Shadowcaster is a first-person fantasy-based action game developed by Raven Software and published by Origin Systems in 1993 for MS-DOS (Electronic Arts published it in Europe). The game uses a modified version of the 3D engine used in Wolfenstein 3D, with icons and point-and-click adventure and RPG elements.
Shadowcaster is basically a hack and slash action game with simple puzzles. Mostly about opening doors, negotiating mazes and avoiding traps. In it you play a young man called Kirt who discovers he’s a shape-shifting being from a parallel world and who is sent on a quest by his grandfather – the only other remaining shape-shifter from their realm – to find and defeat their enemies: a group of evil shape-shifters who are hunting them.
To beat these evil demons, though, Kirt must first go through the process of awakening his shape-shifting powers – to gradually re-acquire the ability to shape-change into various different forms. In total there are six different forms Kirt can take – plus his default human self, making seven. Each of these forms is unlocked by exploring and finding Obelisks that, when touched, change Kirt into something new.
The “Maorin” form is a twin-armed giant cat-like creature with a powerful claw slash; the “Caun” form is a small creature that is a poor fighter but can fit in small spaces, can heal quickly, use a light spell and unlease a swarm of insects; the “Opsis” form is a hovering brain with tentacles that is good with magic but slow-moving; the “Kahpa” form can breathe underwater and has both an electrical and sonic attack that works well in water; the “Ssair” form is a hovering dragon with no legs that flies fast through the air and can breathe fire and use its tail as a whip; and the “Grost” form is made of stone and is a tough fighter who can punch through walls and cause earthquakes.
Each form has its advantages and disadvantages and it is up to you to work out how you can use them to defeat the evil ones.
The levels you’re exploring in Shadowcaster are connected by portals and there is some back-tracking required to progress. At times it’s not always obvious what to do next so it is possible to get stuck for periods of time, wondering what to do. The combat in Shadowcaster is at least fairly straightforward and it is possible to kill all the monsters in one area and secure it, which allows you to have to have some respite from constantly clicking to attack. Which is probably Shadowcaster‘s main fault: it’s possibly a bit too simple for its own good. It’s a clunky maze game with puzzles and combat. The shape-shifting elements are good, but the interface is cumbersome to use and takes a little getting used to.
I wouldn’t call Shadowcaster a “classic”, but it’s still a reasonably fun game to play now. The movement in the game is a little sluggish and un-intuitive to truly call it a “great” game. But otherwise it’s a fairly interesting first-person fantasy game from the pre-Doom days.