Moving Pieces Interactive brings us a fresh take on the action-roguelike series with Shoulders of Giants. Play as Froggie (the frog) and GERM (the robot) alone or with your friends in this 1-4 player co-op gem. Explore planets and try to get rid of the Entropy Spires and clear waves of enemies at the Monolith as you try to restore peace and order in the universe.
Let’s have a look at how the combat plays, and you’ll be surprised at what this roguelike offers in this review of Shoulder of Giants.
The game starts with a combat tutorial and some enemies to fight off. What I liked about it is that it’s quick and doesn’t beat around the bush. There is some animal dialogue that I barely remember since the first impression that I had of Shoulders of Giants is that it feels like an open combat sandbox. This is the same feeling I get whenever I play No Man’s Sky or Risk of Rain 2.
You’ll feel lost at first because of the randomly generated planets. Also, you’ll need to be good with remembering directions because you don’t have a minimap to check where the objectives are, similar to Risk of Rain 2.
There are multiple options for accomplishing objectives on each planet area, with Conquest being the most common event, which I’ll explain later.
Planet designs were a bit of a hit-and-miss for me as well. Some planets are too dark and plain, while others are too vibrant. The confusion I have comes from whenever I clear an area on the planet, it emits a powerful radiant light that heals you and damages enemies over time. So if you’re on a bright planet, it’s hard to distinguish the areas you’ve explored.
If you’re playing this on a GTX 1060 laptop like me, you’ll probably gonna get decent frame rates at Medium settings at 1080p. Although playing this at Epic settings is also possible with this graphics card, you might get occasional frame drops.
Gameplay Loop & Randomized Events
Conquest will most probably be your most encountered random event while playing Shoulders of Giants. The objective is to destroy a tower-like structure with floating eyeballs called Entropy Spires. Then, once you’ve destroyed a couple of them, depending on the planet’s random seed, you need to clear the enemies in the Monolith area.
Rinse and repeat until you make it to the last Monolith that spawns the final boss. After defeating the boss, you are rewarded with EXP, bonus loot in the form of GERM cores and weapons, as well as Heat.
In rare cases, I would get the Storm event wherein I need to kill enemies along the way to know where the Monolith is to advance to the next area. There’s also a Bug Catcher event wherein I’m tasked to kill specific enemies with a butterfly indicator aura above them.
After reaching a certain Heat level, you’ll be venturing on a special mission where you have to defeat a main story boss.
However, some of the random bosses I encountered in my planetary runs didn’t really feel rewarding after slaying them because I could immediately read their attack patterns. I do look forward to what kind of loot I would be receiving, though.
Overall, Shoulders of Giants gives you a unique run every time, and it doesn’t feel repetitive. It can also be one of your go-to quick games since a single planet run can last you around 15 to 30 minutes, depending on how fast you can find your way through the Entropy Spires and Monoliths and finish off enemy hordes.
Solo VS Co-op Experience
Playing Shoulders of Giants solo is a blast when you focus on improving your robot and frog the longer you immerse yourself in planet exploration.
However, I was disappointed that the multiplayer didn’t have couch co-op, at least for the Best Friend Mode. This is where another player can play as the frog while you control the robot or vice-versa. I felt it was possible even on split-screen.
We noticed some attack animations not registering properly for the frog player in Best Friend Mode, but we’re assuming that it’ll get fixed in the next patches.
The frog’s ranged combat is probably fun if you have a friend tagging along. However, playing this solo will make you focus more on the robot’s skills rather than the frog’s skills. I hopped on a game session with a friend and went for some quick co-op sessions, and we concluded that the experience was better with us controlling our own separate robots to clear areas quickly.
Overall, the co-op experience is better when playing Shoulders of Giants. The solo experience feels like a heavy grind, especially if you keep on dying in the first few hours. I got lucky when I picked the Hammer, which is actually one of my favorite weapons in the game so far. This is because I get to speedrun some planets with that equipped, combined with the robot’s Dodge ability.
Combat & Controls
Shoulders of Giants really felt like I was playing a hybrid of No Man’s Sky and Risk of Rain 2. Playing this with the mouse and keyboard felt weird because of too many elements going on the screen, especially when you proceed to the harder levels as your Heat level rises. I was expecting a bit more flexibility with the frog’s ranged combat.
For example, I cannot manually reload a weapon if I want to. I would deplete the ammo first so the frog can automatically reload.
If you plan on playing this game, I highly suggest using a gamepad for this one if you want more control over the melee combat. I just wish there was some kind of proper target lock for the melee combat, so chaining combos would be more satisfying.
Some weapon animations can sometimes feel stiff, especially if you’re using heavy weapons like the Lode Sword. Also, there will be some runs that you’ll feel too overpowered, especially if you get great skills from both the robot and the frog. Pulling off combos is easy, but you’re going to feel like your button-mashing all the time like you’re playing a poorly made fighting game.
Level Progression & Items
This is the first time that I’ve encountered using EXP as your microtransactions in Shoulders of Giants, as far as I can remember. I just hope the devs won’t think about implementing abysmal cash grabs.
There’s plenty of customization to go about. Craft unique frog and robot gear. In your home base, you’re already occupied with these peculiar animal characters:
- Baboon: Weapon Upgrades
- Panda: GERM Core Crafting and Skins
- Owl: Skill Tree
- Chameleon: Planetary Exploration
So, for example, the planet you choose rewards you with 121 Heat. Expect to lose the same amount of Heat once you die in battle. Think of it as a risk-and-reward type of approach.
Collect energy cores while exploring to receive more powerful powerups that spawn at random so that you’re ready to face the final boss of your chosen planet. You’ll receive EXP regardless if you clear a planet or die trying. This gives you a chance to upgrade both the frog and robot depending on your playstyle.
Overall, the replayability of this roguelike is fun as it hooked me for hours despite the stiff combat mechanics in some weapons. Surprisingly, leveling up didn’t feel punishing but the high Heat levels can get you on edge the longer you play. It’ll also make you frustrated losing multiple times in a row after saving all that Heat.
A Couple of Nitpicks
Despite the painfully colorful graphics in Shoulders of Giants, turning off motion blur did the trick and improved my experience substantially. Exploring planets is fun since it has a few strategic elements into it because you’ll think of what weapons or cores you should scrap to create better gear later on.
There’s no denying that Shoulders of Giants is one of the better roguelikes that I’ve played for a while, but there are still a lot of better ones out there.
The flashy colors and the messy lights and particles threw me off, and it really doesn’t encourage you to pull off a gaming marathon. I think I only lasted 3 hours at max in a day of playing this. At least put a photosensitivity warning, so we know what to expect in this game.
Shoulders of Giants is also missing some sort of encyclopedia to know what kinds of enemies I am up against. Though the Owl spits out random dialogue to briefly explain what enemies I’m facing, I’m just here describing my enemies as shadow dudes, flying stingrays with lasers, or metal worms.
I only encountered one or two bugs so far during my playthrough of the test build, but it didn’t really affect the immersive experience. One instance was my GERM robot froze while attacking with a Lode Sword, and my character couldn’t make melee attacks. So I was forced to let my character die in the middle of the run.
Another one was when I was dropping out of the map, and I got stuck at some rock formation, and I couldn’t go out. Too bad I wasn’t able to capture that moment, but that’s alright. It was funny to experience those weird catches.
Dialogue and Lore
There are some animated cutscenes, but I feel like the dialogue was poorly written, or I just got too lazy reading through the text. I could’ve been more interested in the story if it had some light voiceovers similar to how Hades or One Piece Odyssey presents its story despite having heavy text dialogues.
Shoulders of Giants is a chaotic implementation of a roguelike that strangely plays well. It’s a decent game almost at par with Risk of Rain 2, one of my favorite games that’s close to this genre.
The game’s art direction was so confusing and amusing at the same time that I didn’t bother to nitpick and just focused on clearing enemies on every planet I see. If only it had some voiced dialogue like how Hades presents its story, then I would’ve been more interested in what’s actually happening.
Not all the weapons were enjoyable to my taste plus there wasn’t any target locking while on melee probably because you can also do ranged attacks to give “balance” to Shoulders of Giants. There’s also plenty of customization to go around including skins that you can unlock without spending the extra bucks. I can see myself occasionally streaming this game on Twitch whenever I get drained with the Valorant grind.
We hope you enjoyed our review of Shoulders of Giants. If you want to play the game, get this exclusive on the Epic Games store and have a blast.
This review is based on the PC version of Shoulders of Giants. The key was provided by Moving Pieces Interactive.