Shadowhand is the latest game from Grey Alien Games whose previous hit Regency Solitaire struck a chord with casual and core gamers. Taking things further, Shadowhand adds RPG-styled combat and progression to deliver a very unique game. While it may not be for everybody, the game certainly has some cards up its sleeves.
The story of Shadowhand follows Lady Cornelia Darkmoor in the late 18th century. When her carriage is attacked by highwaymen, she dons the disguise of Shadowhand to figure out a conspiracy involving the local pirates and aristocrats.
The game’s structure is split into chapters made up of multiple solitaire hands. As with Regency Solitaire, you must perform certain tasks over the course of the hands in a chapter to win and move onto the next. As the game goes on, new hurdles will be introduced that effect how you remove cards from the field.
The basic elements of using joker and stand-in cards to help thin the field return, along with new features that we’ll talk about next. Where Shadowhand differs from previous solitaire-based games is with the new combat system.
The major new system in Shadowhand is combat. Within each chapter, you will have a duel with an AI opponent. Combat ties into the game’s unlockable gear that you’ll find and buy over the course of playing.
Weapons are powered up by making matches which are used to deal damage to your opponent. The rest of your clothing determines stats, resistances and more. Each time you beat a chapter, you’ll get to apply skill points that provide passive benefits.
Combat takes place on the same solitaire field as the normal matches. You and the AI take turns drawing a card from the deck and trying to use it to remove cards.
If you clear the field or the deck runs out of cards the game will generate a new one until someone is defeated.
The weapon variety includes various guns, daggers, and more that can also have special effects during combat. Your weapons belong to different classes that can be impacted by your gear and the enemy’s defenses.
There have only been a few games that made use of card-based systems tied to RPG combat, but none that use solitaire from my memory. Shadowhand’s combat is definitely a treat, and fans of Regency Solitaire will enjoy this one.
One surprising issue the game may have has to do with its difficulty.
Ruffled and Shuffled:
Shadowhand, like any card-based game, is built on RNG. Each field is procedurally generated based on the cards that show up and the respective deck. This adds up to a lot of the game’s success being out of the player’s control.
The new abilities and leveling system do help to some extent, but if the cards aren’t showing up in the deck, you’re not going to win no matter what. As with Regency Solitaire, each chapter’s goals must be beaten across the entirety of the hands. It is possible to beat all the hands, but still lose the chapter and have to restart.
Don’t let the game fool you, it can be difficult; especially on hard mode when the goal challenges are increased. The game allows you to restart every hand as many times as you want to compensate.
As for the duels, there is even more RNG present. You have the field, the deck, the chance of your weapons to do damage or special effects, and the enemy attacking you. Defensive values go up over the course of the campaign which decrease the amount of damage your weapons do. The challenge of the game is figuring out how to get around the increased defenses of your opponents given what gear and items you have access to.
The game starts out slow in terms of gear synergies; I noticed around chapter 10 was when things started to get varied. Once you have enough equipment, the combat system becomes more puzzle-like as you try to create the best load-out to deal with the enemy’s quirks.
The Duchess of Games:
If RNG doesn’t bother you, Shadowhand is a great game and one of my favorites this year. The RPG layer adds a lot to the gameplay, and I hope that we see it developed further with whatever comes next from Grey Alien.
For more on the game, you can watch my new player’s guide and first look over on the Game-Wisdom YouTube channel.