The Shrouded Isle is the latest game from Kitfox Games and is certainly a big departure from their previous game Moon Hunters. Feeling like a blast from the past, The Shrouded Isle takes us back to the time where not only games didn’t tell you how to play, they didn’t even give you accurate information.
The story of the game is that you are the cult leader of worshipers of Chernobog on a mysterious island. Your group has lived there for 497 years, and it has been prophesized that Chernobog will return in 3 more years. Your job is to keep the settlement going while weeding out any sinners of your group.
The game is broken down into seasons. On the island, you have five houses that govern the cult. In each season, you must choose one person of each house to run things during the months.
Everybody has a positive and negative trait that you will need to discover; with those traits shuffled for each new game. Once you have decided on your group, you must run tasks each month. Depending on the house you chose, you will either gain or lose points in five key traits. Not only that, but the houses will like or dislike you more depending on if you chose them.
After the months are over, you must sacrifice someone to Chernobog. The trick is that to avoid a massive reputation lost you must pick someone with a major vice. You will lose if a trait falls below the threshold or a house become rebellious for a full season. Finding out their personalities will require gathering info from each house or using someone as an adviser.
The Shrouded Isle is a challenging game not because of complicated design, but dealing with unreliable information.
The Shrouded Isle is similar to the classic strategy game The King of Dragon Pass. In it, players would receive information about their town via their council of elders. Each elder would give you information tilted towards their specific area.
Here, the player must rely on gathering information and figuring out who are the troublemakers. There will be times where you’ll realize that someone is causing problems, but you don’t have the proof yet to act on it.
Each year, you will also be given a different trait focus that will require more in order to pass, along with hunting down the sinners.
The Shrouded Isle is a polarizing game, and your interest will be dependent on how much control you like in your games.
The Shrouded Isle’s design is all built on obscuring the basic facts of play and the playthrough. At the start, you’re not going to know who your targets are or even what you should be focusing on. Similar to Tharsis, this is a game where it can be difficult to reach a point of stability and very easy to enter a downward spiral.
Because of that, The Shrouded Isle is not difficult in terms of gameplay, but RNG. I’m sure as you are reading this that people are figuring out the most optimal ways of play. The Shrouded Isle can be frustrating to play by the fact that the player is not in direct control of their success.
I also have to point out that the color palettes for the game are very off-putting. For myself, I couldn’t stare directly at the screen for more than a few minutes. While there are several options, none of them are easy on the eyes.
The Shrouded Isle is a very interesting game in terms of concept and gameplay. Some will love it, while others are going to hate it. When you design a game around unreliable information, it’s always tricky to balance how much the player needs to know.