Developer: Vir2L Studios
Publisher: Bethesda Softworks
The engine that Vir2L Studios chose to convey The Elder Scroll's world to N-Gage users is one of the most impressive on the console. The texture resolution of this engine is among the highest of any N-Gage game, and while it does not support floors-above-floors and other technical aspects, it allows for dynamic lighting, animated textures, and some rather high polygon object models. The speed of this engine would normally be sub-par, but it makes use of variable draw-in distance fogging, a trick that keeps the framerates manageable.
I was not a fan of Morrowind's soundtrack-- they could have done better than go with some cheesy, Hollywood Tolkein-esque fantasy orchestra tunes-- and those exact same songs make a reappearance in this game. Having all digital music is a perk in a handheld or mobile title, I suppose, but new music would have been appreciated. The sound effects are also mostly borrowed from Morrowind, and do nothing exceptional to impress. In terms of audio, Shadowkey isn't any more grating than Morrowind was, but like Morrowind, the sound takes a back seat to the graphics and gameplay.
Shadowkey features navigable outdoor zones, enormous indoor dungeons that take upwards of two hours each to clear, and dozens of well-written quests to undertake, most of which are optional. The writing, level layout, and quest design all feel very much like a mini version of Morrowind. Some concepts were eliminated or changed; major and minor skills are not present, you cannot create a custom class, and you select items, weapons, and spells to use via queues, which feels a bit different than how Morrowind handled object use. My hat is off to Vir2L for mimicking Morrowind as best as possible with the limited resources their target platform has.
Everything Vir2L did wrong in their J2ME TES titles they did right here; out go the primitive dungeons, and in come huge areas to explore, which is what we've come to expect from The Elder Scrolls. The whole game's character feels an awful lot like "Morrowind", and despite occasional bouts of framerate trouble, the game plays like its older brother as well. Around 30 hours of exploration, interaction with NPCs, and fun dungeon-romping awaits whoever pops this MMC into their N-Gage. You can even explore with a few friends via Bluetooth; multiplayer, a feature that has been dreamt about by Elder Scrolls fans for years, is now a reality-- and on the N-Gage, no less!