I love wizards of the coast, I think 4th edition is a solid game brimming with potential, and that’s why it’s hard for me to write this review of Heroes of Shadows. I own the book and I will use its contents in my games but a ball was dropped in a big way with this book. I admit that expectations were high, perhaps too high, but the distance by which the mark was missed is great.
With more effort Heroes of Shadows could have been another players hand book, it could have been the best players hand book yet. It could have made the Players Hand Book 3 look like just another issue of dragon magazine. There was expectation of a new power source, classes and races to add a darker edge to the game. Instead we get rehashed classes, a vampire that feels more like a burden to a party than an asset, and two races that could have been one had they not put a break in the page description.
I have to pause again to state that I had expectations for this book, very large expectations. I really enjoy the Shadowfell, it is my favorite part of the core 4e setting. So when Heroes of Shadow was announced it quickly became my most anticipated 4e release to date. I loved the DDi assassin and I was really really excited to see what other awesome things WotC was going to do with the shadow power source. When Heroes of Shadow was pulled from the paper back format I thought that perhaps it would be less essentials and more original/core 4e, and my excitement grew. So when I discuss the shortcomings of this product I am describing how short I feel it came to meeting my expectations and not saying what a bad product I think it is.
Heroes of Shadow does get some things very right. It broadens the options essentials players have for character creation. Many of the new essentials style classes take a few steps away from the very simple design of the thief and slayer and give players a bit more fiddly options. But again it falls short for me being a non essentials player/DM and feeling a bit left out of the shadowy goodness.
Race vs. Class: Lots of people have opinions as to whether the vampire should have been a class or a race. The answer is that it should have been a race. Making a vampire a class removes much of the story potential for me as a player and as a DM. As a race being a vampire could have been something the player tried to hide, or tried to embrace while dealing with the rest of the party at the same time. As a class all of the vampires powers come solely from the fact that the character is, well, a vampire. That’s something that is hard for me to reconcile. I could go on for another page or so but I’ll try to keep this simple review simple.
- 2 New classes: Vampire & Assassin
- 2 New builds: Paladin & Warlock
- 3 New class options: Cleric, Warlock & Wizard
- 2 New races: Vryloka & Shade
- 1 DDi race: Revenant
- Options for: Dwarves, Eladrin, Eleves, Halflings & Humans
- 10 Additional paragon paths
- 4 Additional epic destinies
- 20 New feats
- Background on the Shadowfell and soul sacrifice
Who would enjoy this product:
- Players who are looking for darker classes/races to play
- Essentials players who want broader options
- Anyone running a Shadowfell campaign
- Players wanting to play a sparkly vampire
Who might not enjoy this product:
- Players who don’t get the design philosophy of essentials
- Those who were hoping for a new power source with cool mechanics
- Anyone who wanted vampire to be a race and not a class
- People who are tired of seeing paladin wizard and warlock in everything
- Me for the most part
It’s a good product, but it’s not for me. I own it, and I don’t think I would have passed it up even if I had known what I know now, but I might have waited a while longer to pick it up. Essentials players should revel in all the awesome goodness that they have been given with this product while the rest of us will have to just keep re skinning our core classes into something darker.
Part idiot. Part old man. All geek. Thadeous can't think of anything interesting about him self right now. Know this though if he could it would be creative and funny as well as thought provoking.