While the general content of the early shareware versions is the same - there are four levels, and available weapons, items and monsters are similar to the final release - there are quite a few noticeable differences worth mention:
- Versions 1.0 and 1.1 have self-running demos, similar to other FPS games of the time, including Build games in general and the direct predecessor of Shadow Warrior, Duke Nukem 3D. Both early versions feature demo records of two levels, Zilla Construction and Master Leep's Temple. The self-running demos can be turned off with the -nodemo command line parameter.
- The early versions use the rotating shuriken selection marker, as opposed to v1.2 that uses the Yin Yang symbol as the selection marker. Here's a screenshot from v1.1, with a similar screenshot from v1.2 for comparison:
It was suggested that the change was perhaps made because of the UK censored version, which replaces the actual shurikens with darts as one of the weapons.
- Versions 1.0 and 1.1 also do not have episode titles yet. On the episode selection screen, the episodes are simply called "Shareware levels" and "Registered levels":
- Versions 1.0 and 1.1 do not yet have the air meter that shows the amount of remaining air while underwater, or the boss health meter. Those were added in v1.2, along with a command line parameter that allows to disable the meters.
- In both versions 1.0 and 1.1, it is impossible to switch between single UZI and dual-wielded UZIs after the second UZI had been picked up. It is not clear whether this was an oversight in the earlier versions, or the intended effect which was changed in v1.2.
- Compared to v1.0, most of Lo Wang's voice clips have been edited to increase their volume in v1.1. These new versions remain unchanged in v1.2.
- Version 1.2 added sprites for broken neon lamps, which are used in the first level of the shareware version:
Another example is the seats at the train platform (v1.0/1.1 only has flickering lights):
Version 1.2 also made some of the lamps destructible.
- Throughout the levels, there are many minor differences concerning placement of certain item caches, switches and the like, which do not, however, affect the general layout of the levels. For example, in level 3, the niche that contains sticky bombs was moved from one side of the pool to the other:
The same level has a secret underwater area with a switch, which was moved from one wall to another:
(This change actually occurred in v1.1 already.)
- The sky texture in level 3 was replaced by a panoramic view of mountains and forest. This change, however, is not very obvious because most of the sky is obscured by structures in the open areas (temple entrance and courtyard; the area with chasms later into the level has a different sky altogether), with only the sky being visible in both versions unless you really look around.
- One of the notable graphical differences between v1.0/1.1 and v1.2 is the appearance of Lara Croft in the secret area on level four. Early versions use the same graphics as the beta version, with a more anime look. Version 1.2 replaced this with an appearance that is much closer to the original character:
- In v1.0, whenever the player picks a new weapon the game automatically switches to that weapon. It seems that v1.2 introduces some kind of weapon priority: for example, if you start level 3 with no previously collected weapons, pick the UZI and then pick sticky bombs, you'll switch from the UZI to the sticky bombs; however, if you pick the bombs first you won't switch to the UZI automatically when you pick it.
- Versions 1.0 and 1.1 have different ordering information screens (shown here).
- The built-in command line help in v1.0 mentions two command line parameters, -commbat# and -coop#, which turn on fake multiplayer and fake co-op modes in single-player game:
Version 1.1 removed the description of these parameters from the built-in help, but they are still listed in the electronic manual (SWHELP.EXE). Version 1.2 removes all mention of these from its electronic manual as well. Nevertheless, the -commbat# and -coop# parameters work in all three versions, although no parameter that would actually turn on bots in "fake multiplayer" single-player games is mentioned in any of these versions.
- There is a Win95 compatibility mode for MIDI music in early versions which can be activated with the -win95 or -win95awe32 command line parameters. Version 1.2 also makes no mention of this whatsoever.