Singapore-based developer Witching Hour Studios may be a humble indie studio, but it hopes to make a big splash with Masquerada: Songs and Shadows. And if the newly released Steam demo is anything to go by, it may do just that.
Masquerada is an isometric cell-shaded role playing game that plays like a cross between the action-heavy Diablo and old school roleplaying of Neverwinter Nights. In it, the player controls a party of characters with different skills and explores large semi-open arenas.
It takes place in a world called Ombre, a Venetian-inspired land that has just recovered from a brutal civil war between the Masquerada, people who have access to powerful magical objects known as Mascherines, and the proletariat Contadani.
In the midst of this you play as Cicero Gavar, a disgraced former detective that has been called back for a clandestine mission to uncover the truth behind the kidnapping of an important diplomat. The demo stage takes place somewhere in the middle of the game.
The first thing you notice while playing is just how polished combat is, especially considering this is an indie title. Each of the three characters -- warrior-like Cicero, a water-based support paladin and a fire-based fencer -- has a distinct and unique combat style.
The game will be available on both PC and PS4. On PC, the mouse and keyboard control style lends itself to a more tactical style of play, where you pause the action and direct your party. However, playing with a PS4 controller makes the game more action-oriented. It's follows games like Dragon Age: Origins, which offered different control schemes for different platforms to great effect.
Each character has four skills, similar to a multiplayer online battle arena (MOBA), with the first three being basic skills and the fourth being an ultimate attack that requires a long cooldown. The difficulty curve is initially quite steep, but the game becomes plenty of fun once you find your rhythm.
The game's visuals are inspired, but it's audio presentation may be even better. Masquerada has an impressive voice acting cast, including Matthew Mercer (Fallout 4), David Fenoy (Starcraft II) and Jennifer Hale (Mass Effect), who lend their voices to the 15-plus hour campaign.
Singapore's game development scene is nascent but quickly rising. However, studios in the country focus mainly on casual and mobile games. If Masquerada is a success, it will serve to remind indie game developers and publishers in developing nations that they don't need sneaky in-app purchasing systems or micro-transactions to succeed.
It's set to be released in the third quarter of this year on, with Witching Hour launching a Kickstarter campaign to help fund the last leg of development.