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Sheba: A New Dawn Review

Sheba: A New Dawn Review

Sheba: A New Dawn is an Arabian-themed 2D metroidvania developed by Kashkool Games, which is based in Arabia, appropriately enough. Promising an epic journey through a world full of mystery and intrigue, filled with fully-voiced memorable characters and exciting combat, will this tale last as long as the 1001 Arabian Nights, or will it be lost to the sands of time?

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In a world teeming with Jinns that can either be your greatest ally or worst enemy, you play as Enar, a simple shepherd who finds himself on an adventure that spans the land of Sheba after his village is burned down by an evil Jinn and is forced to share his body with Mirah, an escaped Jinn. Now, he travels to find a way to get rid of Mirah from his body and maybe discover his destiny along the way. The story is… isn’t the best I’ve seen. You can see a few story beats coming, like how Enar and Mirah will eventually warm up to each other, and I found the lore more laborious to learn than interesting, especially after seeing a 10-minute-long exposition dump. The world seems pretty cool, but it’s told in such a boring way that you lose interest. It’s not helped by the characters, which I couldn’t find in myself to like all that much. 

While I didn’t like the writing, the graphics and art are much better. The environments are detailed and pretty, like a painting, and the cutscenes are nice to look at. As for the characters and enemy models, they work. Although the 3D model on Enar is a little unflattering in the character menu due to losing his cel-shading, it still looks good, and all his attack animations are smooth and snappy. I do think Mirah could look more ethereal like she does in various cutscenes.

However, enough about that. Let’s get into the gameplay. Since this is a metroidvania, you’ll be exploring and fighting all throughout, so let’s talk about combat first.

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The combat is really fun to use but doesn't require its complexity to do well.

Combat is quite simple at first, starting with two types of sword swings, but as you go through the skill tree, you can unlock combos to make your attacks a little more flashy and deal more damage. I found mashing the simplest combos was pretty effective at first, but mixing up my attacks definitely felt good. As your journey continues, you’ll be able to wield other swords of various elements. However, you aren’t alone. Mirah can aid you on your quest more directly by allowing you to summon her to your side, either to add damage to your combos at the cost of using your mana or to fire off some ranged magic.

Now, this is all great and all, but the game doesn’t quite effectively teach you its elements properly or if you even unlocked something. For example, after beating the first boss, my character got a cool new arm. A perfect moment to test it out, right? Maybe give me a puzzle or a challenge to show me what it can do. Well, no, it’s just a change to the character model, as far as I can tell, even though Mirah says it might have cool powers. I also didn’t know if I could earn skill points naturally instead of relying on an item found at shops to progress my skills.

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Can anyone tell me where to go?

As for exploration… I have some issues starting with the map screen. It's displayed in squares with a percentage indicating how much you've explored and got all the treasures. There’s literally nothing to help guide you to your next objective. It does encourage exploration, but more often than not, I just got lost and spent way too much time wandering around, trying to find out where to go next. And the designs of the levels can be aggravating to go through, especially when it blocks off areas arbitrarily instead of, say, locking it behind a required ability. It should tempt you to keep going with the critical path and come back to it when you have the right abilities, not frustrate you because it feels like you’re wasting time. And that’s not to mention all the cheap traps and forced battles you have to go through (that respawn) that are just designed to drain your resources. It’s not a great feeling to have when you’re encouraged to backtrack to previous areas.

If you die, it's back to the title screen. There’s no autosave of any sort, only being able to at altars scattered throughout the world that double as fast travel points. This kind of blows if you aren't religiously saving, as you might lose hours of progress on a particularly unlucky encounter. You can heal at these altars, but you need to pay for it (which was added in a hotfix, by the way), and even then, it doesn’t regenerate your mana as well. While money is easy to come by, it can screw you over at unfortunate moments. Actually, speaking of paying for stuff, you will grind quite a bit for money to pay for potions and skill points. Especially potions, as you will need all the healing and status-recovering items you can get. Those status effects are way too debilitating, and the time it takes to wear off is way too long.

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You like this image? I do too, but not for almost 10 minutes for an exposition dump.

I do have quite a few issues I haven’t mentioned yet. Compounding with the not-so-helpful map screen, there are your stats, which you can assign to points to improve after levelling up. I want to make smart decisions when distributing these points, but I don’t know what those stats do exactly. There’s no description, as far as I can see. I do see my damage numbers go up if I put my points into Strength, but that’s about it. I can’t tell you what exactly Power or Focus means. Also, sometimes items just don’t work. There are potion cooldowns, but when I want to use a scroll to get a skill point, it just doesn’t use it no matter how much I spam the confirm button. At the very least, it runs very well with very few hiccups in performance, even at max settings and at an uncapped framerate.

Sheba: A New Dawn is a fine game, but has some really frustrating decisions that make it unfun. Its biggest failing is the lack of information and how to progress, subtly or otherwise, and some design decisions that don’t make sense to me. It can be a good game, but it is best enjoyed with a walkthrough or a guide by your side… which isn’t great for a seven-hour playtime. There are future updates planned, though, so if you do like it, there’s more to come if you wait until October of 2025 for the complete experience.

4.00/10 4

Sheba: A New Dawn (Reviewed on Windows)

Minor enjoyable interactions, but on the whole is underwhelming.

Sheba: A New Dawn is a fine game, but it lacks details in explanations and guidance and makes some less-than-fun design decisions. You will need a guide to get through this game, and that just isn’t fair.

This game was supplied by the publisher or relevant PR company for the purposes of review
Dylan Pamintuan

Dylan Pamintuan

Staff Writer

An Australian-born guy whose trying to show everyone why games are awesome.

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