|Dev: Dead Mage Inc.|
|Pub: Just a Game|
|Release: May 31, 2011|
|Screen Resolution: 480p-1080p|
by Robert VerBruggen
Any time a video game is hugely successful, you can expect to see some clones. God of War has been no exception, with Dante's Inferno being the most well-known ripoff.
Thanks to this deluge of God of War-style games, pretty much everyone is familiar with the basic hack-and-slash formula: your character—probably a beefy, bare-chested dude drawn from some ancient story about gods and/or dragons—walks into a new area. He gets closed in, and some monsters attack him. He slices through the enemies with his sword, maybe using some fancy combos, and lots of blood comes out. He flips a switch or two and heads to the next area, and so on—until he fights a boss, a battle that is sure to include quick-time events.
And now, in that proud tradition, we have Garshasp: The Monster Slayer, the PC debut of indie developer Dead Mage Inc. The titular hero is drawn from ancient Persian mythology, in which, true to the game's subtitle, he slays a whole bunch of monsters.
Dead Mage is a true underdog; the developer's core team for this game was comprised all of nine people. In fact, only about twenty-five pitched in overall. You can tell they really poured their hearts into every aspect of Garshasp, from the storyline to the mythological enemies to the combat system. Unfortunately, though, the studio lacked either the funding or the technical expertise to polish the gameplay experience, and, as a result, the game probably isn't worth your time or your $20.
Of course, an indie game can be just as polished as a blockbuster—the usual suspects in this category are Braid, Limbo, World of Goo, Super Meat Boy, etc. But all of those games share something that Garshasp does not: two-dimensional graphics. In trying to make a game that looks like God of War instead of Super Mario World, Dead Mage bit off more than they could chew. The product they ended up with is great for showing off their skills, and in fact it's one of the most technically impressive games I've seen from a studio of this size. But "from a studio of this size" is the key phrase here. There are plenty of similar-yet-better-made games available from bigger studios, and Garshasp is not much fun in comparison.
Most of the game's problems can be traced directly to the fact that the developers couldn't fix all of the problems that 3D graphics tend to introduce. For example, there's no camera control, which leaves you at the mercy of whatever camera angles the developers chose for each screen. These are usually fine, but they prevent you from exploring as much as you'd like to, and they make a few of the platforming sections a lot harder than they need to be.
Then there are the invisible walls. I first noticed these in my first boss battle, not five minutes into the game. The monster was much bigger than I was, and it was obvious that I should be able to run between his legs when he attacked me. Yet every attempt to do so failed. Further, if I tried to dodge toward the screen in some parts of the arena, I was blocked in my attempt to do that as well. The trick to beating the boss wasn't to figure out any sort of strategy, but to figure out where I was allowed to move.