To all my fellow gamers amicable with an isometric tactical RPG, Masquerada doesn’t stray far from familiarity. Based in a renaissance inspired city filled with magic, you are tasked with fighting for the soul of an extremely mundane location. It’s a time of revolution, but with great power comes great responsibility.
The beautiful, hand drawn style of the game is extremely inviting. Whilst locations and backgrounds seem sombre, characters and their colours glow. All the abilities you are granted as you progress are highlighted by a variety of beautiful animations and palettes. There is an extreme amount of things to love with this game’s aesthetic. Additionally each character is fully narrated. The audio and casting of our heroes is wonderful. Each character, including the protagonist, contributes to the story of the game in some way. Engaging with dialogue exposes one of the main attributes to understanding Masquerada.
The voice acting really sells the game, since backstories and context is filled with emotion. Whilst playing, you find yourself sympathising with the characters and understanding them as if they were real people. Although you are given the option to skip chunks of dialogue, it is not a feature I found myself using often. The cast present the story in such an engaging way, it’s as if you are watching a film – or even experiencing it firsthand. Whilst progressing through the game you pick up a clan of allies, which are all fully narrated. By the end, you’ll feel so attached to your party when it comes to shaking things up it’s a hard decision to choose who to lose.
Where things turn sour
One of the few letdowns though is the lack of story post tutorial. In the beginning you are tasked with intense chases and battles, but once the political plot is over the story lacks. Turning into a classic dungeon crawler, there isn’t much you haven’t experienced before. Dungeons feel repetitive after a while and you basically trek the same map over and over. However, despite the repetitive nature of these dungeons, they are still vital to your understanding of the game. Tomes will showcase a variety of items and explanations for both guilds and factions, and they provide completely relevant backstory to your travels. These tomes also highlight Ombre’s history and the mythology surrounding the city. All important for the final stretch of the game.
In between levels or combat though, you are faced with loading screens which seem a little too long. These became a nuisance very quickly, and are one of the main reasons I had to keep putting the game down. Moving between different areas usually results in these extremely long loading screens, and they even pop up during combat – completely stripping you of any immersion. Even on the rare occasion you may die, respawning and trying again is delayed by a minute long loading screen.
Combat is lacking
The combat as well is very similar to every other tactical RPG. There isn’t much that stands out regarding controls. You’re granted a variety of abilities as you progress through the game, but they all follow the same pattern of pressing once during combat and then waiting for the cool down time to wear off. Masquerada: Songs and Shadows lacks creative flair in regards to combat. Thus adding to the frustration of how repetitive and tedious the game can get.
As a whole, it’s certainly enjoyable. But you have to be prepared to sit for hours in order to progress. To those searching for a tactical RPG, or those who enjoy a good ol dungeon crawl, I’d recommend this.