Games of the Year

Shadowhand

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Shadowhand is a strategic RPG card game. Duel powerful enemies with unique solitaire-style turn-based combat. Equip your character strategically to sneak, slice and blast through foes! We follow the story of Lady Cornelia Darkmoor, a beguiling young aristocrat who masquerades as the notorious highwaywoman, Shadowhand. Fleeing a crime scene and forced to act under the cover of darkness, Shadowhand's mission to safeguard a woman she holds dear leads to a web of corruption, smuggling and blackmail.
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Game Discussion

Review by Anonymous
Review from Steam

My Playtime: 18h (100% achievement, finished the game)
Grindy Achievement(s): No.
Optional Achievement(s): Yes (10 achievements).
Difficult Achievement(s): No.
Intro
Shadowhand is a solitaire game that is mixed with RPG elements. Although levels use solitaire as their core gameplay, it also has battles where you have to play solitaire in turn and hit each other. It has 22 chapters in total, with most chapters having 8 levels each.
Pros:
- 3 difficulties to choose from
- You need to change gears based on the enemy
Cons:
- Overly reliant on RNG - you need to restart levels several times to beat them
Specs
Intel Core i5-9300H 2.40GHz, 8GB RAM, NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1650
Should you buy this game?
Yes.
If you enjoy playing solitaire and are interested in playing a customized one, buy this game. However, be mindful that you need to restart each level several times due to its RNG-based nature.
In-Depth Review
Visuals
The visuals in Shadowhand look gorgeous with its realistic style and a darker palette. The only thing that was off to me was how the main character changed her hair color, making her look like a completely different person when wearing a disguise. The design for the cards is also neat, although the description can be hard to see, and hovering the card to zoom it in can be problematic if you have a lot of cards because of the animation delay.
Story
The story is hard to follow. Part of it might be because story segments are spread too far from each other and me restarting each level too many times, though. Sometimes I have no idea what was happening to the story, or why the main character was acting that way. I still get the gist of the story, but I felt like missing a lot.
The Game
Gameplay
Just like solitaire, you have cards scattered on the screen and some cards on a deck, which you can draw and reveal face up one at a time. Your task is to pick up a scattered card that is either one number up or down from the card that you draw. The catch is that you can only pick a card that is fully exposed - if a part of a card is covered by another card, you have to pick up the cards that are covering it first. What if you found no match? Well, you just need to draw another card. Repeat the process until the scattered cards are out. Unlike solitaire, Shadowhand also tries to spice it up by adding obstacles, powerups, and most importantly, different patterns of the scattered cards in each level.
The game is too reliant on RNG. If you have played solitaire, you might think that it's all luck, but there was actually a way to win it most of the time. Well, Shadowhand isn't like that. All cards will be randomized at the beginning, and it's possible to draw 5+ times and didn't find any match. You will have to restart the game a lot of times, especially at the first few levels if you are not lucky. The odds might improve later on once you unlock more abilities, but it will only reduce the number of restarts that you need to do - it's still gonna take a few restarts to beat a level. I myself have never finished a level in one attempt, for reference.
The RPG aspect helps to reduce the RNG, though. There are abilities, both active and passive, that can help you with changing the card on the field for the better. There are also stats that you can allocate to improve the odds of finishing the game. The most important one for me is the addition of spare cards, which you can pick up and save for later, preferably on other levels where you need them. These make the RNG more bearable, although sadly, it also means that the first few levels are more difficult since you don't have access to any of them at the start. I also didn't like the game at the beginning because of it.
Combat
Unlike solitaire, Shadowhand has combat. Combat is still conducted like solitaire, except that you and your enemy take turns in picking up the cards on the field. Doing so will increase the counter of your weapon, allowing you to attack the enemy. The more card that you pick up, the more extra damage you can unleash on the enemy. Sounds fun, right? If that's not enough, there are also consumables, armor, and weapon effects to make it more interesting. Consumables do various things from healing your HP to inflicting a status effect on the enemy, armors reduce enemies' weapon damage, and weapon effects vary from stun, blind, pierce armor, and poison based on the weapon that you use.
You need to mix and match your gear based on the enemy. Although you can inflict a status effect, it doesn't mean that they can't do the same thing to you. Each enemy has a different build focus, requiring you to check them and change your gear accordingly before each fight. You can change various pieces of armor to adjust your resistance, or change your weapon if the enemy has resistance to the status effect of the weapon that you use. This is what I liked about the game the most - this allows me to experiment and try new builds.
Sadly, the end game was almost focused on one build. Enemies have a high armor counter later on, and there aren't many weapons that you can choose to compensate for that. Piercing weapons that can ignore armor doesn't work all the time, and weapons that inflict status effects have damage lower than the enemies' armor - their damage will always get nullified because of that. The problem is, it's not happening because I was unable to buy other weapons; I already bought everything that I could, and although enemies have a better version of a weapon that I had, there is no way for me to obtain them.
Length and Difficulty
I finished 21 chapters with normal difficulty and the last one with very hard difficulty. It took me 18h to finish them. You can switch difficulties anytime you like. The game offers 3 difficulties, but they punish you more if you play the harder difficulties with lesser gold gain. Despite playing the game in normal mode, some levels still take me several retries to finish. It wasn't fun playing the game when I didn't have my stats maxed out, especially since I wasn't sure if it was wise to exhaust all of the resources that I have.
Conclusion
I thought Shadowhand was a card game at the beginning. Well, solitaire might be a card game, but I honestly thought that Shadowhand was more on the deck builder side. You might have weapons designed as cards, but you can ignore their existence as one and it would not change anything - the weapon will only be used in your equipment after all since the cards that are in your deck are playing cards. I didn't think that solitaire can be customized like this, to be honest, and I am impressed with how everything works out.
The quality is also another thing to praise. The visuals look great and combat works fine if you ignore the number of restarts that you need to do. The implementation of objectives at each level also helps to add challenges to the game and overall enjoyment. Both RPG and solitaire aspects surprisingly blend well together, and I would suggest you try it if you are curious about the combination.

Review from Steam

If you are like me and want a break every now and then from games that require you to dedicate your full attention, then this game is for you, it's very easy to understand and actually a good cards game, while watching a tv show or listening to a podcast, you will be able to multitask while playing.
like the tags say, it's a solitaire card battle game, you get to level up your character and equip it with gear, attribute points and boosts, opponents aren't easy, music is nice but I had to mute it most of the time so I can hear my shows.
I would get it on sale if I were you.

Review from Steam

Well haven't played solitaire or similar card games in a while, but Shadowhand was quite pleasant surprise. It did look pretty solid so decided to give it a try. 20 hours later and all gold stars on normal difficulty can say it was quite good time passer. There for sure is more challenge with some levels included as layout of packs and cards can really play ton how it will end, so RNG tends to play it's issues here, but characters skills, items do help quite much to deal with it, so Shadowhand doesn't become nuisance. Also one can have up to 10 special cards to play in hand to deal with tricky situations.
Levels are mainly two types, either solitary solitaire where one needs to get all of the cards from table, or maybe not? Keening on requirements for chapter to be filled among from many levels. And other being duels where card combo build up makes hits open for both sides and higher combos increase damage output radically. Some pocked items are included with good lot of different status effects and so on.
So what can say about Shadowhand, it has basic solitaire aspect, but it has very well mended to become RPG along with having several different ideas applied to make the solitaire part more interesting. Did highly enjoy this title and it gave good 20 hours or playtime among it's 22 chapter story.

Review from Steam

A really fun and challenging twist on a card-battler + solitaire + RPG mash-up.
Much deeper than this dev's other game "Ancient Enemy".
The story is a bit deeper and more developed, though don't expect a detailed quest-line or back-story. For a solitaire=based game, it's deeper than most.
More RPG elements than most similar games- with a skill tree, a huge variety of weapons and gear to choose from. Like to min/max? You may need to to beat the game in Very Hard Mode (I gave up on Very Hard- I hate min/maxxing.)
Art is good- not earth-shattering, but colorful, and crisp, with the protagonist changing appearance as you euqip different weapons and gear.Music is a bit loud, but appropriate for the game, and it can be turned down in the settings menu.
The game will most likely launch with an error the first time you play it- Full-screen does not work well, if at all. Change it to Borderless Windowed. If you change machines, you will likely need to change the settings on the new machine, as well as selecting your existing character- the game will restart as a new game. "Change Player" to find your existing character (make sure you have Cloud Saves enabled).
Like most solitaire-based card games, you will restart or replay hands a good bit. Expect to do so. 20.7 hours is what it took form e to complete the game in Normal difficulty, without trying to have all perfect 3-star hands. If you are a "perfect game" player, expect a fair number more, so you can restart or replay hands or chapters to perfect them.
Price? The $/hour is good, even at full price, IMHO. I got this on discount, as it goes on sale fairly regularly- bought it in a bundle not too long ago- I think it came out to 75% off. So, yeah. I am fine with the price I paid. Keep an eye on the price using SteamDB or isthereanydeal, or Wish List it to catch it at a deep discount if you are interested in casual games like this one.

Review from Steam

Solitaire with an RPG flair
Shadowhand is just that. You'll play as the character Lady Cornelia Darkmoor fleeing a crime scene and thus adventuring for a solution.
Gameplay
The game plays out in a series of chapters which the story is told through a mixture of visual novel elements, character sheet and inventory management while the main crux of the game is that of a semi-unique brand of Solitaire. It's kind of like what Puzzlequest is to Bejeweled but for Solitaire instead. You have cards 0-9 and you're able to remove cards from the field provided they are within 1 in either direction of the pulled card from the deck. There are other cards such as 'spares' that act as a sort of sort of 'hold' like you would hold a Tetris block and 'jokers' that behave as a sort of a wild card.
There's essentially two types of sequences outside of the visual novel. What I called 'exploration phases' and battles or duels.
During exploration phases, you are faced with clearing a certain number of cards using the deck and your own active abilities, abilities like removing a card you couldn't normally or shuffling cards on the field, knocking some off the board etc. These, among other items, weapons, gear and abilities can be bought and sold through the merchant during specific stages within chapters. Items or quest objectives are also done in these exploration phases.
Obtaining gold is done mostly in this exploration phase as well, combos end when you draw from deck. So it behooves you to keep your combo going, adding a multiplier to the gold extraction value.
There are also suits on the cards and special cards, some stages will ask that you remove certain types of suits to unlock new rows or stacks while other will ask you to, for instance, find a key to unlock a row or stack that is locked — find a lantern to light up darkened cards etc.
During combat phases, the game takes precedence over needing to clear cards off the field rather to instead deal damage to an opponent. This is done by charging weapons with cards.
RPG elements
Since this is not really an RPG and very little roleplaying is involved, the base stats are not something you'd intuit.
• Guile finds more joker and spares
• Willpower reduces the charge required for active abilities
• Insight starts with more cards facing up
• Finesse draws better cards out of the deck.
• Prosperity makes more gold appear under cards.
• Luck removes extra playable cards in your favor.
Some weapons or situations will award collecting specific suits or specific numbers. For instance, one sword auto-charges when an eight is collected. Other weapons have “types” like Sea or Land among others. Some enemies have resistance to these types. While some weapons say melee, the “Sailor's Cutlass” for example, is a sea type.
Duels have you take turns trying to collect cards to charge your weapons and active abilities. Duels also have no limit to the number of hands played, but exploration phases only have one.
The Gist
It's a nice, if not somewhat challenging experience due to the unique rules and scenarios it presents. The exploration and combat phases do have randomized cards but are otherwise very scripted as far as the objectives. I would still probably wait for a sale unless you're very interested in twists on Solitaire.
If you've found this review helpful, consider following my curation — Station Argus

Review from Steam

Interesting and challenging RPG/Solitaire game set in 18th century England with an attractive young female protagonist who becomes an outlaw to solve crimes.
Excellent artwork, the cards remind me a lot of MTG in style and detail, but the gameplay is much simpler since it's just Solitaire. But it's not easy and actually quite challenging. Also has many items & cards to equip and attributes to set when leveling.

Review from Steam

If you liked "Regency Solitaire" from Grey Alien, as I did, this is even more enjoyable! I have played this all the way through about 4 times now on each difficulty setting, and now I wish I had more games just like it. The unique mix of solitaire, card battling, and story telling are something hard to replicate.
You can tell a lot of care was put in to this by the developers. There are 22 levels with something like 150 total hands to play with truly gorgeous art and lovely classical background music; all just so much to love. I appreciate the ability to change around her costume pieces (I'm always a sucker for dress-up games LOL) as well as her weapons as you unlock them!
I got a laugh from the clever tongue-in-cheek references to all the members of King Arthur's court in the swamp; as well as several little winks to various pop-culture hidden in descriptions of weapons and clothing, especially the blink-and-you-miss-it nod to Wonder Woman when you equip the Diamond Bracers.
The characters designs are interesting and diverse, and I appreciate how the storyline gets resolved at the end. Yes, it's no big mystery or "shocking twist" or what have you; but I wasn't expecting it to be! The closure felt like it came at a good spot.
Overall a great single-player card battler/solitaire that is casual and low-pressure, without being boring. I'd buy it again!

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