Shadows on the Vatican:

Act 1 Greed & Act 2 Wrath



Genre:   Adventure

Developer: 10th Art Studio

Publisher:   Adventure Productions

Released:  February 2012 & March 2014

System Requirements:   see review below

Additional screenshots    Walkthrough



by gremlin


What is it?

Fancy a conspiracy for the Spring? I've got just the game for you. In the first episode of Shadows on the Vatican, we got botched military action in Africa, attempted and actual murder in Rome, financial misdeeds in a bank, a car chase (can't have a good thriller without a decent car chase), and plenty more crimes and misdemeanours.

There are four Acts planned for Shadows on the Vatican, but as only Act I: Greed and Act 2: Wrath are available at this time, those are what I shall be writing about today.

I've not come across the distribution platform, Zodiac, before I played Act I - it appears to be Italian in origin, though the English version is just fine. Zodiac behaves a lot like Steam; a pseudo-web-browser based game shop, downloader, installation engine and game library. Act II is also on Zodiac.

Is there a plot?

The plot of Shadows on the Vatican is loosely based upon the book, "In God's Name," by David Yallop, but how 'loose' this foundation is I cannot say.

The protagonist of the game, James Murphy, used to be priest in the Roman Catholic church. James fell out with the church, and now he's retrained as a medical doctor. Whilst visiting Rome for unknown purposes (perhaps on holiday), James receives a phone call from an old friend asking to meet. James agrees, and from there on in, things start to wander off course. The plot quickly turns into the investigation of an attempted murder and, more particularly, into the motive for that attempt.

Seeing as we only have half the game here, we only have half the story, but each part so far has introduced a manageable number of characters, some of whom we see in both Acts. The result, however, is a well focused story that doesn't require you to wander around Rome wondering what to do... unless you get stuck, of course. The other side of that coin is that when you do get stuck (and I did on more than one occasion) you can end up seeking the tiniest detail in the limited number of options you have, before realising that you missed the fact that you can interact with the items already in your inventory. <blush!>

How do you play?

The entire game of Shadows on the Vatican is played with the mouse; this is pure point and click from the third person perspective. The developers have used the Wintermute Engine; the same engine that was used in Dark Fall: Lost Souls, J.U.L.I.A., and Rhiannon: Curse of the Four Branches (amongst others) which results in a technically solid game because the engine has been widely used and well tested.

As you would probably expect from a mouse-driven game, you move James around the scenes by clicking where you want him to go - not a novel approach, but it is well known now - and you click on objects and people to interact with them. As seems common with modern point and click games, you can press the spacebar to show all the hotspots in the current scene for a few seconds. It seems that the joys of pixel hunting have been justifiably relegated to the trash can. Apart from the spacebar, the 'M' key (must be a capital in Act I, but either a capital or lowercase in Act II) will usually bring up the map of Rome. This didn't always work for me, but that wasn't a problem because it's not hard to leave the current scene by double-clicking on an exit, and many of the exits lead directly to the map.

Act II introduces a second playable character, though I'll not go into too much detail about her, simply to state that there are times when you can swap between them: co-operation is the name of the game.

The graphical appearance of this game is very heavily influenced by comic strip styles. This is not surprising when you look at the art direction credit: Lorenzo Ruggiero from Marvel and DC Comics. The scenes are predominantly 2D (though it is possible to walk behind objects that are forward in the scene), whilst the people are 3D. The graphics are clear and detailed. The game installs at a standard definition (1280x720 - an odd choice of aspect ratio, more of a widescreen format than most PC screens), or a high definition of 1980x1080 (again, a widescreen format). Given that I don't have a suitable monitor for that resolution, I stuck with the standard definition format. But I don't think the graphics suffered for this restriction.

The story is advanced through dialog, puzzles and the occasional comic-strip cut-scene. It is a reasonably linear story, apart from the inevitable wandering about searching for what's next. Moving around the scenes is pretty slow if you let James do all the walking, but if you want to jump to an exit, you can double-click on it to do just that... exit.

Puzzles include first aid, laptop and website use (fake ones, just in the game, not real ones), finding text clues, and figuring out physical puzzles too. Objects in the inventory (found towards the top of the screen) can be modified or combined by left clicking on them, and a description is available on a right click.

There are optional subtitles to all dialogs, though not everyone will enjoy the developer's choice of capitalised Comic Sans as the font.

Notable Features

The following statement is used in the introduction to the game:

All references to historical and real people are just quotes from news stories already published by the Italian and foreign press, and they serve as background narrative only.

This seems to be an attempt to forestall accusations of anti-Roman Catholic rhetoric in this game. My own experience of the game so far is that this is a story of fiction in a particular setting. To take this game as an explicit criticism of that organisation is probably taking things too far. But quite frankly, the developer might have been better off changing the setting to a fictional 'mega corporation' just to avoid the appearance of direct criticism... unless, of course, the criticism of the specific organisation was exactly what the developer intended.

I think what I'm getting at here is that, if you have particularly strong views about the Roman Catholic church, pro- or anti-, you might want to suspend your disbelief/belief for a few hours to play this game.

Apart from the graphics, which are consistently well drawn and full of detail, I particularly enjoyed the orchestral/choral soundtrack in Shadows on the Vatican. The voice acting is convincing and varied, and some of the character clichés are amusing. In Act I, there was one problem with the soundtrack, though; the music playing during the loading screen would frequently glitch and re-start, or simply loop over a short section of the music. Given the high quality of the sound track in the rest of the game, this bug was really disappointing. However, in Act II this issue has gone completely.


Act I of Shadows on the Vatican is a good start to what has the potential to be an interesting, and possibly controversial, thriller. Act II continues in that vein. Of course we won't know whether the developers can pull off the rest of the game until we've seen Acts III and IV, but there's enough in Acts I and II to make me want to find out what comes next.

Grade: B+

What do you need to play it?

Minimum Requirements

  • OS: Windows XP/Vista/7
  • RAM: 1GB
  • Hard disk: 2GB free space
  • Video card: 128MB DirectX® 9.0c compatible
  • Sound card: DirectX® 9.0c compatible

(I used a custom built 64-bit Vista Home Premium SP2 PC running on an AMD Athlon 64 X2 Dual 5200+, with 6 GB RAM, and a Sapphire Radeon HD4670 512MB video card with mother-board sound card)

Shadows on the Vatican - Act 1: Greed and Act 2: Wrath can be purchased via download on Zodiac.

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