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Video Game / Shadow Realms

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Shadow Realms was an Asymmetric Multiplayer Action RPG in development at BioWare Austin, creators of Star Wars: The Old Republic, until its cancellation in February 2015. It pitted a team of four players against a single Game Master-like player, whole role was supposed to be reminiscent of pen-and-paper RPGs (which BioWare's best known early games were derived from), with a human opponent providing flexibility and cleverness that an AI one can't. It was expected to be an Episodic Game, with the developers likening each episode to a session of a pen-and-paper game.

In terms of setting, the game appeared to blend of Urban/Modern Fantasy and Portal Fantasy, with action taking place both on modern Earth and in a connected magical world called Embra. The latter has been engulfed for some time in a war against an enemy called the Shadow Legions, and the war is now spilling over into Earth. Since Embra cannot win on its own, it has been recruiting from Earth, which has many latent magic-users who haven't reached their full potential in Earth's low-magic environment. Four players take the role of humans who have acquired magic powers and now fight the Shadow Legions, while the fifth player controls the opposing forces as a Shadowlord.


A game with a suspiciously similar setup (if not aesthetics), Breach, is currently in development at QC Games, a studio consisting of many ex-BioWare Austin developers.

This game provides examples of:

  • Action Bomb: One type of Harrowed can become this as a suicide attack.
  • All Myths Are True: The world of Embra is described as the place "where the magic, legends and monsters that inspired our myths are real".
  • Asymmetric Multiplayer: The gameplay experience of the four "regular" players is supposed to be quite distinct from that of the Game Master player.
  • Bad Powers, Good People: Possibly what the Warlock player class is about - they're described as dabbling in demon-related magic and suchlike, but "for the greater good" rather than as part of the Shadow Legions.
  • The Beastmaster: Seems to be the deal of the Ranger player character class.
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  • Better to Die than Be Killed: The general policy of hobgoblins, which is why not much is known about them.
  • Call to Adventure: The acquisition of new powers results in characters being "pulled into a dark realm and centuries old battle" against the Shadow Legions, perhaps implying that Refusal of the Call isn't an option.
  • Demon Lords and Archdevils: Subverted for the first boss characters revealed; they look the part, being Big Red Devils and all, and they're referred to as Demon Lords...but the Radiant Empire later found they're called the Knights of Moloch, and they regard themselves as Elite Mooks.
  • Episodic Game: The story is supposed to be "constantly evolving" and feature Cliffhangers.
  • Game Master: The Shadow Lord, the player controlling the Shadow Legions in a match. They can't control the landscape, but they can make traps, possess and directly control their minions, and spawn minions, much like a Gamemaster for a tabletop game.
  • Gone Horribly Wrong: This is apparently one possible explanation for the existence of the Harrowed - they are the result of a failed (or maybe technically successful?) attempt to achieve immortality.
  • Magical Land: Embra, the other world (besides Earth) in which the story takes place, is described as much more magical than Earth, to the point where visitors from it have traditionally considered Earth to be "a mere curiosity unworthy of sustained interest".
  • Magic Versus Science: On Earth, magic is weak, but we have technology. On Embra, magic is strong, but a lot of Earth technology doesn't work (guns being a notable exception). It's not yet revealed whether or not the two actually work to cancel each other or whether it's just a case of different rules in different worlds.
  • Magitek: The description of the Cleric class says that, among other things, they can channel magical energy through modern weaponry.
  • Mooks: The Hallowed are described as the footsoldiers of the Shadow Legions.
  • Necromancer: Apparently, Embra "has an abundance" of crazed necromancers.
  • New Super Power: A human player characters is someone who "suddenly awakens with magical powers".
  • Outside-Context Problem: The Shadow Legions seem to be this for the people of Embra.
  • Perfect Pacifist People: The Radiant Empires (on the high-magic world of Embra) were peaceful prosperous for thousands of years. Then they got invaded by the Shadow Legions, and found themselves ill-equipped to deal with the situation. This is why they've been getting help from Earth.
  • Portal Fantasy: Parts of the story will apparently take place in Embra, a world linked to Earth whose magic is the real source of many Earth legends. It's not certain whether players will ever be stuck there, like in a lot of the genre.
  • Powers via Possession: The basic Mooks, the Hallowed, can gain additional powers when being possessed by the Shadowlord (played by a human).
  • Recursive Precursors: The world of Embra has seen multiple civilizations rise to glory before annihilating themselves in various kinds of magical apocalypse (something which is made dangerously easy by Embra's magic-rich environment). The fact that the Radiant Empires didn't go down the same road is considered quite an achievement - but it didn't stop them getting attacked by an Outside-Context Problem.
  • Traumatic Superpower Awakening: The live-action teasers suggest that this can be the case.
  • Urban Fantasy: The portions of the game set on Earth would fall into this category, with demonic entities from another world intruding into cities of modern Earth. (Concept art shows fights in a subway station, for example.) Developer commentary specifically mentions the juxtaposition of fantastic elements and real life as a design objective for the game.


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