The Shrouded Isle is a simulation management game published by KitFox Games (Twitter). It is available to purchase on Steam, priced at £7 / $10. Kitfox games provided me with a review key.
My morbid mission seems simple. Keep my village in shape (aka cowering) for three years (twelve game turns) so that we can appease the demon Chernobog and be ushered into the apocalypse whilst in his favour. The end is nigh, and as cult leader I must decide which villager to sacrifice each year. Sometimes that’s an easy choice. This young Cadwell was an artist, polluting minds with her creativity and we simply cannot have that. Sometimes I have only a few minor transgressors to choose from, yes, he asks too many questions and ugh, she seems to be sympathetic to others whilst this one likes reading books… but is that really punishable by death? Well.. someone has to go and I’m certainly not going to kill the Sadist, he’s working miracles!
You have to work out a delicate balance. You must keep each house happy or they will revolt, you must keep your five important stats balanced and of course most importantly, you must ensure you follow the dark whispers that Chernobog utters. Ignorance, fervor, discipline, penitence and obedience, you can’t be a good cult without all those in abundance. This is a dark, brooding and depressing Lovecraftian management simulation. The art is a simple monochrome aesthetic in three hues, each more ugly than the next. Delightfully ugly though, which really describes the game throughout. The music is jarringly appropriate and the overall atmosphere is one of evil and malevolence. That’s pretty impressive considering this is a 2D text management game with three colours and almost no animations. My 4 month old son is not very well at the moment and his grizzling cries as we sat together playing this game (another game for my “one handed mouse gameplay list”) added beautifully to the ambience.
Each turn has you choose 5 advisors from each house. From these five, someone will die. They will also be the ones who take actions for this turn so you must choose a careful balance to ensure that you have advisors who can meet your current status needs and to be sure to have a worthy sacrifice afterwards. Each house member has a perk and a vice – randomly generated. These start out hidden, then you get an idea for the category they’re in and finally unlock the specific trait. If your reputation with that house is high enough, you’ll get the option to discover a trait from someone, otherwise they can be randomly discovered whilst taking actions. After choosing your five, you begin the turn. You now have three months and must choose between one and three advisors to take their house action each turn. The aim is to balance everything perfectly – your stats and your reputation, through the months and years, whilst discovering who has the most murderable traits. What fun!
It does have one major flaw; a single game should last about an hour. You can complete the game and not “win” (get the good ending) and then start again, but once you’ve won once or twice and discovered most of the vices and experienced the events, this is going to have little replayability. With RNG involved, it’s possible to die a lot in the first year – or get a combination that makes the game seem easy. Getting “lucky” in this game could actually drastically decrease your playtime. I enjoyed the challenge at the start, but having played it for a few hours can get through one game quite quickly now.