I like it when a game tries to be different. However, when a developer strays away from the reservation, things can get messy. Consequently, a familiar structure can support an otherwise original title. Shoulders of Giants experiments with a random story and theme that comprise an array of well-known mechanics. As such, there is a sense of déjà vu as you slice through your enemies and complete every mission.
Developed and published by Moving Pieces Interactive, this is a rogue-lite adventure title. What’s more, it has a sci-fi theme and can be enjoyed alone or with up to 3 other gamers. Subsequently, you can try to save the universe by yourself, or you can share the risk and glory with your nearest and dearest. Either way, you’ll enjoy the hectic action, the strange monsters, and the rinse-and-repeat nature of the gameplay.
Shoulders of Giants tells a tale of doom and disaster.
The universe is coming to an end, and a small bunch of misfits must work together to stop that from happening. You control an angry amphibian who rides a mysterious mechanical warrior. The pair must work together to destroy anything in their sights and recover plenty of alien artefacts. However, this strange duo isn’t alone. No, they are assisted by a wise owl, a hungry panda with one eye, a gun-wielding monkey, and a scientist that’s bonkers. Consequently, this eclectic bunch must work as a team to fulfil their goal and save the world.
The forces of Entropy are consuming everything in their path. Accordingly, they are sucking the HEAT out of every living planet and leaving a path of destruction in their wake. However, by completing your mission, you’ll re-energise each world and store the HEAT for yourselves. This special energy leads you to the ancient artefacts that’ll ultimately defeat the armies of Entropy and save the universe.
Arghhhh rogue-lite madness.
Like every great rogue-lite title, Shoulders of Giants will drive you utterly insane. Its cruel nature robs you of your progress right at the last minute. Subsequently, you’ll be tearing your hair out when you fail for the nth time. However, that is not all. Each planet that you visit rewards you with x amount of HEAT. Yet, if you fail your mission, and you will repeatedly, you risk losing that amount of HEAT in the progress. As such, failure is a heavy price to pay and one that’ll set you back hours.
That is not all, though. The developers have incorporated a tough learning curve and a difficulty-balancing system. This sounds like a great thing, but it makes the action just a bit tough. Accordingly, the further you progress, the harder your opponents become. The harder your opponents become, the more chance you’ll die, and the more HEAT you’ll lose. It is a vicious circle that is cruel and unfair, but unbelievably rewarding.
Upgrades, cores, and a deep skill tree.
The cruelty of the central concept is thankfully mitigated by some excellent upgrades, new cores for your mech, and a deep skill tree. Each of these elements ensures that you can customise the game to your style while adding a layer of mystery and a little flair to the action. The upgrades focus on the mech and the frog. You can arm the frog with an array of guns, rocket launchers, and more. However, you must find blueprints for each weapon before you can craft them. The mech, on the other hand, was armed with swords, spears, gloves, and so forth.
Alongside the weapons, you can improve your mechs’ base perks with an array of unique cores. Each one has set abilities allocated to them, and these powers alter the way you tackle each combat encounter. You can open with a healing perk, vampire wings, cluster bombs, missiles, a portal, and much, much more. These key abilities are game-changing as they increase your chances of surviving exponentially.
Another well-executed element was the in-depth skill tree. This fantastic option allows you to customise both the frog and the mech to match your gameplay style. Whether you choose to enhance your melee skills, ranged weapons, skill cooldown, health, speed, or more is up to you. However, whatever approach you take has serious ramifications on your progress. As such, a balanced setup is a must if you wish to be successful.
Though there are many plus points to discuss, Shoulders of Giants is horribly weighed down by its repetitive gameplay and bland combat. The lack of originality or finesse is unbelievably disappointing. As such, you mash the buttons like a demented chimp as you shoot, slice, smash, and dodge everything in sight. If you manage to survive, you’ll search for healing butterflies, or use a healing ability to patch yourself up and go again.
This repetitive mechanic forms the backbone of every mission as well. Disappointingly, there are limited mission types, and you spend much of your time playing the conquest objective. Here, you must defeat 2 or 3 spires before heading to a central monolith. Once you overcome the aliens in this area, the stage is complete and you move on. This continues until the final level, where you then face a monstrous beast. If you defeat this enormous foe, you’ll rescue the planet, bag the HEAT, and start over again.
Shoulders of Giants won’t amaze you.
Visually, Shoulder of Giants is pleasant, but it won’t amaze you. A rough finish and occasionally poor lighting leave you underwhelmed. Moreover, the character models are insipid, the animation is bland, and the hectic gameplay can be tough to follow. Therefore, death happens too often, and this leads to unnecessary frustration. However, on a positive note, the stage design is varied and the different objectives alter your perception of each world. Sadly, though, the end product isn’t as polished as I’d have liked and this was disappointing.
The same can be said for the audio. The soundtrack is a mixed bag at best and will leave you wanting. With a repetitive collection of tunes and uninspiring sound effects, it does itself no favours. However, when the music works, it added energy and drama to each fast-paced and tough encounter.
The hectic combat and stage navigation isn’t helped by the clunky controls. Occasionally, the mech’s turning circle is appalling, and the combat is slow, arduous, and lacking in accuracy. These poorly executed mechanics add to the difficulty while enhancing unwanted frustrations.
Though I’ve been brutal, I found Shoulders of Giants tough to put down. Its horrifically tough ways make it undeniably rewarding. As such, when you hit each HEAT milestone or unlock a new piece of tech, you won’t want to stop playing. Yet, like many of its peers, failure can be a harsh mistress. Subsequently, once you’ve died multiple times, it’s tough to want to return for more torture.
Shoulders of Giants is somewhat lacking.
Shoulders of Giants wasn’t the masterpiece I’d hoped it to be. Its rough finish, tough gameplay, and repetitive nature undermine its vast potential. Yes, it was moreish, but much of its desirability is down to its shrouded mysteries, rather than a brilliant and unique concept. However, despite my complaints and its shortcomings, I still recommend that you buy it here! Can you save the universe? Grab your mech, pick a weapon, and stop the forces of Entropy once and for all.