Shadow and Shadows might have been the game to popularize extraction-style dungeon explorers, but it surely won’t be the final one. Two highly similar games, Avarice is Excellent and Venture Crawl, are both hosting Steam playtests this week.
All three titles, at first glance, seem almost indistinguishable. Like Shadow and Shadows, players in Venture Crawl and Avarice is Excellent can join forces to delve into a perilous dungeon in search of riches, while battling against both monsters and rival teams of players as a shrinking battle royale-style circle compels players to get closer as the match progresses.
It’s evident that Avarice is Excellent and Venture Crawl have drawn heavy “inspiration” from the work done by developer Ironmace with its own first-person slasher, imitating everything from Shadow and Shadows’ user interface to its map. In the case of Avarice is Excellent, even specific elements such as Shadow and Shadows’ “interact” and weapon attack animations appear to have been replicated. Furthermore, as highlighted in a video by Shadow and Shadows content creator Onepeg, many of Avarice is Excellent’s spells and class abilities are nearly identical copies of those seen in Shadow and Shadows, often sharing the same name and function as those from Ironmace’s game. Even the method of dungeon extraction is the same–via blue or red portal stones.
That being said, there are some noteworthy differences. Venture Crawl, for instance, seems to offer more extensive character customization options, while Avarice is Excellent has chosen the hero-shooter approach for playable classes. Avarice is Excellent also includes several features that Shadow and Shadows players would likely appreciate in Ironmace’s game, such as the ability to purchase additional storage tabs, shared storage between characters, a more comprehensive auction house for item trading, and floating damage numbers. However, there is no denying the source of inspiration for both projects. A survey required for potential access to the upcoming Venture Crawl alpha playtest explicitly mentions Shadow and Shadows by name.
The main distinction among the three games, of course, is that Avarice is Excellent and Venture Crawl are both available on Steam. Meanwhile, Shadow and Shadows was removed from Steam and has yet to make a comeback due to an ongoing legal dispute with Korean gaming giant Nexon, which has accused Ironmace (consisting of several former Nexon developers) of plagiarizing code and assets from a canceled Nexon project to create Shadow and Shadows. Ironmace has vehemently denied these allegations.
Although a copyright lawsuit filed by Nexon against Ironmace in the US has been dismissed, a similar case is still ongoing in Korea. Instead of launching on Steam, Ironmace was compelled to release Darker and Darker in early access through its own game launcher, with the game currently available for direct purchase via the official Shadow and Shadows website.
The alpha playtest for Venture Crawl will take place over a three-day period starting on September 26, and those interested will need to sign up through a qualifying survey. Those eager to try out Avarice is Excellent can request access to the game’s ongoing open beta test via the game’s official page on Steam.