How to Get Started with Shadow Cities12th of Nov 2010 - Samuli Hakoniemi

Please notice this article is outdated, after the client and game mechanics were renewed on May 2011!

I strongly suggest reading STARTERS GUIDE at Shadow Cities forum instead of this article.

Shadow Cities is a location based MMORPG which was just released for iPhone and is currently in beta stage (available only in Finland).

In order to get you started, I decided to write this post. I’ve myself played only for two days, nearly as long as the game has been publicly available. So these advices are from newbie to newbie :). And it’s very possible some of these advices gets outdated in near future.

These advices are unofficial and made from personal perspective. By the way, I’m playing with character called “Macaco” for the Architects.

Last updated on 13th of Nov, 2010

Table of Contents

Read the Help Section

Shadow Cities has a brief and clear help section, which you really should read before starting your career as a mage. It can also be found online from Shadow Cities Help Section.

Seriously, read it.

About the Terminology

You’ll belong either on the Architects or the Animators. On daily basis, your side will mostly affect on how you’re able to travel (or warp) in your area without moving physically. On weekly basis, there are different kind of campaigns where both teams compete against each other.
Mages don’t have hitpoints, only spirits do. This means neither you can’t get killed, nor can the other mages. Every time a mage is hit, he’ll lose (only) mana.
Whenever you want to do something cool, you’ll need mana for that.
In order to get on next level, you need to gain experience. The best way to gain experience is to kill spirits.
Spirits are the non-player characters of the game, which you’ll hunt down and kill until your screen has a greasy Z figure on it. And then you’ll kill some more.
Energy can be considered as “experience points of the team”. It seems there will be different kind of contest every week between teams and the amount of collected energy is in important role. The main resource for energy are the dominators.
This is how you travel inside the game. Or of course you can travel physically, but by warping you’ll get to different places very quickly. Warping back and forth doesn’t consume any mana.
There are different kind of buildings, and the dominators are the most important ones. These towers has several meanings which you can find out by reading through the help section.
Power is needed in order to build specific type of buildings. Dominators are generating power, while other type of buildings are consuming it.
Energy Gateways
These are burning flames around the realm. They can be conquered by attaching dominators to them. They also can be bought with mana bottles, making the buyer as the Shadow lord of the realm (the close surroundings).

What is Mana?

On the bottom left corner of the main view, there’s a blue bottle and a tiny meter. This is your mana. Good thing to remember is that nearly every action requires mana in some way.

The meter will show much mana you’ve charged with, and the number above the bottle displays the amount of mana bottles. One bottle will recharge your mana completely. Full charge of mana will be enough for 3 – 4 war spells.

Mana bottles are also the currency in the Shadow Cities. This is quite important to realize. Don’t use bottles for recharging whenever you’ve time to wait. Mana will automatically regenerate, but the bottles won’t. Therefore it’s the best way just to wait for recharging. Trust me, you’ll eventually end up in a situation where you’ll curse yourself for spending mana bottles in vain.

There are three ways to gain more mana bottles: 1) buying them from App Store, 2) researching (see “What Are the Captured Spirits?”) and 3) by completing tasks (little yellow exclamation or question mark on bottom right of the screen).

How Do I Gain Experience?

The best way to gain experience is by killing spirits. There are different kind of spirits, but most of them are quite easy catches (Rank 1).

Spirits are flying around and will not attack you until you’ve first attacked them. You should definitely go after them whenever you’ve got enough mana to throw at least two war spells.

It’s not cool either to kill a spirit someone else is trying to kill. No matter if he’s an Architect or an Animator. The amount of experience is nothing compared the amount of disrespect you gain.

What Are the Captured Spirits?

After you kill a spirit, it’s captured. The list of captured spirits can be found by pressing the white Shadow Cities icon on the bottom right. And on the sub menu, go for the yellow icon on the top left.

There are 12 different kind of spirits in total, with three different colors (red, green, blue) and four different houses (Dannan, Drioma, Inrik, Tiermes).

There are two things that makes some spirits more worthy than others: 1) spirits have different values (marked with stars) and 2) some type of spirits are used to research mana bottles.

Captured spirits can be used for generating energy. The value (no star, one star, three star) defines the amount of energy you’ll generate while donating the spirit. They can also be used for researching mana bottles.

The point here is to focus on more valuable spirits and / or spirits that can be used for researching. I’ve noticed that more valuable spirits (especially three stars on them) are harder to capture, but you’ll also gain more experience by killing them. So, I definitely recommend hunting down these certain type of spirits.

How to Kill Other Players?

Never ever go after other players! It just doesn’t make sense. At the moment, other players can’t be killed (I personally hope this get changed). They’ll only lose their mana – and so do you. If you encounter an hostile situation you should just warp away.

Only reasonable situation for attacking opponent players is when they’re trying to destroy your buildings. However, it’s easy for them to logout and come back later with recharged mana and continue the destruction. But at least you’ve tried your best :).

How to research?

You can research by selecting yellow character icon from top left and then the mana bottle from sub menu. In research menu you see three headers labeled as “Research”, “My Public Projects” and “Other Public Projects”.

Currently it seems that “Red Dannan”, “Green Drioma” and “Blue Inrik” are used for researching purposes. I don’t know whether this will change on some interval.

You should check what type of spirits you have for researching purposes from “Research” view. But don’t start your own project yet. Instead you should check through ongoing public projects whether you can contribute to them.

Every mage who participates on research project will gain one mana bottle. If they participate by adding multiple type of spirits they still gain only one bottle. Therefore it makes no sense to contribute with more than one spirit.

When you start your own project, it will appear as public project, but only to your friends. However, when you participate on a project created by someone else, this project will be seen only by his friends.

How to Collect Energy?

The dominators are the main source of energy. Dominators will slowly generate energy, and when they’re filled with energy, a red circle will appear around them and you can harvest the energy. You’re also capable of harvesting your team members dominators. Another way to collect energy is to donate captured spirits (see above).

You’ll also gain (or rob) energy when destroying opponents dominator which is fully charged. It’s extremely rewarding when you stumble upon a field of opponent dominators.

It’s rather important to collect energy. Energy will help your team to win the weekly campaign. And you’ll be rewarded according to the energy you’ve collected.

What Should I Build, And Why?

Build dominators. Focus on building the dominators. And harvest the dominators as often as possible.

Distribute dominators. The amount of power generated by dominators doesn’t depend on the location of dominator. In addition, your dominators will generate more energy in average when they’re distributed to different gateways. One dominator per player, per gateway will generate 12 energy points, while two of them will generate only 8 points each. If you connect eg. five of your dominators to a single gateway, they’ll generate only five energy points each.

Always destroy enemy dominators when you encounter them. This is the situation where mana bottles are essential because you really want to get rid of them all. At the moment it seems not many players are fully aware of this. By destroying opponent’s dominators you both gain experience and harm their infrastructure.

You’ll find out the meaning of all the other buildings while you’re progressing on the game. But the dominators are the constitution of the game.

What is Warping?

In order to get easily on different places, you’ll need to warp. Whenever there’s something that belongs to your team, you can warp on it. That is very good thing to remember.

It’s possible to warp longer distances. This is done through beacons, a specific type of building which has to be built by someone. You can see the available beacons by entering into expanded view by clicking on the white Shadow Cities on the bottom right, and then on the submenu, click the white cloud icon on bottom left.

What Spells Should I Choose?

I have no straight answer on this, so I’ll make a good guess:

  • Upgrade your war spell first
  • Catchers are excellent for capturing loads of (both common and rare spirits). I recommend learning this spell on second.
  • Ability to heal makes you feel like a good mage when you’re donating your mana to other players. However, at the beginning it’s useless for healing buildings while most of them can be destroyed with couple of war spells
  • You won’t be needing beacons in the beginning. They consume lots of power while they won’t provide you any value. Don’t go for them.
  • Traps are always cool. But lower level spell is quite useless, since the trap can be destroyed with one or two war spells

So in general, consider evolving only in the war and catcher spells. They are the spells you’ve personally needing most. Your team will need you, but not when you’re on level 5.

Closing Words

I just hope this helps you to get started. Playing Shadow Cities isn’t that complicated. But I’ve heard some of the new players complaining about the icons and terms that they’re not self explanatory, and you easily end up wandering and doing something meaningless. But it’s good to remember that the game is in beta phase and at least I do think the game will evolve from this point.

16 thoughts on “How to Get Started with Shadow Cities

  1. bool on said:

    Excellent Tutorial ! .)

  2. Parcel on said:

    I would beg to differ on the Beacon part, there’s actually no better way to gain loads and loads of energy for your team than building a beacon and have someone put a Dominator near your beacon, if you stuff up loads of Dominators in the same area you gain less and less energy for the Dominator in the area, you gain the following per piece: 1 Dom + 12pts, 2 Doms 10pts, 3 Doms 8pts and then 4 Doms towards the same Energy Gateway will earn you a nice 6pts per Dom.. I haven’t tried putting up 5 in the same area but i would think that would render your energy gained per Dominator to 4pts and thus lowering the contribution to the team very much.

  3. Samuli Hakoniemi on said:

    It’s correct to have a beacon set close to dominator(s) for harvesting purposes. But I still advice beginner mages to start with war and catcher spells, and let the higher level mages take care of setting up the beacons.

    With five dominators, you seem to get five points of energy per dominator.

  4. KGrahn on said:

    Definetly wrong with the beacon part. We got somewhat 10-15 friends around, of which half have beacons already set down. I got one dominator in 5 locations, and I gain 12 energy per dominator, instead 5-6 if I would have all in same location where I currently reside.

    My advice, get frieds, spread out.

    Also, kick out from your fired list those who do not learn and hold beacons, so they wont just leech areas from you. One sided alliance isnt alliance at all.

  5. Samuli Hakoniemi on said:

    Where do you get the power for beacons? What I’ve seen, it takes at least four dominators for delivering enough power for the beacon.

    Or is it so that every dominator generate 12 energy when they are built by different players? If so, then this strategy sounds worth of trying.

  6. KGrahn on said:

    But very nice tutorial anyway. My previous coment might be biased towards teamplay, instead solo type playing, dont take it too literaly, but make your own choices. For collecting energy to the team, its more efficient to team up with beacons. For luring around in your own area, it might be better to just lay traps and not to put up beacon.

    Thanks for tutorial.

  7. KGrahn on said:

    Ye, I got 5 dominators up, and those can power one trap and one beacon. I fly through large areas via friends beacons, got all sorts of different spirits, since they tend to be area color specific. If I lack some color, its always available somewhere else.

  8. Nachtzehrer on said:

    Thanks! Remember to update this when you advance :-)

    I was wondering what’s the point of owning these “Realms”… Do you know?

  9. Samuli Hakoniemi on said:


    I think owning realms (or changing your symbol etc) are more like status symbols and for bragging. At least I haven’t noticed them to generate any advantages on gameplay.

  10. Samuli Hakoniemi on said:


    Thank you :).

    And I noticed the amount of energy is based on how many dominators each player has separately set on the area. So spreading out is far more efficient than setting your dominators in one place.

    Thanks for the tip!

  11. KGrahn on said:

    Veelay confirmed that the extras dont really do anything atm. So being fronst amge for example, you just have the “coolness” factor, and you belong to “sub-group” of mages. No additional benefits.

    He also said, that heal spell can now (serverside update?)reinforce dominators max health per cast. So they get harder to kill, with each cast you make on them.

  12. Fibrizio Catadelli on said:

    Excellent tutorial, thanks for that!

    I think that there is a huge effect on your playing style wether you live in a big city centre or countryside village. In the city centre you really have to fight for your and your teams place – winners side can keep up the Dominators and loosers side can only try to hit them down as fast as possible. If you are part of the loosing team, better war spells will be great value in brining enemy Dominators down as it would be very hard to keep your own up, there is not much use for catchers etc.

    In the small village, you do not really need the good war spells as there rarely are enemy Dominators etc, but you get better benefit in investing Catchers and Beacons fast.

    Just a couple of thoughts,

    see you in game fields, Fibrizio Catadelli (JoensuuTampere)

  13. Edited (shortened) by author’s request

    This strategy didn’t work for us:

    In many battles people kept shooting at the enemy mages as soon as the Beacon opened. In less than a minute, the friendly Beacon was destroyed, the friendly swarm stopped, those remaining in the battlefield ran out of Mana, and the battle faded out. So don’t do that, it spoils all the fun! :)

    This strategy worked for us:

    – Someone builds a Beacon (looks like a light beam towards the sky) in the border of the enemy territory and announces it.
    – The enemy Gateway (looks like fire) must be visible from there.
    – Others warp in and furiously heal the Beacon, while more people swarm in.
    – If enemy Beacons are are visible, the second wave disables them. This will prevent the enemy from swarming in.
    – If enemy Dominators (the spiky towers) are are visible, the second wave disables them. This will reduce the need to build friendly Dominators.
    – An enemy without Beacon will usually become weak rather soon, which gives time to build friendly Dominators.
    – The Gateway will give up sooner or later. Anyone with Mana and access moves the Beacon to the next enemy Gateway, usually not far.
    – Do this while enemy gateways last.

    When this works, it’s like Enemy Territory experience in your phone and in your neighbourhood. And that’s how I like it.

    – P-man

  14. Jason on said:


    If everyone needs to kick friend out of list cause they dun have beacon tat is not friend at all.. Even they dun have a beacon they can act as our backup to harvest doms when we r not around… Not even Gods can go on standby mode 24hours harvesting all day round =]

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