|Dev: Dead Mage Inc.|
|Pub: Just a Game|
|Release: May 31, 2011|
|Screen Resolution: 480p-1080p|
Also, because of their complexity, 3D games seem a lot more prone to glitches; even big-studio releases often need a long series of patches. I found some serious ones during my time with Garshasp. For example, using the Control-Escape shortcut to minimize the game caused my mouse pointer to disappear. There was another issue during a particularly obnoxious sequence in which you have to propel a raft forward and kill enemies at the same time. After this, you must platform over water (falling into this water causes instant death, of course), then fight through a few layers of enemies on the ground. During this section, the game froze on me twice. While the checkpoints are distributed liberally, the save points are a bit rarer, and these freezes cost me quite a bit of progress.
Another issue is the combat. The basics of the fighting system walk the line between simplistic and overly complex. The right and left mouse buttons trigger normal and heavy attacks respectively, holding down the center button blocks (and allows you to perform an extra-powerful strike that drains a meter), the space button jumps, and the shift button causes your character to perform an evasive roll. As you kill enemies, your character slowly develops, and new combos become available. These are all the tools you need to craft an engaging fighting experience.
But that's not the way it works out in Garshasp. Most of the animations take too long to play out, leaving you vulnerable to enemy strikes. In fact, if you use a heavy attack, many enemies will be able to wind up and hit you before you're able to block or dodge. I often found myself starting a combo before the enemies had even reached me, just so I could deliver the powerful final blow without being interrupted. In addition to causing frustration when enemies get difficult (which, fortunately, isn't too often), this makes the combat feel a lot less visceral than it should.
There are smaller mistakes here as well. For example, the checkpoints save your health level, which you can boost only by finding glowing orbs. It's possible to get yourself into a situation where you have virtually no health, and yet a ton of enemies to defeat. The difficulty spikes seemingly at random. The platforming sequences are some of the most frustrating in recent memory, while most of the fights are easy. In one sequence, I managed to avoid fighting some of the monsters by flipping the switches in a different order, and this "trick" didn't seem intentional on the developers' part.
To be fair, some aspects of Garshasp are quite enjoyable. Aside from the technical problems they cause, the graphics aren't bad at all. They look a little bit dated, but they draw you into the game world and create the impression of an endless environment. The cutscenes are even more visually impressive. There isn't much voice work aside from the occasional story narration, but those segments are performed well. The music and sound effects fit the subject matter and the location without seeming over-the-top. Some might dislike the lack of multiplayer or the campaign's short length (maybe four or five hours), but I think the developers were wise to limit the scope of their project as much as they did. And at the end of the day, who doesn't like running around and hacking at monsters, even if the experience isn't as smooth as it could be?
It's a credit to Dead Mage Inc. that with a tiny staff and big ambitions, they created a $20 product that in some ways rivals big-budget hack-and-slash games. By all means, they should be proud of their accomplishment, and I will be eagerly waiting to see if they can hone their craft with their next release. As for Garshasp: The Monster Slayer itself, though—well, let's just say I won't be playing through it a second time.
CCC Contributing Writer