Can it shapeshift into a better game?
Have you ever wished you could be something else, like a fish, or a shaggy dog, or a Transformer? If games could dream, Shifters would spend all day fantasizing about the mask-swapping adventures of Link in Majora's Mask. At the very least, Shifters would want to be Altered Beast in three dimensions. Sadly, dreams don't come true in this bare bones, futile effort.
Shifters is the spiritual sequel to Warriors of Might and Magic. Ultimate evil has again arisen and taken over the land and once again it's up to one guy to stop it, blah, blah, blah. The hero of Shifters is Alleron, the same oddly dressed gay magician from Warriors.
But this time, when you tire of Alleron's antics, you can shift him into another form. By finding rare and special shape-shifting crystals, Alleron can be morphed into a sub-form of a number of different species. Some of the species include Bestials, Genies, and Automata. Alleron can upgrade the sub-form to more powerful guises by battling other creatures and collecting minor crystals.
Each species has certain innate abilities like higher jumping or resistance to poison that can be used to reach secrets areas. However, all these different forms and species are really nothing more than copies of the enemies you are fighting.
The combat mechanics follow Zelda's lead, with lock-on targeting, slashes, and evasive maneuvering. It's fun and easy in a shallow way, up until the point you realize that the enemies are mentally retarded punching bags. They just stand there and let you wail away on them.
When the enemies finally do fight back, there's little you can do to defend in close battle. The block isn't quite responsive enough, but once there's a break in the opponent's attacks, the tables turn again. While there are combos in the game, it isn't even necessary since you can just use your basic attack to dispatch most enemies.
Your lock-on ability will target the nearest enemy, though occasionally the game sends whole scores of baddies to surround you. While fighting one, the others will take cheap potshots at you. Why couldn't they just tune up the fighting?
The different worlds you travel cover great amounts of land, from wide-open spaces to the tight corridors of a dungeon. This is easily the game's best feature, as some of the levels even include multiple paths to get to the next area. But as you transition from one area to the next, the game will ask you whether or not you would like to "progress." While helpful in allowing you to remain in one area to further explore, the line of questioning coupled with the inherently excessive and disruptive loading times only further negate the feel of a consistent world.
There are many mini-quests to undertake, but there's no proper reward system in place. You could spend hours gathering things to give to someone, and at the end of the web of item trading, the last guy will give you a terse "thank you." Maybe you'll get a few upgrade points, too. Whoop-dee-doo.
Perhaps there's one mini-quest in here that will lead to some grand reward, but as it stands, the game does a very poor job at rewarding you for your efforts. And even if the reward is some more battle strength, what's the point? You can just button-mash your way to victory, anyway.
Shifters is unspectacular visually and really nothing more than a high-resolution Playstation game. The environmental modeling limply follows archaic conventions of boxy buildings and dull textures. Picture barren, building block worlds against a flat, powder blue sky. The camera also goes awry when trapped within narrow corridors and hallways.
At least there are a few clever animations thrown into the mix. Playing as an undead skeleton and taking a fall results in an unintentionally funny sprawl. The lumbering elephant form rolls its free arm as it walks. But thanks to the crummy camera, the enormous size of the elephant obstructs your playing view.
The central problem with Shifters is its purpose. The game really doesn't offer anything interesting aside from the whole shape-shifting thing, which is does poorly. With empty battles and bland side-quests, the point of it all is lost. Even though the game is set at a lower price point, that isn't an excuse for a lousier game.