Wednesday, 18 September 2019

Shadow Warrior 1 (the remake) versus Shadow Warrior 2 (the sequel to the remake)

Just a quick comparison between the two games which, to me, are about on the same level. I thought for a long time if they even need to be compared, because they are the same, on average, but after replaying SW1 a little while ago and not regretting it, I realized I am not looking forward to replay SW2 at all, meaning that SW1 did something much better than SW2. Hence the comparison:
  • The story is better in SW1 than in SW2: there are plotholes in both but in the second game they are much bigger and often it isn't clear what is going on and why. Cutscenes, despite being mostly 'moving pictures' and comic-like are way better in SW1 than in-engine cutscenes of SW2. Small stories in collectable lore pieces and diaries add greatly to the events in SW2 but gaps in their collection and random nature of their retrieval makes them out of tune with the rest of the story.
  • The demon world is much better in SW1: it has a true sense of mythological place where the rain only falls when a sad demon-princess cries tears and drought happens when she becomes happy; there is no explanation why she is called 'sister' by all major demon-lords and holds almost mystical power over them, veneration and obsessive desire simultaneously; in SW2 most of it is explained and the explanation sounds technical and dry, lessening the world even more. 

  • The companion is better in SW1: Hoji is truly important to the story, which mostly happened thanks for him, his words are better, and when he breaks I do want to help him; while Kamiko is trying to get some sass and empathy with Lo Wang, it mostly doesn't happen. Her involvement in the events, beyond being Important Plot Element to Whom Things Happen Without Her Doing Anything, is minimal – we are told of her achievements, her expertise, her abilities, but we cannot see them or see the consequences of them, and the final decision she makes comes out of nowhere and looks very frivolous and rushed. In addition it is just too much of Kamiko (who is chronologically a child of two but looks twenty, a half-demon who looks fully human, master chi-manipulator, super-genius-scientist, student of ancient arts, apprentice of legendary blacksmith, tea expert and so on), and most of her presence is not well-written; she is even forgotten about in 'Shadow Warrior 2' art book.

  • General setting idea is better in SW2: I do like that developers didn't retconned the demon breach back to status quo but decided to go with it as Conjunction. In this new magic-soaked world we even hear Lo Wang grumble that it took him many years to master chi while younger generation achieves it easier – this and other small details add a good sense of flow of time and of change.

  • Supporting characters and minor antagonists are slightly better in SW2 and this is mostly thanks to weapon dealer demon Larry, because I don't think I recall anybody else. Mamushi Heika is just as not interesting and rashly portrayed as Twins. Zilla is slightly better.Twins return much worse. Master Smith turning into Soul Well was an unexpected turn of events.

  • Demon-lords are way better in SW1: while Xing is funnier in SW2, he is one and the only improvement; SW2 Mezu is boring poser, and while developers tried to give some personality to SW2 Gozu it just didn't work. Maybe developers subtly tried to show how human qualities corrupt demons after Conjunction in parallel how demon taints infect humans, but it makes demon lords much less into figures of legend and much more (Xing excluding) into boring people with strange horns. The major disappointment is Ameonna, whose portrayals in first and second games are so drastically different that it looks as if she had decades to become that vulgar, bitter, snarky, meme-referencing being, and not just two years according to Conjunction timeline. Was she binge-watching youtube the whole two years? In SW2 there is no sincerity in her, no grace, nothing to sympathize with, nothing to remember about her except one really crude 'joke' and how much better she was in SW1 even if she was almost dead the whole time.

  • Monsters are slightly better in SW2: in first game their design is cooler, more influenced by traditional monsters and their aesthetics (while SW2 monsters look more to the side of necromorphs), but in second game their gameplay isn't as frustrating as in first.

  • Environments are about the same: looking through artbooks I am surprised how much environmental variety there actually is because I don't recall many places that inspire wonder from either game – maybe the stormy ship from the first game and Zilla City with its holographic flowers from the second. Level design feels about the same in both, maybe slightly better in SW2.
    Neon like the cyberpunk but with magic and demons
  • Boss battles in SW1 were frustrating. I don't recall boss battles (except the very last one) from SW2 at all, so it is probably an improvement.

  • Weapons, I think, are better in SW2: I often used guns in SW2 along with the blade, while in SW1 it was mostly blade-blade-blade all the time once I got it decently updated and guns went mostly unused. Also in SW2 they did this really neat setting-building detail that old human weapons, even exceptional military ones, are now the mere baseline, inferior to both chi-infused sleektech of Zilla Corps and massive, organic, messy and hungry weapons of demonic origin.
    Gun on the left wants to eat everything it can get it muzzle on
  • Lo Wang has both good and terrible moments in both games in about same manner: being the descendant of the original Shadow Warrior (which is nowadays difficult to show without adding a couple paragraphs of various disclaimers) I expected much worse in terms of wang humor and general crudeness, but Lo Wang manages to get some genuinely good moments in both games, and about the equal amount of bad ones too.

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