Afternoon, dick joke! Ah, dick joke, what a happy day this is, isn’t it? You’re telling me, dick joke! Shadow Warrior 2 is a little bit like playing dick joke tag, going above and beyond to task every single writer with a dick joke quota. The good news is that everyone surely got their bonuses with this game.
Flying Hog Games are responsible for this dick basket’s overflowing nature, leading to an insane amount of juvenile humor throughout. Your character’s name is Lu Wang – guess where that goes. He carries lots of phallic weaponry – guess where that goes. Indeed, all roads lead to dick jokes. I would be lying if I said none of it made me smile because brazen pandering to the lowest common denominator is slightly funny in and of itself. Does that mean I needed a full game of genitalia references bookended by “that’s rude” comebacks that never change anything? You’re damn right I did not.
Butttt that doesn’t make Shadow Warrior 2 devoid of good grace. On the contrary, there is certainly a personality inside this tightly-wound package that, while not my bag, does stay consistent. Wang is basically Duke Nukem if he was against the Yakuza, which leads to some really great tiptoeing between a huge array of skills and weapons. The whole package is a satisfying thrust into swift arena battles that soars above par.
The story within Shadow Warrior 2 is, believe it or not, pretty dense with lots of spiritual and scientific terms flying around. Wang is a mercenary that becomes semi-attached to the plight of Kamiko as her body is to become a vessel for the end of the world through…again, science-y words. It was surely gibberish on paper but the dedicated and slow turn of Wang, ever so slightly, into someone that cares a tiny bit about someone else holds some water.
Swordplay is much more engaging to me as Shadow Warrior 2 maintains the speed of a shooter like Doom inside of a different, much more varied web. You’ll be fighting against everything from demons to plant life with a mixture of swords, claws, guns, arrows, and more. Again, the swordplay is the highlight, not so much the gunplay because that angle offers very little new. You can become very adept with the various options on that end but DPS boosters can make melee combat feel way more satisfying thanks to the physics. Where you slice is where the bodies fall, creating some macabre chunk piles of organic enemies after a few swings.
The rage meter and powers also seem angled towards melee. Rage is a straight-forward boost of about 10 seconds to damage and speed, giving the slicing action of your sword feel amazing. The powers, such as spikes or a push shield, trap some enemies in place or otherwise displace them for better quickdraw situations. Melee can also offer energy slices and other boons of a limited supply.
My lean towards melee probably stems from the simple fact that ammo and reloading feel unnaturally elongated in Shadow Warrior 2. There is personality in the way Wang flips the gun and the clip stylishly, but when I’m surrounded by monsters by the dozen, I’m not one to hand out style points. Plus, the obvious problem of guns with no bullets feels like a frequent visitor early on. Meanwhile, swords need no bullets and can hand out slicing justice all over the place.
The environments have random elements that serve more as building blocks ala Bloodborne’s chalice dungeons. You’re, more or less, going to find the same architecture rotated slightly and filled with different loot, which is fine as long as you’re not expecting anything more involved. Speaking of, I do find the loot very enjoyable with the highlights being asshole fortune cookies and lore books. You’ll very rarely find a gun for your troubles too, all of which shows up well on the mini-map.
Missions are plentiful at the main hub area that also gives you access to new cards (perks), new weapons, and challenges. The cards come naturally and allow you to pump buffing levels into healing, for example, to serve as a really rooted skill tree. Challenges are exactly how you imagine them with rewards often being skill points and the usual. Weapons come in various shapes and sizes with some knowing references to other media. Early shooters are quickly outclassed or never even saw my weapon wheel, but each of the weapon types offers some plus-and-minus dynamic to consider.
Shadow Warrior 2 mitigates those balances with gems, which must number in the thousands. The usual rarity scale applies from silver to deep orange offering percentage buffs, elemental damage, and tougher enemy damage increases. This serves as the deepest well in the game by far. With each weapon coming with three available slots, you’re mostly free to craft death machines to your liking. I personally kept my main sword neutral with as many buffs I could find that took away ammo because I’m clever, then made my weapons one of the various elementals. Because I’m obsessive.
The negatives of this weird little world mostly revolve around missions and spawns. To only be able to take one bounty at a time when there are dozens feels farcical at this point. Wang’s teleport has added about 2 hours to my life to turn in missions for the exact same reward each time. Dying inside the missions can also lead to a suicidal loop if you do so during a fight with Mist creatures that agro anywhere you are on the map. There’s also a fair amount of stuttering and technical issues that do eventually weigh down the experience.
There is co-op but I’m doubting that the GOG community for Shadow Warrior 2 is thriving as I can’t seem to find anyone. Maybe you’ll find better luck on Steam or elsewhere. Let me know how it is!
Recusing myself from that section, Shadow Warrior 2 is pretty damn good for a walking, talking dick joke. It’s equally entertaining and welcoming for the decent time that it lasts and then leaves us wanting…well, no, not wanting. It stays just long enough. Despite the stiff issues and dating, both intentional and unintentional, we have us something supremely worthy of the entry fee – for fun and humor.
You know, just like a dick joke.
Shadow Warrior 2