Welcome to the world of Shadows: Heretic Kingdoms! As cheery a game as you might take from the name, Shadows drops you in the shoes (metaphorical shoes, since he has no legs) of the Devourer, a demon summoned by a mystery man with a mystery purpose. The Devourer isn't too happy about his new circumstances, and he's more than happy to use the dead in taking his frustration out upon the Heretic Kingdoms...
Before you jump to the meat of Shadows: Heretic Kingdoms, you must first complete a Prologue section. This will teach you the basics of game play in Heretic Kingdoms using Carissa, a warrior with combat skills that will make running safely through the section a joke. Here's a quick rundown of the path through the Prologue:
- Run southwest down the corridor and through the first door you reach.
- Beat up the creature in the room beyond - one or two clicks will do it, no need for special abilities - and head northwest. Smash the wall beside the door to find a chest containing a Hidden Key. Use it to open the door.
- There are a ton of enemies in the next room. Use your special abilities - tied to the Q, W, E, and R keys - to clear them away. Flee to the previous room if you get too weak to continue fighting.
- Cross the bridge to the northwest. You need to be in the Shadow realm for the bridge to appear. Hit S to cross realms. More on this in a bit.
- Keep walking. Once you find two heavily-armed NPCs, the Prologue is over.
- The (proper) journey begins with a Hooded Man summoning the beastly Devourer into the world. Once the man disappears you can wander around a little and get used to the game's basic controls. Combat is pretty simple - click on enemies to attack them, and use hotkeys to employ special abilities - though the main thing you'll want to keep in mind is Soul Essence. Accumulated each time you kill an enemy, Essence is used to heal your character(s) by holding down the Space bar. You can do this at any time, and though it's much slower than using a healing potion, it's better than nothing. (Especially this early in the game.)
- Leave the pedestal upon which the Devourer was summoned and you'll get your first taste of combat. Click your foes and they will die quite easily. If you want to preserve your HP you can also use Soulrend, an AOE attack, but it's not necessary if your fingers are quick.
- Head west through the ruins. More monsters will appear as you travel; kill as you go. Your destination is marked on the map. Note the Soul Well to your right as you climb the first set of stairs, as these things will give you Essence for healing purposes.
- Beyond the next encounter with the Hooded Man you'll find three coffins, belonging to Jasker, Kalig, and Evia. Jasker is a ranged fighter with some magic; Kalig uses brawn to take down his enemies; Evia relies on fire and sand magic. Choose based on your action-RPG tastes. I recommend Jasker for newcomers to the genre, as he's a good balance of attack power and durability. The other two skew to extremes.
Shadows: Heretic Kingdoms is made unique thanks to its Puppet system. Puppets roam the normal world under the Devourer's control, and you can swap to Puppets to fight enemies on a different plane from the Devourer. Puppets differ from the Devourer in a few key ways:
- Puppets can die and be resurrected by the Devourer using Essence. Doing so will require a few seconds, and can prove dangerous in combat, but the Puppet will be restored to full life.
- Puppets do not share health. If one is getting weak, switch to another. That said, Puppets do share a single Soul Essence pool.
- Puppets can manipulate their environment. Puppets can open treasure chests, bust down walls, open doors, and use switches. The Devourer cannot do any of these things.
- Puppets can interact with NPCs. There are very few NPCs for the Devourer, and so most in-town action will be done by Puppets.
- You can switch between Puppets while in the field by using the appropriate hotkeys. You can have up to three Puppets in your party at one time. By contrast, the Devourer must always be in your party.
- Puppets can use standard equipment, and will sometimes share items. The Devourer has his own set of equipment.
Perhaps the most important difference between Puppets and Devourer, however, comes with Game Overs. When Puppets are defeated they can be, as noted above, resurrected rather easily. If the Devourer is defeated, however, your game ends. Consequently, it is often wise to not take the Devourer into battle too often, especially when facing enemies that appear in the normal world and in Shadows.
- Once the Hooded Man is done talking you gain a new option: Puppet Selection. This power allows you to swap from the Devourer to his chosen Puppet. When you swap to a human character the world changes dramatically, and the Puppet can do things (such as bust up containers and collect items) that the Devourer cannot.
- There's a small cluster of urns near the coffins. Destroy them to get your first taste of items. The offerings are scant, and occasionally you'll get attacked by Aphotic Spiderlings, but every little bit counts. Check and destroy every container you come across, just in case.
- Head back towards the main section of the Forgotten Tombs. On your right as you cross the bridge is a coffin to open, and more urns litter the ground. Here you'll start being attacked by Aphotic Spiderlings; a single hit from any character will kill them. You'll learn about healing (hold down the Space bar while in possession of souls) in the process.
- Your destination is northeast, but you can ignore it for now. To the left is another cluster of chests and urns. Approach it to trigger a battle with a larger Aphotic Spider. Not too hard, though certainly tougher than its smaller kin.
- Explore the parts of the dungeon that you first broached with the Devourer, if you wish. There are plenty more coffins and baskets to pop open, and hopefully some good loot to collect. Be careful near the portal where the Devourer was first summoned, as the walkway surrounding the pedestal is lousy with Spiders. The northern corner is particularly dangerous if you don't maintain your health.
- Approach the brick wall indicated on your map and bust it open. Beyond you'll find plenty of enemies for both the Devourer and your human character to kill. Make a practice of swapping between the two and clearing out areas, as they have separate levels and will both need to build up for the challenges to come.
- Explore the north of this area to find another cluster of guarded urns and baskets, then approach the chasm to the west. Swap to the Devourer and he can cross it.
- Kill the enemies on both sides of the Forgotten Tombs, then swap to your Puppet and have a look around. There are two sets of stairs leading to the east and the west, both of which lead to chests, urns, baskets, and a pair of switches. The switches will deactivate the line of fire-breathing statues in the north, allowing you to carry onward. The Devourer has his own trap here, a line of painful runes, and it's not a good idea to try to cross them using the demon.
- There are enemies for both sides of your party on the next platform. The Devourer, notably, must face off against a Dimensional Rift that will spawn Shadow Crawlers until destroyed. Make it your first priority. Search the platforms to the north and the west for more items. Up the northern steps you'll find a Shadow Crystal in Shadows; these handy containers serve as chests for the Devourer specifically, and should always be popped open when found.
- Head down the stairs in the east. There's a large, circular platform at the bottom. The Puppet will have to face a few larger Spiders; the Devourer will be pitted against two Phantom Spirits and a slew of Shadow Crawlers. Go after the Phantom Spirits first, as they do significantly more damage.
- Head west. Both Puppet and Devourer will face decent competition on this platform, but you can manage. Once the enemies are dead, swap to the Devourer and use the stairs in the northwest. You'll find the Cenotaph the Hooded Man mentioned at the top. Switch to the Puppet once you're up here if you want to raid the coffins and urns; otherwise, approach the Cenotaph as the Devourer.
- You can do multiple things at the Cenotaph. You can travel; you can heal the Devourer and his Puppets; and, if necessary, you can revive any Puppets who fell in combat. For now, your most pressing concern is to travel to Thole House Cellar. Dungeon complete!