The art of sleuthing would require any adept sleuther to arm themselves with a magnifying glass, a pipe (you don’t even have to smoke it, it just looks cool) and an assistant who does all the work for you. Have you ever heard of an investigator having to collect a form to have permission to investigate a murder? That is what’s going on in this hyper-industrialized world, and what we’ll be dealing with in our Shadows of Doubt review.
Shadows of Doubt is a highly immersive open-world sim where you have to, well, investigate. In an alternate heavy industrialized 1980s, everyone lives under a heavy layer of smog. The game offers a pre-loaded serial killer case or design a new one from scratch, along with the city where you’ll do your sleuthing. This might allow, theoretically, infinite replayability.
The case begins with a mysterious message under your door, where we’ll start getting names and addresses to visit. Soon the first body will pop up: we have to investigate apartments, get clues, and phone numbers and decide our path. Do we decide to visit the victim’s workplace or the last place he was in before biting the bullet? There is no right or wrong answer, just two different approaches. For example, break into the office or persuade the people in the restaurant to talk to you – your choice.
The first thing in Shadows of Doubt is that you’ll be entirely free to do what you want. The game is built-up to allow the freedom to talk to anyone, and ask them for information. You can also follow whatever approach you like to get your information and use the many tools at our disposal. It all ends with a citizen arrest, complete with handcuffs. Honestly, such a large freedom of choice might easily get overwhelming so that’s where the interface comes in. With the game still in early access, it could still use some refinement, but the “board” approach – where we pin relevant info to revisit later – works well and adds character.
Honestly, I found it difficult to play the main story because I had so much fun just following different approaches and seeing the reactions – it’s that good. The interactions with people are just limited to asking a set of questions, and there is no “free text” interface (or, God forbid, ChatGPT integration). There are so many different objects and places to look at and explore because Shadow of Doubt has a living world that goes about its business while you are busy investigating. Also yes, indeed you have to collect an official murder investigation form before you can start. Bureaucracy doesn’t leave you alone even in dystopias.
Having played the Steam Fest demo, I noticed there were some updates to the inventory management interface. Unfortunately, with inventory being limited, the abundance of things you can pick up is rather useless in the long run. Perhaps, a different system would make things a little more entertaining for the player. Shadows of Doubt also seems to be more easily playable with a mouse + keyboard combo, rather than with a controller. Interacting with the inventory, board of clues, map and the real world gets a bit too much with just a few buttons.
The graphics are blocky and heavily pixelized in the classic voxel style. While not exactly my cup of tea, it definitely works for this open-world style. Plus, they helped the developer to not abandon the project. Despite these few minor annoyances, Shadows of Doubt is an incredibly interesting and unique approach to adventure via “job simulation”. While there is not a whole lot – for now – in the way of actual story and plot, the roadmap promises more NPCs interactions, side jobs and integrations to the story.
Shadows of Doubt is one of the more unique approaches to the sleuthing genre I have played so far, combining the simulation aspect of collecting clues and tracking down suspects with an interesting dystopian world. It feels close to ours but also removed enough to be different, and everything clicks perfectly. While there are still ways in which the developer can improve things, like the controls and interface, I can’t commend the work they have done on the game enough. I’m looking forward to seeing the updates down the road, but for now, let me go back to my magnifying glass…
Our Shadows of Doubt review was made possible with a key made available by the 71 PR. The game is available on Steam.
Shadows of Doubt: Shadows of Doubt is a unique combination of job simulator and adventure game, providing hours of play and exploring a dystopian hyper-industrialized world. – Damiano Gerli