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Masquerada intrigues with a promising story and tactical combat

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Masks and magic!

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Masquerada: Songs and Shadows is an upcoming RPG from Witching Hour Studios. We got to try this build of Masquerada before its Kickstarter launch on April 21. So let me tell you a little bit about it.

Masquerada takes place in a Venetian-inspired city called Ombre. Inspettore Cicero Gavar has returned from his exile to solve a kidnapping case. He’s joined by Kalden Azrus, a Mariner who gets involved in the case. There are loads of factions, but the people we clash with in this demo are the Maskrunners — a gang who have been rebelling against the nobles in power and stealing masks. These masks are really important, but more on that later.

After dressing up as Maskrunners, Cicero and Kalden infiltrate their part of town to continue the investigation. Having played this quick demo, I’m pretty intrigued to learn more about the mystery they’re solving, and the characters involved. Masquerada has Jennifer Hale and Matthew Mercer attached as voice talent. In interviews, the developers have said that the game has a 500-page script. Story is clearly going to be an important part of Masquerada, but this is a demo so it’s mostly about the gameplay.

pausing gives you a moment to breathe and strategize in what are generally really fast-paced fights.

Masquerada uses a pausable real-time combat system. At any time in these battles I can pause the game and swap characters, or line up attacks. I can do the same things in real-time but pausing gives you a moment to breathe and strategize in what are generally really fast-paced fights.

Each of the characters has a set of magical abilities. Right now each of my characters has three abilities, plus a special ability associated with the mask they’re wearing. In Masquerada, the Venetian-style masks that the characters wear are tied to elemental magic. Elemental attacks have a cool-down time. The character I’m not actively controlling will keep auto-attacking unless I take the reins.

Each of the characters in my party right now has an attack with a big area of effect, and a more focused elemental attack, as well as regular melee attacks. Kalden can also heal party members, while Cicero summons up familiars to fight alongside him.

Their mask abilities are tied to their class. Kalden’s mask's power makes him a more effective tank, while Cicero’s encourages movement, because he leaves trails of fire damage in his wake.

Some of these attacks leave elemental tags on enemies. You can activate those tags with another attack of the same element to up the damage, or combine elements for additional effects. In this video you can watch what was for me the toughest fight of the demo. One of the enemies also has a nasty AoE attack, and it takes a lot of tactical magic use to get results.

Masquerada is coming out on PC, Mac, and PlayStation 4. You can check out this full demo yourself at PAX East. It'll be on the show floor at booth 8224.