There are no "turns" in City of the Shroud; instead, combatants all generate action points in real time that can be used whenever you like to either move or strike an opponent. Attacks themselves are performed using an upgradable combo wheel, which is a little like Street Fighter. As in Capcom's famous series, you use the wheel's "d-pad" to input commands (down, left, up, etc. ...) for special attacks, and you can put them together (if you have enough action points) to pull off combos. There are multiple classes of character, each with their own moves, strengths and weaknesses, to combine however you please. Controlling them at the same time makes for challenging battles.
Between the frantic bouts of combat, the game presents itself much like a visual novel -- you'll converse with the residents of Iskendrun, the titular shrouded city. It's isolated, and on the brink of civil war, with potential leaders squabbling for control. Something bad is coming, though, and someone in the city knows about it. As the archetypal hero, you'll have to work out whom you can trust, choose whom to ally yourself with and whom to fight. But you are just one hero, in a city of thousands.
While City of the Shroud's world, its inhabitants and the broad plot line have all been devised already, where the story goes will depend on players. Throughout the game, they'll be making decisions in the visual novel side of the game, aligning with different factions, supporting and betraying whomever they please. After the first chapter, though, those decisions begin to affect the world as a whole. Abyssal Arts is collecting gameplay data from each player, pooling it together and then reshaping the political landscape of Iskendrun around it.
"We wanted to give your decisions consequence, [and] we wanted the choices of the players and what was going on in your game to have consequence for everyone else," Keaton White, the game's director, explained. White has AAA experience in the industry, having spent four years in Japan at Capcom as a production manager, working on the Dead Rising series and the upcoming action RPG Deep Down. He's now based in Brighton, England, where he founded Abyssal Arts. Together with author Moira Katson, whose self-published works have hit the top of Amazon's Sci-Fi/Fantasy charts three times in three years, and programmer Ryan Becker, White created City of the Shroud.
"We wanted to give your decisions consequence, we wanted the choices of the players and what was going on in your game to have consequence for everyone else."
Iskendrun can be divided into five factions, and the leaders of each are the main characters driving the story forward. At the start of the first chapter, each player aligns with one of those groups, and begins to uncover the story from that perspective. The decisions they make throughout the game -- including, at one point, whether to defect to another faction -- will directly influence their experience, as you'd expect, but after the chapter is done is when things will get really interesting.
After an undetermined amount of time -- likely around two months -- Abyssal Arts will close what's referred to internally as "the influence period." The chapter will still be playable, but decisions won't influence the plot, and the team will begin to pore over the data. They're playing their cards close to their chest with regard to which decisions will influence the story. "It's not always going to be obvious that you're at a feedback point," explained Katson. "Little choices and comments you make may weaken your leader's standing with allies or in the city as a whole." There will be huge decisions to make, and those might be more conspicuous, "but then there will also be smaller decisions that shade the tone of how I write certain events."