Shadows of Doubt Hands-On Impressions

Shadows of Doubt Hands-On Impressions

By  Andrew Duncan - 21st Apr 2023

Can you stop the serial killer before they strike again?

Shadows of Doubt Hands-On Impressions

Enter the world of Shadows of Doubt which is run by the world’s most powerful corporation — but that has nothing to do with you, you’re down on your luck and have a murder to solve! Entering Early Access usually means that a game is fairly bare-bones, but that’s not the case for this ColePowered Games-developed procedurally generated mystery.

In its current state, you start the game presented with a name. Looking them up in the phone book, you locate their apartment and find them dead, having recently been murdered. Since you’re a semi-retired private investigator, you take it upon yourself to solve the case by checking phone records, digging through bins, scanning fingerprints, hacking computer terminals, bribing people, and you took too long so now there’s another corpse.

Straight up, that’s what I absolutely love about Shadows of Doubt. There’s a killer loose and they will kill again. Everyone in the city is on a schedule that they’ll try to keep barring you handcuffing or knocking them out, even the murderer. Of course, I only know for a fact that they will kill a second time, but from that I’m extrapolating that they’ll keep on until they’ve taken out everyone on a list. However, I do know that they’ll take their target out even if you’re in the room with them! 

I was in a living room having a look around, turned around to find a corpse where the resident had been alive moments earlier! I chased the killer downstairs, who was luckily already on my list of suspects, and put them in handcuffs. If I hadn’t known who to look for, however, it would have been difficult to find the culprit as those staircases can get busy! Some buildings are 15 or more stories tall, I’m just glad the residents stay healthy leaving the elevator for you to use at your leisure.

As I mentioned earlier, the city you’re in is procedurally generated from a seed — a code that will generate the same things if used — and Shadows of Doubt launches with one “tutorial” city, as well as a sandbox mode. However, just because it’s from the same seed doesn’t mean that you know who the killer is, where they live, or how they’re going to murder as each thing changes upon each generation.

Once you’ve identified the suspect, you fill in a form with their name and address and hand it in for evaluation. You get bonuses for locating the murder weapon, proof they were there, and handcuffing the perp, but those aren’t necessary to close a case. You get fined for identifying an innocent person, though, so it’s not like any name will do. Every murder has clues that help you solve the case, from the handful I’ve completed I’ve never handcuffed the wrong person.

To aid you in your cases — did I mention that the city has multiple sequential serial killers? — you have access to a handful of gadgets. Lockpicks are the main one, useful for opening doors and disabling security systems. Door wedges can keep a door closed to keep people out, or in. Bloodhound trackers can be planted on people so that you can track them on the mini-map. There are two types of grenade for blinding or knocking people out. There’s a few more, but admittedly I didn’t find much use for many of them.

On the other hand, this being a sci-fi dystopia you can augment yourself with Sync Disks. Each one has a different ability, such as placing mining software on every computer you access, getting money for taking photos, or giving you a massive addiction to Starch Cola. Okay, that one also gives you 5,000 credits for installing it, but you’re going to need to drink Cola literally every five minutes otherwise you will start to shake, your vision will go blurry… Most Sync Disks can be upgraded, and you obtain them either by finding them at random, or receiving them for completing side missions. 

You can get side missions at diners, usually things like “steal this” or “take a photo of a person who matches this profile”. At the start of the game you’ll have no information about anyone, but the more you look around, the more data you gather. For instance: the murder victim worked at this office, so you look around and read through the employee files. Later on, you have to take a photo of someone who works there, lucky for you you already have a photo and home address, so you can find them easily! I had one side mission which gave me a place of employment and a height, that was a tricky one…

As I alluded to, Shadows of Doubt has status effects with addiction being one of them. You can get cold which also makes you shiver, more and more the colder you get, so you have to warm up. If you jump off of a balcony or get shot you might break a leg and need a splint to be able to run again. You get energised from food, well rested from sleeping in a bed, fall over when drunk… For a game about spending hours tracking people down, I can honestly say that I didn’t expect such rich survival elements! Don’t worry about getting knocked out, though, you’ll wind up at the clinic at city hall and just have to pay to get out. Or try to sneak out…

In my best Columbo impression: one last thing. Shadows of Doubt already has Twitch integration. You can turn the licensed music off, and populate the city with your viewers’ names! I don’t stream and I think that’s an awesome feature.

Honestly, Shadows of Doubt is the type of game I’ve been after for a long time. I wanted a mystery that I had to solve, like an escape room but not confined to one area, a point and click adventure without the esoteric puzzles, and an open world that’s not just empty space. A pure puzzle with no on-rails solution, let me choose my own adventure that doesn’t save the world, just gives me enough money to furnish my apartment. If you feel like me, you’re going to love Shadows of Doubt.

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