Shadowcaster is one of the most unique and addictive action/RPGs ever made, although it sadly never got the attention it deserved from the gaming public who were too focused on id's blockbuster Doom to play any other game. The plot is intriguing fantasy fare, which helps set the stage as well as explain gameplay features. You are Kirt, one of the last shapeshifters on Earth. As the game begins, you learn from your grandfather that your race, the shapeshifters, was almost killed off in a massive civil war centuries ago. Because this war displeased the gods, the gift of "morphing" was taken away and "The People", as they were called, began a slow decline. One god however had mercy on The People and declared that if they would keep watch against the return of evil (called Veste), they would be returned their gift. Just as grandpa is finishing his story, Veste's minion shows up and snatches him away. But not before he ports Kirt into the world of Shadowcaster to fight his way back to his pap and right the wrongs.
Wolfenstein-3D meets Ultima Underworld is a fairly accurate description of the gameplay: 3D action with RPG elements and puzzle-solving. The best innovation in this game is easily the ability to morph into seven different shapes, each with its own abilities and weaknesses. The shapes range from Maorin, a six-legged cat that can claw and see infrared, to Opsis, a floating eyeball who is physically weak but can cast many powerful spells, to Kahpa the frog man and even Ssair the fire dragon. You start out with Kirt who can kick, jump, and punch. He is also the only form in which you can regenerate power. The absolute necessity of manna adds a fun element of strategic planning, since you must return to Kirt form once in a while to regenerate. So if you are currently a Kahpa (frog), you need to plan where and when to go ashore to become Kirt again.
The puzzles are a lot of fun to solve, especially since they are not so much quests for items, as they are about finding out what to do with the items you already have, and what form you have to morph into to accomplish the goals. For example, one puzzle involves finding four statue heads to fit onto a sculpture. To reach some of these heads requires morphing into different forms, either to navigate (e.g. swim or fly over pits) or to dispose of the enemies. Speaking of enemies, Shadowcaster features typical AD&D monsters as well as original ones that must be killed in a certain way. The mouse/keyboard-combined interface is very user-friendly and can even be custom-arranged to suit your preferences (e.g. where you want the icons placed). The automapping is more than adequate, though it unfortunately doesn't allow annotations.
The game is quite easily one of the most inventive and addictive you'll ever play. Experiencing the environment as the different elementals alone is well worth your time, since each shape has a different height and moves at different speeds. These differences greatly increase the game's replayability, even though most puzzles have only one solution and it's quite linear in general. A must-play for all action fans, and RPGers who aren't afraid of real-time combat. Two thumbs up, way up!Reviewed by: Underdogs