Despite just being revealed to the world in December, Frozenbyte announced today that its "true stealth game" Shadwen will launch on May 17. The studio acknowledged that it's an unusually short time from reveal to release, but said it needed to get another game out fairly quickly after Trine 3 “didn't do so well,” and that a lot of the necessary groundwork had already been laid.
“There were some initial designs and plans of course that had been done before the actual production started late last year, and we used a lot of the tech that took a long time to make for Trine 3—the rope and movement animations being the biggest and most obvious ones,” a studio rep said. “So it was made in a rush, but we had a very focused plan and the result is something we're very proud that the team managed to pull off.”
The Trine 3 heritage is definitely there, although toned down quite a bit, and Shadwen herself has fairly obvious echoes of Zoya, that game's thief character. It's a little less light-heated and charming, though; I suppose the introduction of murder and hiding bodies away from the innocent eyes of a young orphan girl will have that effect.
I've been playing around with a pre-release build of the game, and so far I like what I see. It lives up to its billing as a “true stealth game” by making the lead character, an assassin with a serious mad on for the King, utterly vulnerable: She's an extremely effective killer from behind, but when she's spotted, it's game over. Not really game over, though, because instead of restarting or reloading, you simply rewind time, as far back as you'd like—a few seconds or a few minutes—and then take another crack at whatever you were trying to do.
Something more unusual about Shadwen's treatment of time is that it only passes when Shadwen is moving, or when the “pass time” key is held. That means you can take all the time you want to consider your moves before making them, and then execute them effectively. Releasing the movement key in mid-jump will halt the action, for instance, so you can fire your grappling hook or plant your landing with far more precision than a conventional action game would allow.
The version I played was still a bit wonky, as early builds tend to be, but it gives me hope that Shadwen will live up to its promise. More information about the game can be had at the Frozenbyte website, and a free demo is available from Steam, GOG, and the Humble Store.