Grey Alien Games releases Shadowhand, an RPG card game set in the 18th century. Shadowhand stars a female protagonist who becomes an outlaw at night and in a new interview, Grey Alien Games explains how the character challenges gender roles and 18th century values.
Shadowhand has also made it onto our list of games with diverse protagonists that we are looking forward to.
How Shadowhand Delivers an Inclusive Cast of Characters Alongside a Slice of History
In Shadowhand you play as Lady Cornelia Darkmoor, an aristocrat by day but a feared outlaw (named Shadowhand) at night. Taking part in turn-based, card combat duels, stabbing and shooting enemies as she aims to protect a close female companion, the game’s protagonist finds herself tangled in a web of blackmail, deceit, and corruption.
Promising a narrative that’s rich in intrigue alongside quests, card decks, puzzles, and collectible costumes (which affect stats but also look fabulously fashionable), Shadowhand already sounds like a winner. The fact that it’s made by the same team that brought you Regency Solitaire (which features an older Lady Cornelia Darkmoor) also earns it a thumbs up.
But in addition to this, Shadowhand promises to address the history of the time and this could be one of its biggest selling points. Grey Alien Games has put an awful lot of research into 18th century traditions and values and in an email, game designer Helen Carmichael tells me that the game “aims to deliver a little bit of history with a sense of humor.”
Information about social roles, class, manners, and the history of people of color in 18th century England “informs the types of characters and interactions that we have taking place in the story.” As “historical accounts include female pirates, a cross-dressing French spy, and a young black woman living among the aristocracy during this time period,” you can see this diversity reflected in Shadowhand‘s cast of characters.
Although the issues of the time are not “the subject of the story itself,” these themes should still come through strongly in the game, especially with the main character. Shadowhand and her female companion are the “most aware of keeping up appearances and fitting with social norms,” says Carmichael, and the two women continue to be reminded of the expectations they face by Lady Cornelia’s guardian and by her governess.
The contrast between Lady Cornelia’s “gilded cage” of a life (as Carmichael describes it) and the relative freedom of her life as Shadowhand couldn’t be starker. “When she takes on the persona of Shadowhand she enters the outlaw world where anything goes,” the developer explains, as the game’s female protagonist will visit places aristocrats usually avoid, such as mills.
But even beyond that, Shadowhand includes “disguises that cross gender boundaries,” reveals Carmichael. The developer suggests that it may be more accurate to refer to the character as a highway person rather than a highwaywoman; players can even dress the character in a corset and a beard at the same time. Implicit queerness isn’t expected from a game like this, but as Carmichael explains it, it’s true to the character and the history that the game touches upon.
By all means, Shadowhand is not meant to be a stony-faced and serious take on 18th century values, but its developers do at least take the history seriously. That makes the game all the more interesting, I think, and makes throwing those values and traditions to the wind all the more entertaining.
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