The Shrouded Isle for Nintendo Switch
The Shrouded Isle has you play as the high priest of cult devoted to the Cthuthlu-like god Chernabog. Your goal is to appoint advisors and encourage devotion to the Lord, while carrying out ritual sacrifices and weeding out heretics bent on undoing all your hard work. As the high priest of Chernabog, it’s your job to assure the coming of your Dark Lord and doing this requires managing a careful balance between a happiness of the five families that make up your allies, as well as the virtues required in service to your Lord. Ignorance, fervor, penitence, discipline, and obedience are all managed by the five aristocratic houses and it’s up to you to put your allies to work to ensure your village and its occupants are in the correct path, or you incur the wrath of Chernabog or lose control of your followers.
There’s actually a lot going on in a single game of The Shrouded Isle and you’ll need to select one advisor from each of the five houses to put to work every three months. They’ll complete tasks in order to raise the five main stats and though their actions contribute to one particular stat, advisors also have hidden virtues and vices that can impact other stats. You’ll need to balance the satisfaction of the five houses and advisors aren’t happy if they aren’t contributing in some meaningful way.
You’ll also need to be able to ritually sacrifice one advisor every three months as part of your cult status. Chernabog will whisper quest lines in your dreams that task you with finding specific heretics hidden in your ranks and sacrifice them instead. This means you’ll have to be on the lookout for specific vices in advisors who need to be murdered as quickly as possible.
As with most simulation titles, gameplay and story are meticulously intertwined, with what you are doing and how you perform said action. These are the narrative sections of The Shrouded Isle and as you slowly learn about characters, sacrifice them, and complete both random tasks and ordained sacrifices for your god. Forming a council of trusted advisors, dealing with non-compliant council members, and managing the happiness of your allies and stats of your people are what the story is all about.
The town of Shrouded Isle is where you’ll spend most of your time staring at low resolution portraits of advisors and reading text telling you what you just did and the effects it had on the various gauges that you need to balance. Aside from the odd cutscene of you slaughtering a formally trusted advisor, that’s pretty much all there is to The Shrouded Isle from a presentation standpoint. Both, the user interface and menus are clean and easy to navigate.
Information you need to make for important decisions is easily accessible. You’ll be able to quickly switch between screens to look up whatever you need and picking an advisor for a task will show you a rough approximation of what effect their selection will have on your most important stats. It’s well designed enough that you’ll always know what you’re doing and it’s also intuitive, which is great considering the lack of any type of tutorial section except for the various tooltips doing their best to replace an explanation of The Shrouded Isle’s workings.
I appreciated the inclusion of six different color scheme options, so you can make the aesthetic pleasing to your eyes depending on your personal preference. There’s not much in the way of music or sounds in The Shrouded Isle and what is there does not stand out from the regular sound effects you hear from other games. The music compliments the art style and setting well, being serviceable without ever recalling standing out. There are four different tracks depending on the season
On the surface, The Shrouded Isle seems like a simple balancing act, though it takes some time to wrap your head around what’s going on as there is no tutorial or any type a hints system. You are basically fending for yourself when you start a new game, and while this approach might be great for experienced strategy players, it’s almost impossible to learn for those new to the genre. After some attentive discovery and possibly restarting a few gameplay sessions, grasping the basics is fairly easy and that is the point where it becomes apparent how deeply intertwined The Shrouded Isle’s disparate mechanics actually are.
There are two distinct phases to The Shrouded Isle: selecting your advisors for the upcoming season and then putting them to work balancing your stats. The key driving force behind the gameplay is learning more about your advisors. Each house has six characters and each character has a virtue and a vice. Virtues positively affect stats while vices negatively effect everything.
There are three states of knowledge to these modifiers: knowing nothing, having a vague knowledge of what data is affected by which character, and knowing advisors exact characteristics and how much they’ll effect the stats when you call them into action during the second phase of a turn. You uncover more about them by making educated guesses depending on what they say when selected. You will need to run multiple investigations which will advance your knowledge of a chosen characters vice or virtue at random or by simply using them in phase two.
Vices and virtues are randomly assigned to characters and making educated guesses with a little luck thrown in to make informed decisions. As clues start to become fact and you start to weed out the sinners, as well as the more useful advisors, you do begin to realize how much depth The Shrouded Isle has, which is impressive for a game of this caliber. There are seven different endings and from what I experience, only one out of four were good. A positive ending can be achieved by merely surviving for three years to weed out all the sinners, meaning each play session will only take a couple hours at most.
Overall, The Shrouded Isle is an easy recommendation for anyone who likes experimental strategy titles. It definitely is an interesting take on the hidden identity genre and once you’ve gotten a handle on the gameplay systems and intertwining mechanics, there’s a satisfying, mildly challenging, cult management simulator. Limited replay value and lack of a tutorial hinder the what is otherwise a wholly unique game, just be warned it’s the type of game you’ll either love or hate.
Reviewed by Josh Brant on the Nintendo Switch. Game provided by Kitfox Games.