oh, OK then. Good job!”

    • Jake Birkett says:

      (Dev here) Sure we can’t have objective reviewers, but this seems like a mismatch right from the getgo. Oh well…

    • TrenchFoot says:

      I think people can factor in a reviewer’s personal tastes. I see this and think, “hmm, something like this may be good for relaxing late at night, for when only a few scant brain cells still have the lights on, for when decision-making of any difficulty is off the table.”

      • Jake Birkett says:

        Well we (and many players) feel that the game has a LOT of decision making to be made, both at the micro level of managing the cards, to the macro level of what weapons/outfit/abilities/consumables you choose and how you level up your character stats. In fact it gets quite difficult (people have called it the Dark Souls of Solitaire!) and you may need more than a few scant brain cells to make it through…

        • Babymech says:

          “people have called it the Dark Souls of Solitaire!”

          Not to be unduly glib, but anyone who has called it that has disqualified themselves from writing a readable review of the game. You should be happy that this reviewer didn’t call it that.

  4. trjp says:

    I’ve played enough “Golf Solitaire” to know I like playing it and whilst I wasn’t quite as enamoured with Regency as some folks, it was pleasant, didn’t outstay it’s welcome and was WAY less grindy than similar games on Steam (Faerie is nothing but GRIND)

    Watching the build-up to Shadowhand I saw lots of new mechanisms and had high hopes of a more open game – so when I bought it and discovered the same linear game with just a few variations of play I was, initially, quite disappointed

    The dependence on randomness is REALLY obvious early-on – you aren’t playing this for more than 20 mins without seeing unwinnable hands!

    After ranting a bit on the forums, having users offer some useful tips AND the developer wading-in with some reasoning (yes, positivity exists on the Steam Forums!) I decided to continue and I’m quite glad I did.

    For sure there’s randomness (this is Solitaire – without it there’d be no game here!?) and you need to know when to quit/restart BUT it also rewards careful and considered play (esp the choice of stats you take)

    If you’re stuck looking for 1 card, maybe you were unlucky – maybe you didn’t look ahead earlier in the hand either!? The randomness makes the game playable/replayable – set “winnable” hands would have been a bore tbh (and there’s no penalty for losing OTHER than your time – all consumable are refunded from failed hands!!)

    If you like “Golf Solitaire” you should like this – just remember, Solitaire is a game of chance – if you play it “one card turn” to win every hand, you’re not actually playing it.

    • Jake Birkett says:

      (Dev here) +1 and thanks for explaining it. If someone doesn’t like RNG, they shouldn’t play it, but if they fancy influencing chance with their skill, abilities, choice of gear and character stats, then go for it. Especially if they like the setting too. It gets pretty complex and strategic after the first few chapters (which are simple on purpose to gradually introduce various concepts, though I can see why it puts some people off).

      Also we are just about to add a “relaxed” mode in the next few days in which enemies are easier and players can skip duels if they fail (but still get the loot).

      • Moogie says:

        Personally I already felt like I was cheating by using wildcards and items to get through duels. Being able to fail duels and still pass them doesn’t sound enjoyable to me.

        I like RNG, but my equipment felt like it made little difference. I think the idea of having equipment/stats is incongruous with the RNG. Maybe there is a way to marry them, but I don’t feel this game succeeds in doing that. If a hand starts bad, that’s an immediate restart- I’m not playing a 10 minute board that I know I’m going to ultimately lose anyway.

        I think you just need to rebalance the health/shield stats of enemies so it’s not such a slog to get through.

        The writing/story is a problem not so easily fixed, however I’m glad it’s skippable.

        • Jake Birkett says:

          The game is designed so that you will need to use jokers/abilities and of course decent cardplay strategy to get through duels or you will die too many times.

          Some players are looking forward to relaxed mode but sure it’s not for everyone, just as hard mode isn’t.

          The enemies may appeared OPed compared to the player but they really are not because apart from having abilities/jokers/character stats, you have a human brain and can easily perform better than the enemy AI. All the fights have been carefully balanced to be beatable (some easily, some more challenging). If we nerf the enemy health/defense/intelligence (which actually the new Relaxed mode does) then they are way too easy to beat, that’s why they need those stats.

        • trjp says:

          Some of the things which makes some enemies seem tough/random are their gear – some of which does things like recharge it’s attack when drawing an 8 (if they get 2 8s and you’re screwed) etc.

          YOUR gear has that same potential – as do carefully played consumables (remember, if you lose you get the consumables back) – that’s how you actually play ‘around’ the RNG

          End of the day this is all part of Solitaire – maybe randomised Solitaire isn’t the best basis for a game like this (Candy Crush etc. have preset levels for a reason) but I don’t think making things less random would actually make the game any more fun…

          If anything, maybe losing should actually gain you something small – the chance of random gear or something like that – nothing you could exploit/grind but something to make it seem less futile when you’re on a downer?

  5. Relenzo says:

    I must interject, illustrious sir. I must formidably object to the misapellation of the illustrious Android:Netrunner in with the rest of what you call ‘collect-o-trash’.

    • goodpoints says:

      In fairness, they just wrote “Netrunner” and could’ve been referring to the original Garfield game which was a CCG.

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    johannsebastianbach says:

    Hmm yeah there is lots of RNG, but hey it’s a solitaire game, what do you expect? I played through the whole thing and especially enjoyed how you could build your loadout to “beat” the randomness. Sure, there are unwinnable hands occasionally, but you can retry easily and tbh I don’t know how you’d make a solitaire game fun in which every hand is rigged so you can’t lose. It’s part of the experience to me to get excited when the cards play out well. The strongest moments were when I could use my abilities and special cards to win a duel with inferior cards. Obviously it’s not for everyone, but I surely enjoyed my time with it. It’s a shame sadly you get a weapon about two thirds in which is so ridiculously OP that the rest of the game gets fairly easy. But I’m sure this will be patched soon.
    (I gotta say though the writing really gets worse over the course of the game. It starts strong with multiple storylines and witty dialogue and ends in a series of “oh no! another soldier! we gotta fight” one-liners)
    I’d say: try it out, it’s a steal and you may get your 10 hours worth of casual fun out of it.

  7. jsbenjamin says:

    I appreciate the reviewer being honest about not much liking this sort of thing, but I think the review should perhaps reflect that fact a bit more, rather than blaming the game itself. That is, he could be more generous along the lines of, “If you are looking to play solitaire and want a little more variety and style in your game, you might very well like this.” Too many of Brendan’s criticisms seem to come down to him blaming the game because he does not want to play solitaire (with its unwinnable hands, periods of nothing to do but pass your turn – though, let’s be honest, the game moves at such a clip that even a string of passes lasts a mere few seconds).

    I liked Regency Solitaire as a chill-out game late in the evening; better than regular solitaire, but still a totally relaxing experience. So far Shadowhand has only disappointed when I couldn’t get three-stars in a duel – but then I realized I should just move on and come back with better equipment if those stars really mattered to me. Since then Shadowhand has given me a similar chill experience with just enough changes from Regency Solitaire to make it worth playing through.

    • Beefenstein says:

      How about “If you are looking to play solitaire and want a little more variety and style in your game, you might very well not like this because it is possible you will find it boring as well?”

      Both are equally true, after all.

  8. Moneymancer Marklew says:

    Couldn’t she find a fake beard that was the same color as her hair, at least? It’s like she isn’t even trying!

  9. Beefenstein says:

    I strongly suspect this game is something like Puzzle Quest, but with solitaire, and in the end Puzzle Quest — for all its charm — is just a drudging grind of matching gems with randomness getting in the way to make you lose too often.

  10. Forthonswing says:

    In fact, people in the eighteenth century didn’t say “hello”.

  11. Brendan Caldwell says:

    Well, I’ll be…

  12. Kefren says:

    Games are definitely things of personal tastes. I hated To The Moon; loathed Skyrim; got bored in Bastion. I love Penumbra and Soma; can’t get enough UFO Enemy Unknown; am fascinated by FTL.

    I recently replayed Regency Solitaire (I bought it for my mother and played it once, enjoying it, but she has played it non-stop for years now, starting a new game as soon as the last one finishes). I really enjoyed it. I found myself replaying 10-stage levels again and again until I got the requisite combo – and I was never bored. There’s something about it that really clicks with me, even though I normally play FPS games.

    I bought Shadowhand recently and am about three quarters of the way through. I find it hard to resist loading it up for another stage (multiple levels). One stage becomes multiple stages or multiple attempts. I never feel that the game is unfair – in fact, even when I lose a stage and replay it, I don’t feel anything negative, I actually enjoy it, because I find the central game so pleasant. The central story and dialogue is kind of charming to me. I like the additions and subtle changes to the Regency Solitaire formula, without breaking anything. I like the choices of equipment and gear – no bad choices ruin it, and you don’t have to pore over details, so it never becomes a chore, and the game forces you to try new things sometimes. The stat changes also have more noticeable effects the longer you play. At first I didn’t like the cards (slightly smaller or harder to read than Regency Solitaire, and I missed my J,Q,K,A) – but after a few stages that’s faded away and I think I like the new format just as much, so my minor criticism isn’t even a criticism.

    I don’t have a real point except that there’s something about this game that makes me excited to load it up. At the moment I have this and XCOM (the recent reboot from a few years ago) installed, and I have only loaded XCOM once. My initial impression of that game felt like a push away; whereas Shadowhand feels like a pull towards. It’s just down to personal taste. No game is for everyone, but it’s interesting that someone – me – who normally favours survival horror (System Shock, Resident Evil et al) has so far spent numerous evenings playing Shadowhand (with some cheeky day sessions), straight after playing all through Regency Solitaire, and I am still having fun, almost pure with no downtime. Very few games do that for me (I have 370 games on GOG, maybe the same again on Steam, all sorts.) So there’s something really great here, but obviously not for everyone. It’s tricky to spot who are the ones like me who will love it though – it doesn’t seem to follow any particular pattern in games that are liked. I didn’t even like Gwent in Witcher 3 (or much of Witcher 3, in fact; I loved Morrowind though). The nearest games for me that give me this kind of one-more-play buzz might be FTL and Risk of Rain. And yet, I definitely wouldn’t say that fans of those would like this. I’m a bit lost how you would know. I just wanted to say that, for the right person this is a totally absorbing and fun game that fits into short or long play sessions nicely. Maybe it’s for anal retentives who like to tidy things up? That kind of fits my personality. Anyway, I respect Brendan’s view, and I’m sure he’s right and many others might feel like him; yet also I really love this game beyond what I might have predicted, and I’m sure there are others like me too. People are weird. :-)

    • Vilos Cohaagen says:

      Your tastes seem oddly similar to my own! And here was me thinking I was a weird outlier, only to discover that at least I have some excellent company :D

    • Jake Birkett says:

      (Dev here) Glad to hear you are loving it! Many people do like it a lot but I think it takes a certain kind of person: a person who doesn’t mind the natural RNG of a deck of cards, and who likes min/maxing their loadout to increase their chance to win a hand, and of course someone who likes to “tidy up” (I do and I’m glad you noticed that). I do like Witcher 3 though, so gosh we don’t agree on everything ;-)

      • Kefren says:

        I like the gear element because it becomes an impromptu difficulty changer. I sometimes pick the best tools for the battle, but I also sometimes pick bad ones, or random ones, or whatever I last won, and just see how it goes.

        I really don’t understand the random number issue complaint. The game seems totally fine to me, and I wouldn’t change it at all. The times when I replay levels are to do with the challenge and the fun of it.

        I love the way it is like an enhanced Regency Solitaire. Not just re-treading the same ground, but keeping the best bits, then adding even more fun bits. This will seem daft, but I even enjoy the way dragging weapons and clothing on to the character immediately change the appearance – it reminds me of Might and Magic VI: The Mandate of Heaven, where I loved dressing the characters up. By the way, I was impressed when I first noticed that Shadowhand’s current outfit is how she appears in the cutscenes – that’s the kind of subtle touch many people might not even notice, but it shows how much care went into the game. Likewise the scene-appropriate sound effects playing a low-level in the background. I think I have four more stages to go, having just sacked the governess, though it was a bit silly to reveal the secret identity to her! Never tell an enemy your secret criminal identity when it can get you hanged. [Pro-tip]

        • HeinzHarald says:

          “I love the way it is like an enhanced Regency Solitaire. Not just re-treading the same ground, but keeping the best bits, then adding even more fun bits.”

          My thoughts exactly. I enjoyed Regency, and Shadowhand is better in almost every way. There’s a lot more to think about. Chance still plays a role for sure, but you can influence the outcome a lot, in particular in the duels (my favorite addition, they are a lot of fun).

  13. goodpoints says:

    This is how you write 18c highwaymen:

    Cpt: How do you do? I’m Captain Feeney.
    Barry: Captain Feeney!
    Cpt: Captain Feeney, at your service.
    Bar: The Captain Feeney?
    Cpt: None other. May I introduce you to my son, Seamus?
    Sea: How do you do?
    Bar: How do you do?
    Cpt: To whom do I have the honor of speaking?
    Bar: My name’s Redmond Barry.
    Cpt: How do you do, Mr. Barry? Now we must get onto the more regrettable stage of our brief acquaintance. Turn around. And keep your hands high above your head, please.
    Sea: searching Barry There must be 20 guineas in gold here, father!
    Cpt: Well well well. You seem to be a very well set up young gentleman, sir.
    Bar: Captain Feeney, that’s all the money my mother had in the world. Mightn’t I keep it? I’m just one step ahead of the Law myself, I killed an English Officer in a duel, and I’m on my way to Dublin until things cool down.
    Cpt: Mister Barry, in my profession we hear many such stories. Yours is the most intriguing and touching I’ve heard in weeks. Nevertheless, I cannot grant your request. But, I’ll tell you what I will do: I’ll allow you to keep those fine pair o’ boots, which in normal circumstances I would have for myself. The next town is only five miles away, and I suggest you now start walking.
    Bar: Mightn’t I be allowed to keep my horse?
    Cpt: I should like to oblige you, but with people like us, we must be able to travel faster than our clients. Good day, young sir.

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