Shadow Watch is a turn-based tactical game from Red Storm Entertainment. It puts the player in control of an elite squad consisting of six members, trying to discover the guilty party behind attacks against an international space station project. Shadow Watch features a randomly generated mission structure, character development in the form of trainable skills and a distinctive comic-book art style.
The tactical gameplay of Shadow Watch is comparable to other turn-based squad games such as X-COM or Jagged Alliance, though the combat system and hand-crafted close quarters maps are more resembling of a board game. Shadow Watch received mostly favorable reviews, but was largely ignored and left in the shadow of more popular games.
The story of Shadow Watch branches in different ways on each playthrough, mostly depending on the player's actions. The campaign includes three cities - Hong Kong, Baikonur and Rio de Janeiro - and the starting city is picked randomly. Each city has six possible mission locations. Before each mission, the player is presented with a dialogue with one of the NPC characters relevant to the story, such as the head of the police department or the owner of a local nightclub. The mission choices are determined by which dialogue options the player picks; cautious questioning often gives the option of a stealthy theft mission, while acting tough can result in a full-scale assault.
Each city takes five or six missions to finish and finishing all three cities concludes the story, with a special mission at the end. The campaign can be replayed infinitely with the same characters. Three difficulty levels are available.
The tactical gameplay of Shadow Watch is mostly comparable to other turn-based games such as X-COM. From three to six team members can be deployed based on the mission type. Team members and enemies have action points, with each action taking one point. Initiative is determined by the action point total. Actions include walking or sidestepping one tile, running two tiles forward, kneeling or standing up, opening or closing doors, shooting and turning 45 degrees. Two turns can be made without losing an action point. Units can be set to cover (overwatch) mode when they have action points left over, with the exception of those equipped with non-silenced weapons when the alarm has not yet been sounded. Another important statistic is morale. Alarms going off or shots being fired result in a temporary boost to action points; if a character's action point total exceeds his morale, he panics or goes berserk. All characters must survive the mission.
The tile-based isometrically viewed maps consist of various buildings like offices and warehouses and have two deployment areas. Enemies are shown only when at least one member of the team has line of sight to the enemy. Posture (kneeling or standing) and objects placed around the map affect visibility. Some mission types include an object or person that must be reached. The target is hidden in one of the rooms, and the team must extract to the deployment points after completing the objective. If all enemies are killed, reinforcements will arrive after ten turns (except in Assault and Defend missions).
Enemies usually start in normal patrol mode, their movement depending on the initial alert level of the mission. If an enemy sees any team member or is shot non-lethally, he will sound the alarm on his turn. This results in an instant failure for stealth missions; other missions can be continued with the enemies now actively trying to seek and destroy the team.
Each combatant has his own accuracy and damage statistics. Running, damage, posture, cover and morale affect the accuracy rating. Missing an enemy doubles the accuracy for the next shot during the same turn. The squad members' weapons have an instant-kill percentage that rises with new weapon skills. Non-lethal hits knock the target down, requiring an action point to kneel and another to stand up. Usually the attacker gets to fire more shots during this time, making it a bad idea to advance without backup.
Deployed team members get experience points after the mission, with individual bonuses for each kill and a team bonus for not tripping the alarm. When a member levels up, he or she can train one of the nine available skills from his unique skill tree. The characters also gain a bit more accuracy for every time they miss.
- Archer, the team leader, is a level-headed commander who uses a silenced MP5 submachine gun. Archer has many support skills such as bolstering the team's morale and rallying a broken character.
- Lily is a master of martial arts and stealth, equipped with a silenced Hush Puppy handgun. Lily can instantly incapacicate enemies with her kicks and hide next to any object.
- Bear is the muscle. He wields a shotgun, kicks locked doors (and later, enemies) down and uses body armor. He can also learn the Armorer skill, which raises the armor level of each squad member.
- Rafael, the demolition expert, carries grenades for area-effect damage. He starts with concussion grenades and gradually expands his arsenal. Raze missions can be executed when Rafael trains the appropriate skill.
- Maya is the team's sniper and combat medic, with almost guaranteed one-shot kills. At first, she can only fire if she doesn't spend any action points on the turn. As Maya progresses, she gains more mobility and can drop the enemies' morale with her shots, as well as heal injured team members.
- Gennady uses his high-tech arsenal of gadgets instead of weapons. He can scan for enemies behind walls and execute Surveillance missions, and tends to freak out when shot at.