Shadows of Doubt Preview - A City at Your Fingertips

Published: April 21, 2023 6:00 AM /


shadows of doubt game

Here's the thing with open-world games -- yes, you can explore vast, expansive environments, but there are so many limitations in place. Those skyscrapers you see in the distance? You might be able to access a floor or two. The citizens walking the streets? Those are just spawned in, and once you're out of view, they're thrown into the nether, never to be seen again. In Shadows of Doubt, those towering buildings you see are fully accessible. Literally, every floor and every room is available for the player to explore. Likewise, the citizens you encounter are their own entities with their own schedules, jobs, and places they live.

The kicker is, Shadows of Doubt is completely procedurally generated, so you can quite literally encounter a limitless number of new citizens and explore a new city every single day, if you so choose. As with any populated city, there is crime, and you're just the person for the job. Solve cases like murders and more and you'll see just how far the simulation can take you in Shadows of Doubt.


shadows of doubt city gameplay simulation

A Sinful City in Shadows of Doubt

The main selling point for Shadows of Doubt is, as you may have surmised, the fully simulated city. Before embarking on your career as a private investigator, you're going to have to wait a few minutes for your brand new city to simulate. You can choose the size of your city from a few options like small to large, as well as its name and several other finer details. You'll be able to tweak the difficulty of your world, how much money you begin with, and plenty of other options. Shadows of Doubt seems as easy or difficult as you want it to be, which is a good sign for those who want to fully immerse themselves in any way they see fit.

There's a murder case players can begin investigating at the start of Shadows of Doubt. This acts as a tutorial of sorts and gets players acclimated with the game's mechanics and, in general, how to investigate. I've played through this scenario a few times now and it generally begins the same way every time, with the victim and certain locations being the only difference. Like a true detective, you'll have to sift through tons of evidence like fingerprints, notes, murder weapons, and the like. I appreciate the ability to organize all this information by pinning it to a board Shadow of Doubt's menu.


shadows of doubt simulated room
Well, this is quite the choice of decor.

There are also a bunch of additional jobs you can take on -- some may request a photographer, while others ask that players publicly humiliate an individual. There's not a huge variety of jobs just yet, from what I can tell, but there's definitely enough to put your detective skills to the test. Really, the best way I can describe the gameplay loop is by going over one of the jobs I completed. It isn't until you actually complete a job that you realize just how much is possible in Shadows of Doubt.

So here's the job: It's a new murder case. It just came about as I was conducting another job to arrest a suspect. This time, it had nothing to do with the tutorial's murder, so I was intrigued. The police scanner picked up the location. It was on the seventh floor of an apartment building. The crime scene tape across the apartment's door made my destination all the more clear. Arriving inside, I see a body and blood everywhere. The body is in the bathroom, on the floor. There's also some strange writing on the wall.

shadows of doubt victim
What on Earth happened here?

Well, first things first, how did this murder happen? There are bound to be multiple types of murder weapons in Shadows of Doubt -- as I've seen, some victims are shot while others are stabbed. Though in this case, the murder weapon appeared to be a syringe that injected some lethal substance. Now I needed to identify the victim. Searching around drawers and cabinets, I eventually came across the victim's wallet. I got a positive ID on the victim. But she wasn't the only one living in this apartment, and there was only one body.


I soon found out this individual had a partner. I found out their name through a note in the kitchen and even their work. Maybe I'll try calling them? In Shadows of Doubt, cities can have hundreds of individuals, so each new city comes with a phone book. Calling the phone of this individual number gave me no answer -- a bit suspicious, I should say. I don't know where they work, either, other than that they are a shopkeeper somewhere in town. The thing is, there are a lot of shops in the cities of Shadows of Doubt, so that makes it even more difficult.

shadows of doubt gameplay
Be sure to check for footprints and fingerprints.

If you expected me to find out the culprit, you're wrong. I asked citizens if they had seen my suspect, with some saying they saw her walking around on a specific street. I couldn't find anything. I'm still working on it, and if I'm patient enough, I might just find out the truth. The thing is, I ran into a few roadblocks that may be intentional on Shadow of Doubts' part, or it could be due to bugs. On one hand, Shadows of Doubt acknowledges some leads are dead ends. On the other, I ran into several issues such as phone numbers bringing up completely empty dialogue boxes as soon as I called a number. The AI, in general, seems a bit unpredictable right now, too, so it was very hard to pinpoint the suspect's location in multiple cases.


Clearly, Shadows of Doubt has a lot of work put into it, but the process of investigating and navigating through menus doesn't feel polished just yet. Since it's in Early Access, I am more than willing to give it some leeway, especially considering the complexity of Shadow of Doubt's mechanics. I don't doubt the game is quite taxing on the CPU as well, as it has to simulate an entire city's worth of buildings and people. My PC ran Shadows of Doubt at an average of around 30 FPS while outside and it stutters every so often, too. Maybe some optimization work needs to be done. Certainly, the minimal, voxel visuals belie how straining Shadows of Doubt can be.

shadows of doubt simulated city
Remember, you can go up into each of those buildings. 

Nonetheless, I am very impressed with Shadows of Doubt thus far. There's a definite learning curve, so I'm planning on playing more and more so I can learn the best way to gather evidence and find suspects. As time goes on, I don't doubt this will become easier as developer ColePowered Games updates Shadows of Doubt throughout its time in Early Access. At the very least, I have no issue recommending this to any fans of the immersive sim genre, since there is a great amount of freedom here you just can't find in other games. So, even if my cases go cold for now, I'll be back to solve them in due time.

Shadows of Doubt was previewed on Steam Early Access on PC, using a copy provided by the publisher over the course of 7 hours of gameplay - all screenshots were taken during the process of the preview.

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