Slayer Shock is a Retro-licious, Indie Adventure title, with a smattering of RPG and Strategy elements thrown in for good measure.
The player takes on the role of a vampire hunter, paired with AI teammates who serve as guides, shopkeepers, and merchants at the base of operations, with a singular quest in mind: Protect the town.
Old School Slayer Fun
Slayer Shock feels like a Vampire the Masquerade: Bloodlines inspired mod for almost any first-person shooter circa 1996 -- which is perfect, considering that’s the era in which the game takes place. You begin in a basic tutorial, then wake up from a nightmare in a swanky, ‘90s sitcom-perfect Café. Here, you meet the rest of your team, AI characters that enable you to level-up, purchase equipment, and bonuses by way of jewelry. You can even customize your character slightly – that is, you can decide what your skin tone and nail polish (or lack thereof) looks like; it’s not a huge set of options, but the fact that it’s included is a nice touch.
From there, you have access to various locations on campus, each with a rating on a scale of 1 to 5. If you allow a location to reach 5/5 by neglecting to run damage control, you permanently lose access to that particular zone; over time, managing the danger meters on the other locations requires a little forethought, but it is really a minor strategy requirement overall. I did learn the hard way that if you have an AI teammate die, you won’t regain access to that feature – like the blacksmith – until you have another mission with a reward adding another teammate. I would have appreciated a little more warning, but I was relieved to see that you can regain lost AI characters down the road.
I felt like I was in a vintage Buffy the Vampire Slayer game, running around simplistic school campuses and abandoned woods, stabbing minions with my trusty stake. The soundtrack is killer for this paranormal world, and it totally nails a ‘90s coffeehouse vibe for certain.
Upgrades, Loot, and Repetition
Slayer Shock falls back on the old skill tree method of advancing your character, and you purchase these upgrades with the glittery piles of ash that appear when you kill the higher difficulty mobs. You can choose to have better combat, stronger stealth skills, more healing items, or a larger arsenal of weapons; I tried the stealth improvements first, since I was struggling to ever complete the optional objectives involving totally sneaking through a level, but I really didn’t see an improvement in the stealth gear. It felt like enemies, if they were facing towards me, always detected me, even if I was crouching; given the sparse amount of furniture and other obstacles in each level, it’s rather difficult to sneak.
Eventually, I came to prefer the progression of carrying more bandages, especially as I moved beyond “Season One” of the game; after you defeat the finale, you simply move on to the next season, until Season Five – the final set of levels. The trouble is, the modes start to feel repetitious after a while, and as my equipment improved I found the enemies less and less challenging. There are five difficulty levels in Slayer Shock, so you can scale it up considerably, but having played on Normal I can definitely say that once you get the hang of it, you’re able to rush quite a few types of missions. At times, you “patrol” from one end of the level to another; other situations require you to defeat a specific amount of Elites, or steal their loot, and so forth. I’d love to see more modes implemented and, naturally, I’m all for adding a Co-Op mode.
Slayer Shock has a vintage look, but it certainly plays better than many games from the ‘90s. It’s a nostalgic, Buffy-worthy trek into the past, with fairly challenging supernatural creatures, fun weapons – katana, anyone? – and a decent amount of strategy to be had. While I wouldn’t say the replay value is tremendously high once you complete each Season, it’s definitely a fun ride to get there; I was pleasantly surprised, given that at first glance Slayer Shock looks fairly mundane among countless other FPS style Action titles.
The soundtrack blends with fun, if simplistic, levels, and I enjoyed the variety in the missions. Obtaining more blueprints and equipment is fun, and the Hipster coffeehouse vibe makes for a unique safe house between adventures. Given its appearance, I expected Slayer Shock to be an Early Access title, but there’s actually a lot of polish in the graphics, and I didn’t encounter any bugs short of worrying that a glitch had locked me out of a crucial member of my team (though I later recovered them as a mission reward).
Still, the $19.99 USD price point is pretty steep for this style of Action title, especially given the repetitious nature of the “Seasons.” While I enjoyed the diversity of the weapon pool, I did just fine using my starting weapon stake for the bulk of my play-through; even the ability to Lockpick either stealthily or quickly is a bit lackluster, since the quiet mode is frustrating and the louder method won’t draw many enemies anyway. Ultimately, Slayer Shock is a great Retro-style choice, especially for us ‘90s kids who still love our supernatural fluff, but fans looking for a hardcore FPS game or something with more finesse might want to wait and grab this one on sale.