Well, since I’m still reading the next novel I plan to review (“Resident Evil: Nemesis” by S. D. Perry), I thought that I’d take a look at an official expansion for the original “Shadow Warrior” that was developed by Sunstorm in 1997 but wasn’t released at the time and, instead, was released as freeware later.
I got this expansion as part of the “Shadow Warrior Classic Complete” game that, at the time of writing, has officially been made available for free on GOG. Unlike the enhanced commercial re-release, this free edition is a fairly barebones version of the original game, plus two expansions, that runs via a built-in DOSBox launcher.
And, after playing the modern remake of “Shadow Warrior” recently and then re-playing the original game for the sake of childhood nostalgia, I decided to check out “Wanton Destruction”.
So, let’s take a look at it:
One of the first things that I will say about this expansion is that, although it has some slight enemy design flaws, some moments that haven’t aged well and less stuff than I’d expected, it was actually more fun to play than the original “Shadow Warrior” was. This is because…
The level design in “Wanton Destruction” is, in a word, superb. Not only are the ten or so levels the kind of non-linear 1990s style levels that you’d expect, but they are also just the right size too. In other words, they are usually large enough to require you to explore, but small and focused enough that you won’t get stuck that often either. Not only that, there is a much greater level of creativity in the level design here than in the original game too.
Not only does the expansion start with a vaguely story-based segment (involving escaping from a flat), but the levels also include a variety of cool locations including a couple of really cool “Die Hard”-inspired skyscraper levels, a Chinatown-themed level, a secret military base, a level set on a plane, a couple of train station-based levels (including a brief train segment) etc… and most of the levels each follow on from the previous level too (basically the beginning of each level looks like the end of the previous one) which gives the player a real sense of progression.
In addition to looking cool, the wider variety of settings also allows for better gameplay too, with a really good blend of claustrophobic corridors, wide-open spaces, a few awesome set pieces (like walking on top of a plane) and even some fairly decent (and reasonably forgiving) first-person platforming. Needless to say, this results in the kind of thrillingly epic gameplay that would put many other FPS games to shame.
The expansion’s combat is as satisfyingly challenging as you would expect from a Build Engine game although, and it might be because I’m an experienced player or because the expansion is a little more generous with health and ammo, but it felt marginally easier than the original game did. Even so, the combat is still the kind of tough-as-nails fun that you’d expect from “Shadow Warrior” 🙂 However, there are some unintentional forms of cheap difficulty which let it down very slightly. And, this brings me on to the enemy design.
Unlike many 1990s expansion packs, “Wanton Destruction” doesn’t really seem to add much in the way of new enemies. Instead, it mostly does the classic mod thing of changing the sprites of a few standard enemies but not changing their programming.
Although this helps to set it apart from the original game and the sprites look fairly decent, the “ninja” enemies no longer have different trousers to tell you what weapons they are carrying. Instead, they have smaller hats that tell you this – which makes it more difficult to tell what you’re up against at a glance, especially in gloomier areas.
However, the replacements for the Guardian monsters do come in two different varieties (one has a blue coat and one has a red coat). But, saying this, I didn’t really notice any functional difference between them during gameplay.
The sound effects in this mod aren’t that good. The new voice effects for the ninja enemies are very annoying, to put it mildly. Not to mention that, instead of a terrifying roar, the sprite replacements for the Guardian monsters now just say “Souls!” in a deep voice. This is kind of cool the first time you hear it, but it seems a little random and underwhelming on subsequent encounters.
Still, the game also includes some new dialogue – which makes it seem like more than just a level collection. Whether you like this new dialogue or not will depend a lot on your sense of humour, although at least some of the new dialogue really hasn’t aged that well (eg: the segment involving Zilla’s secretary) and may be a bit cringe-worthy when heard today.
All in all, whilst this expansion has some flaws with the enemy design/ voice-acting and is more like a mod than an expansion, it is still a hell of a lot of fun 🙂 Thanks to the excellent level design, this expansion actually feels more thrilling and just generally epic than the original game did. Seriously, if you love ’90s FPS games, then this expansion is well worth checking out. Especially since you can (legally) get it for free too.
If I had to give it a rating out of five, it would get four and a half.