Tactical RPG Masquerada: Songs and Shadows is already available on PC, but console players have been on the outside looking in. That changes when the title launches for PS4 later this year. I got a chance to take Masquerada for a spin during E3 and walked away eager to wrap my hands around the finished console port.
Masquerada stars Cicero, an exiled private investigator who returns to the city of Gitte della Ombre after years of banishment. He’s tasked with locating the whereabouts of a missing diplomat, kicking off a grander political mystery. Ombre has been embroiled in a civil war over the possession of mascherines, masks that grant tremendous powers to its wearers. Rebels have been stealing mascherines from the oppressive upper society that have long hoarded the magic to themselves.
Combat blends tactical planning with real-time action. Cicero can move freely around the battlefield, dealing automatic melee attacks to targets. It felt liberating to maneuver around skirmishes as I pleased, letting me flank enemies for maximum damage. Combat can be paused to let players strategically plan actions that then play once when gameplay resumes. The mechanic is not unlike the tactical style of Supergiant Games’ Transistor, a title the developer cited as a primary influence for Masquerada. Pausing the action is extremely helpful in hectic situations, especially for lining-up projectile attacks.
Mascherines come in four elemental classes–air, water, earth and fire–that grant specialized attacks, such as the air class' cyclone blade assault. Three Stances grant buffs such as increased movement speed and reduced damage while remaining stationary. Party members only sport one Stance, but Cicero can utilize multiple Stances in a chosen element. The Stance’s button placement on the D-pad made swapping between them on the fly quick and intuitive, letting me constantly adapt to changing battle conditions.
Magic can be chained together via an Elemental Tag system. In one battle, I conjured a water spell and followed up with a flurry of ice projectile attacks that dealt bonus damage due to the enemies being soaking wet. It’s a neat wrinkle that provides further strategic options in combat.
Although the prologue was slow to ramp up, Masquerada became good fun the moment Cicero donned his magical party mask. Gameplay features a breath of strategy and the colorful Venetian aesthetic combined with a fleshed-out and imaginative universe, giving the game unique flair. If you own a PS4 and dig tactical RPGs, Masquerada: Songs and Shadows is worth keeping on you radar.