IMPRESSIONS: Masquerada on Switch

Wednesday, July 3rd, 2019

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I first had a chance to play Masquerada a couple PAX Wests ago, and found it to be a really visually appealing, promising looking project. This was a few months after oprainfall’s official review came out, with a somewhat different take. So when I saw that Masquerada: Songs and Shadows was making the Switch, I had to get hands on time with the game and see what’s what.

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First, let me just clarify that I haven’t gotten that far into the game at the time of this writing. There’s a good reason for that, which is that the game is utterly steeped in lore and conversations. For one thing, you’re constantly coming across nodes that reveal more information about the world, characters, political factions and more. I spent a ton of time pausing whenever I unearthed another factoid and just reading. There’s also tons of voiced dialogue in the game which sets the tone, all ably voice acted by a bunch of different actors. It’s fun to just relax and bask in the back and forth banter. It’s all very engaging, so much so that you’d be forgiven for thinking this is a Visual Novel. While there is a lot of talking in Masquerada, it’s very much an Action RPG.

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Combat in the game is no less complex than the lore, and there’s a lot of nuance to digest. You play as Cicero Gavar, and you can switch between different stances which provide a whole host of positives and negatives. Some have more of a shield, or Focus, than others, while some can move quicker and others can do ranged attacks. As if that wasn’t enough, when you get your Mascherine, the magical masks at the heart of the game, you pick which element it is. Depending on your choice, you’ll have access to diametrically different passive and physical skills. But wait, there’s more. You usually have one or more partners with you in combat, and you can switch between who you control. That’s a good and necessary feature, since the AI for your partners is very good at getting itself killed. I found it helped to take control, park them somewhere out of the main thrust of battle, and then switch back.

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Each skill you use has a cooldown, so it’ll behoove you to be strategic and not try and spam them. Though it is helpful mere proximity to a foe will have you auto attack with a weak physical attack, such as slashing them with a sword. You also have powerful Mask attacks that require you have a full charge before initiating. They were handy, but you can’t rely on them too much. I made far more use of my basic skills, such as summoning a trio of tornadoes. Combat is fun, but it’s also easy to get a bit overwhelmed by the complexity of it all. That said, you are able to switch things around a lot, such as which button skills are mapped to or adjusting AI behaviors, which does help somewhat.

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While the complexity of the systems in Masquerada can be a bit overwhelming, I’m glad I got the chance to play it on Nintendo Switch. Not only does it run great on that console, it’s also a very colorful and attractive game. It’s easy to get caught up in the political intrigue and magical revelations in the game, and I can tell it’s one that really demands your utmost attention. While I personally prefer grid based strategy RPGs with more intuitive controls and systems, there’s a lot of folks who would love this game. Witching Hour Studios has done a great job with Masquerada: Songs and Shadows. Here’s hoping it’s not the last title from the relatively new team.

Masquerada | Mascherines

About Josh Speer

Josh is a passionate gamer, finding time to clock in around 30-40 hours of gaming a week. He discovered Operation Rainfall while avidly following the localization of the Big 3 Wii RPGs. He enjoys SHMUPS, Platformers, RPGs, Roguelikes and the occasional Fighter. He’s also an unashamedly giant Mega Man fan, having played the series since he was eight. As Head Editor and Review Manager, he spends far too much time editing reviews and random articles. In his limited spare time he devours indies whole and anticipates the release of quirky, unpredictable and innovative games.