First Impressions – Gilded Shadows Demo Review

Gilded Shadows is an upcoming cyberpunk fantasy visual novel developed by Steamberry Studios. This is the second project from the Australian based indie team and promises to be their most ambitious title to date, with it’s expansive cast of dynamic characters and immersive worldbuilding that borrows elements from the cyberpunk and solarpunk genres. Follow Morgan Leone, a young Esper with extraordinary abilities as she navigates the complex social hierarchy her homeworld and the factions that seek to use her powers for their own gain.

Game Details

Story

Arcalis is a planet with a complex history.

Centuries ago, when humans arrived, they found it abandoned. The only remnants of its previous society were massive bio-domes dotted on the surface and designed as protection from the hostile climate.

With one side of the world bathed in eternal day and the other cloaked in frigid night, the bio-domes are oases where people live sheltered from the scorching winds and storms. But whether in the bright, clean cities of the day side of the planet, or the poor and crime-ridden cities of the night side, life is never simple nor peace easy to come by.

When a fateful encounter exposes Morgan Leone, a young woman who has long hid her ESP, as a queen ranked Esper, she finds herself on the run from multiple factions eager to attain her abilities. Endgame, the planetary defense organization; Crimson, a notorious crime syndicate from Delphine; and even the shadowy group only known as “the Host” – each group sends operatives to retrieve her.

Now, with several paths open to her, she must choose her allies carefully. Between light and shadow lies grey twilight where the lines between good and evil are blurred. And in a world where the only constants are the endless day and night that divide the planet, Morgan learns those who can’t adapt…also can’t survive.

Characters

The Heroine

The heroine in Gilded Shadows is customizable, players can determine her physical appearance, from hair and eye color to skin tone. There are a wide range of combinations to help players craft their own one of a kind heroine.

In addition to determining the physical characteristics of the heroine, players can also customize her personality traits. Depending on your choices this will affect how Morgan reacts to certain situations and influence how your story progresses.

The Love Interests

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Ariel Vaughn: The stoic and logical knight of the Queen’s Guard. Ari rarely shows much emotion to those around him–even his closest friends. He is logical and work-minded, and is a little awkward with people he doesn’t know well. What will it take to stir the heart of someone who seems to try so hard to keep his emotions at bay?

Caissa Fianchetto: A rare king-ranked Esper, Caissa is a man who is cold, calculating, and ruthless–at least on the surface. There could be surprising warmth waiting for those who get past his frigid barriers. Or maybe, underneath it all he really is as cold-blooded as he seems.

Caleb Zheng: The hot-headed rook of the Queen’s Guard, Caleb is a man who is definitely a little rough around the edges. He’s known for his quick temper and grouchy demeanor. But perhaps there’s something more beyond his thorny exterior and a reason he always seems to push others away.

Jack Viscer: The smooth and flirty rook from Crimson, Jack knows exactly what he wants and how he wants it. But no matter how friendly he seems, there are shadows lurking in his heart and pain that sometimes flashes through his usually smiling eyes. His unhealed scars make it more difficult to get close to him than it initially seems.

Lance Basileus: A mysterious and kind man that lives alone in the wastes tending the plants in his greenhouse. Who is he? And how does he seem to know so much about everything else going on around the planet? What secrets is he hiding behind that gentle smile?

Magnus Ulrich: The not-so-venerable white king of Endgame. Forgetful, friendly, and prone to teasing Magnus doesn’t seem to command much respect from the organization he controls. And yet sometimes that joking tone is replaced with a coldness that startles even his closest companions. What is going through his mind when that silly smile turns harsh and calculating?

Quill Laurence: Quill is a quiet, serious man who is one of the council members in Nysa. He first moved into the Day Territories some fifteen years prior, after leaving Erebos and traversing the Trinity Desert with a few others.

Reuben Kelner: A special investigator whose work includes tracking down criminal Espers. Reuben is open and friendly, but a bit of a workaholic. A lonely man who can’t quite seem to find the time to maintain a personal life, Reuben is determined to protect Altair’s citizens from the growing threat of unregulated Espers. But he’d kind of like to find a girlfriend, in the process.

Yuu Sasaki: The flirtatious and eccentric rook who oversees Endgame’s Medical Division. Yuu is known to be somewhat of a strange man whose interest is piqued by anything out of the ordinary. Though viewed by some others as a bit of a maniac, he is both inquisitive and deeply passionate. Yuu often finds himself at the heart of Endgame’s most dangerous missions desperately ensuring none of the people under his care come to harm.

A Dangerous Game

I fell in love with the immersive worldbuilding and lore of Steamberry Studio’s first game, Changeling and it seems the team is bringing that an more with their sophomore title. Gilded Shadows is a high stakes sci-fi adventure that pulls you in with its futuristic world where fantasy and science are often one in the same. Follow Morgan, a newly awakened Esper with extraordinary abilities as she is caught between two very different groups, each of whom hope to use her powers for their own means. Uncover secrets about yourself that could very well change the fate of the entire world. Each faction sends a representative to try and sway Morgan to their side, but be careful who you trust, danger lurks around every corner.

There are a total of nine potential love interests, each with their own stand-alone routes and storylines that explore various aspects of the world. I am a sucker for good worldbuilding and Gilded Shadows has a premise unlike anything I’ve seen before, borrowing heavily from the cyberpunk and solarpunk genres, but with it’s own unique lore baked in.

I will admit that I’m not as familiar with Espers outside of what I learned about them in the The Melencholy of Haruhi Shizumiya series (and let’s be real that series liked to play fast and loose with logic), so I was glad for the immersive worldbuilding that goes on in the demo. From the start the team sets about establishing what Espers are and how they work within the context of the sci-fi world of the game. Espers are assigned different ranks (modeled after chess pieces), power levels, that grant them special abilities. Morgan is a from the Queen rank Esper, which is considered the strongest rank and possesses the ability to mimic other psi-waves of other Esper ranks. While Rooks like Caleb have the ability to physically enhance their bodies.

Like Morgan we know very little about the world of Espers and I like that we get to learn things with her in real time. I’m usually not one for exposition dumps, but while playing Gilded Shadows I found myself wanting to know more about the world and the characters. I loved all the LIs and the demo gives you plenty of time to get to know the major players and their abilities. Of course I have to give the team props for having such a great diverse cast of characters, one of the things I found lacking in Changeling was the melanin and I’m glad to see that Steamberry Studio has upped their representation. A futuristic sci-fi setting has such a broad scope, so it only makes sense that you’d find characters in all shades and hues.

But, what sets Gilded Shadows apart for me is how immersive the story is, in the vein of GB Patch’s Our Life Beginnings and Always, this game introduces choices that don’t just advance the story and shape the outcomes, but also determine Morgan’s personality. It’s a fun way to add a bit more flavor to Morgan while giving her more agency in how she interacts with other characters and the world around her. I did notice that some choices were locked based on the personality traits I picked during the MC customization, which I thought was cool.

All in all there’s a lot to like about the demo for Gilded Shadows and I definitely recommend giving it a try if you have the chance! There isn’t a set release date just yet, but with it’s dynamic cast and thrilling story, Gilded Shadows is a game you don’t want to pass up on!

More Info on the Team


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