Indie games seem to fall in to two categories: those that understand their financial and contextual limitations, and those that do not. The important thing that indie developers need to remember is that, without the budget of a large-scale game, they must make cut back their aspirations slightly in terms of scope and magnitude. That isn’t to say that developers should think less of themselves in any way, but they should most certainly understand their limitations, much like the independent film industry. I mean, if people know how to make a game well, they can make a good job of it despite the pennies they are working off, but sometimes you play an indie game and feel they may have been trying to contend with the big boys as opposed to offering a game suited to their abilities. Unfortunately, Garshasp: Temple of the Dragon is one of these games.

A God of War/Bayonetta/Devil May Cry/etc. clone, Garshasp is a very cheap (£3.99 on Steam) download-only fantasy game by Iranian developer Dead Mage. Acting as a prequel (and ‘expansion,’ apparently) to ‘Garshasp: The Monster Slayer,’ you make your way through the forest and the ‘Temple of the Dragon’ in search of a magical mace, fighting the creatures of the forest (the Deevs) and collecting red orbs… that is all there is to say.

The journey begins with a cutscene. Our titular hero, Garshasp, is mindlessly slashing away at some sort of fern with his predictably oversized sword, when a rather unwell looking individual approaches complaining he is tired as the pair have been ‘searching the forest for days.’ Garshasp himself sounds like he is voiced by Duke Nukem with much the same line delivery, despite being completely out of context, and I would go as far to say that the English dub of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon does a better job of matching dialogue up to the character’s mouths.

First impressions when taking the reins are how dreadfully the game itself is presented. The life meter at the top of the screen is low-res, the hint boxes that pop up are completely devoid of personality and the tips are written in Arial font. I mean, in a game that is supposed to be a fantasy action-adventure, why not put a bit more effort into the presentation? If that wasn’t bad enough, periodically through the game when you find certain items, a huge low-res image will pop up on the screen telling you what it is with some sort of generic fantasy illustration. It literally looks like someone slapped a jpeg over the game window for a few seconds, taking no time to actually integrate it effectively. You also pick up pages from another adventurer’s journal (who seems to be repeating himself in every entry,) triggering an image of the page to appear on screen so you can read what it says: Only issue is, it is in a fictional language. Lucky for us though, every entry is narrated, so you don’t miss out on the fun. It truly confuses me as the graphics themselves aren’t that bad. I mean, they aren’t great, but they don’t make your eyes bleed by any means.

Get used to this place; you’ll be seeing it a lot

It doesn’t take long to get into your first fight, which is where Garshasp genuinely surprised me. The animations aren’t half bad and you don’t feel especially conned on the way the fighting feels – it would be a lie if I said I was bored whilst battling the Deevs and the controls are relatively responsive despite some inconsistencies. However, there is a major issue with how the fighting works as a mechanic: there is no sense of tactical decision in how you fight your enemies such as you would see in a game like God of War. From one enemy to the other, I just click the left mouse button repeatedly to do light attacks, never finding an opportunity to effectively use the heavy attacks. It feels as though the developers have just plucked the idea of having light and heavy attacks from other games and stuck it in Garshasp without any real thought on how the player would use them. That being said, if there were more than 4 enemy types in the entire game I suppose it would have been easier to implement a decision factor in the combat.

That brings me onto the point of the red orbs. You collect them from enemies you have slain (although the game just sometimes decides not to give you any for no particular reason) and small shrines dotted along your adventure in order to unlock new combos. My first complaint is that these unlockable combos (of which there are three) serve literally no purpose at all because, as I have mentioned, all of the enemies can be dispatched by one attack move. My second complaint is that, 90% of the time, the attacks don’t even register as hits on your enemies. My final complaint (although I could go on) is the fact that the game is too damn short to implement unlockable combos! I completed Garshasp in 112 minutes according to Steam, and I paused the game for several of those minutes so I could use the toilet. I understand it’s meant to be a prequel/expansion, but that is very short.

Conan the Barbarian with Duke Nukem’s voice

As I am sure you are getting bored of reading extended paragraphs on how erroneous this game is, I’ll just briefly summarise everything else that made me want to tear my face off for your convenience: there are only two environments you keep to’ing and fro’ing, the puzzles are all cloned, there is no sense of immersion, the sound is uninspired, the quick-time events lack scale, barely anything actually happens and fighting the final (and only) boss is one of the most frustrating experiences of my entire life with the first segment being nearly entirely dictated by luck.

I hate to butcher an indie game like this – I have a great deal of respect for indie developers – but Garshasp is just a real disappointment. I’m not expecting to play a game reflective of God of War’s standard, as I know the difference in budget is astronomical, but I am expecting to play a game that is, at the very least, consistently interesting and well-put-together. It isn’t the worst game I have ever played, and it wasn’t truly painful to play through, but, unfortunately for Garshasp, the few moments that show promise are rapidly overshadowed by the faecal storm of bad presentation, absence of depth and shameless repetition. Spend that £4 on a beer.



Author

Ciaran Fallon
Ciaran Fallon

Filmmaker and full-time gamer studying Film and Moving Image Production in Norwich. Lives for experiencing and creating worlds on the other side of a screen: falling in love with characters, stories and shooting people in the face. Deus Ex is the all time favourite game and American Psycho the all time favourite film.