Shotgun King Review (PS5) – You probably came here to find out what the hell Shotgun King is, well, I knew nothing about it before this review either. Shotgun King is one of those unadvertised, stealth-release-type games that have flown relatively under the radar.
Shotgun King is a rogue-lite, chess-based game with shotguns. I know, I know, sounds mad right? I play chess, not as much as I would like to and love rogue-type games so this, to me, is a match made in heaven. Throw in some classic presentation elements and surely we have a winner.
Shotgun King Review (PS5) – A Board Game Classic With A Modern Twist
Knight To E-BOOM
You play as the Black King and the rest of your loyal army has deserted you and joined the white side of the board. You did have one loyal subject left on your side until you grabbed a shotgun and started filling enemy pieces full of holes and lead. So now you must, alone, with your trusty shotgun, wipe all the white pieces from the board and kill the White King.
Shotgun King is a turn-based rogue-lite. So you will, on your turn either move or blast fools with your shotgun. Then the enemies, which are a set of white chess pieces will move and try to kill you.
You cannot move anywhere where you would be in ‘check’ and believe me when I say this, these white pieces take no prisoners.
Luckily for mid-range chess players like me and those new to the game, you have shields to help you. These shields disappear if you move to somewhere you would be killed and stop you from making bum moves. You have two by default but can change the amount in the options.
They do help a little but even with two, do not stop you from making a tit of yourself and getting taken by a pawn. I saw the game-over screen far too often by making a silly move.
Rooks And Rogue-Lite’s
Chess stuff aside, what makes this game truly unique is the rogue-lite stuff and the shotgun. Upgrades, weapons, game-changing rule changes and stuff really turn the game of chess on its head. The other thing you can do on your turn, instead of moving is firing your shotgun. You aim with your right stick and fire with R2.
You start with basic stats but through the completion of levels can manipulate your stats and the rules of the game.
Whenever you complete a level, you are given a choice of two sets of two cards. Each set has one good card and one bad, so every choice is a balancing act. Picking the correct combination after every level is vital to success and can move your build in weird and wild directions.
You can get different weapons, better range, more power and even free moves. It is a tangled web of chess-based decisions and remarkably, it works.
We should also mention the reload/ammo mechanic. By default your shotgun can hold two rounds and have a limited ammo capacity. Moving reloads one cartridge and after using all your ammo, moving gives you one shot back into your ammo capacity.
This system is just enough to take your concentration off the game but also not too much to become annoying. Plus upgrades give you ways to manipulate it too.
Classic, Unique Beauty
As well as the gameplay being truly unique and entertaining, the presentation of Shotgun King is superb. I mean, most people will look at it and think I am insane but I grew up in an era of chiptunes and 8-bit graphics and the presentation on display here hits me in the feels.
It’s basic, it’s classic and sounds like it was dragged straight from my childhood.
That’s not to say there is nothing clever here though. There is a nice little system that changes the visuals of pieces depending on what cards you pick in order to help you keep track, which is very helpful indeed. The sound work is awesome too, it’s crunchy, it’s visceral and a breath of fresh air.
We Need Games Like Shotgun King
Shotgun King will not be to everyone’s tastes, hell, I don’t think it will be for most people’s tastes but it has the thing I want most from gaming. Originality. It is not often these days I play things that I find unique or original but Shotgun King does that loudly and proudly. If you like chess or rogue-lies, I cannot recommend it enough.
Shotgun King combines one of the world’s most classic strategy games with an upgrade system that really rocks the boat. Every game plays out differently and you really need to be on your toes to succeed.
It has a variable difficulty level for new players, a memorable presentation style and while I was reviewing it, I could not put it down. Check-mate!
Shotgun King is out now on PS5 and PS4.
Review code kindly provided by the publisher.