Thoughts On Garshasp: The Monster Slayer

By Jim Rossignol on May 10th, 2011 at 1:15 pm.


Dead Mage’s Persian brawler Garshasp: The Monster Slayer came out yesterday and I’ve given it a quick eyeing to bring you my thoughts, which you can find below.

For a budget attempt to drag the God Of War-style third person melee action hack ‘em up to PC, Garshasp: The Monster Slayer covers some serious ground. With fancy cutscenes, a plot based on the Persian hero Garshasp (aka Kərəsāspa / Kirsāsp), and plenty of gorily splattered bodies, it manages to do a lot of what you’d expect from the genre, albeit with mixed results. The game design is pretty much squeezed from the rock that is the God Of War games, which, in case you’re not familiar with their console-ilk, means a 3rd-person camera which cannot be controlled (it sits in a particular position depending on the scene, and tracks the player through certain environments) and a series of button-mashing moves that allow you to pull of increasingly elaborate blade-based acrobatics.

Garshasp runs and jumps through his environment, and he can catch onto ledges, climb ladders, and so forth. He can even double jump, which is convenient for him. Also, scattered through the Persian-style fantasy environments, are various orb-dispenser things, that both level him up and restore health. Levelling up unlocks new moves, which include things like AoE attacks, and various high-damage moves with his stabbing tools. So far, so good.

The issue with Garshasp is not, I think, the overall approach or design, but somewhere in the details. The solidity of combat is never quite solid enough, and it could do with a more complex model for hitting people, and the results of them being hit. They do not stumble or recoil satifactorily from your blows. The physics of it are just about acceptable for this kind of brawler, but they don’t have the kind of fluidity or response that this kind of game is capable of in 2011. The same is true of Gashasp’s own movement. He can jump and roll away, but it doesn’t feel tight. A limitation of the budget, of course, but it’s still hard to swallow.

Nor is the level design always that interesting or rewarding. The environments are rather static and undynamic, and although there are some interesting environmental puzzles, they’re rather outshone by the general clonky linearity of the experience. It’s a shame.

It’s not exactly the prettiest game, despite some excellently Persian monsters, but I like Garshasps’ unnatural brow, and I like the way the game is themed and presented. That said, it is, crucially, the kind of game that ends up looking weak by comparison to its high-budget peers. Add to that some odd difficulty spikes with bosses, and this is a game that I think will have limited appeal. Dead Mage have obviously worked hard to get the game to this level – and it’s playable on both mouse/keyboard and gamepad, which is refreshing – but it feels like there’s a lot more work to be done to get this game into the realms of the recommended. Hopefully there will be a demo, so that that folks can sample it for themselves. I can’t really recommend it to all, even at this low price point. It’s just not lively enough for me.

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56 Comments »

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  1. N says:

    A bit of Onimusha influence too, no doubt.

  2. Alextended says:

    Persian indie God of War. Neat effort. Now do a Wot I Think for Avadon! I just read an olden blog post from 2009 saying Geneforge 4 which was one of their average sellers (and only sold through their own website, no other digital distribution platforms) sold a ludicrous 4000 copies! No, I’m not missing any zeros there. At the time of course. They must have some badass management skills to be able to keep putting out games, and make a decent living off of them, for over 15 years! I tell you, all that asset reuse is no longer inexplicable. You’d think olden school RPGs that have actually good writing and combat would get more love but I guess that’s not the case. It seems that Steam has once again rejected them too, which is mind boggling considering the other stuff they have approved. Here’s to another 15 years of olden school role playing gaming!

    • icupnimpn2 says:

      I would like to see a WIT:Avadon, though I’m not sure it has summit to do with Garshasp.

      Boy, Vogel writes a great blog.

      Spiderweb releases about a game per year on average. Dev costs for Geneforge 4 were $120,000. Revenues were about $120,000 between the game and a hint book. BUT, those dev costs include salaries for Spiderweb’s employees, two of which are Vogel and his wife. So they’ve covered their living expenses, which is why most people have a job.

      Not bad for a small family business. They improve their tech incrementally instead of throwing out the engine each time. So that $120,000 is break-even, but it’s break-even with a decent lifestyle. And now that the game has paid for itself and the bills they can take advantage of the long tail, too, since they keep their whole back catalog available. Much respect.

  3. Zurechial says:

    Saw this on Steam this morning, laughed at the name and thought “Well that’s a low-budget game name if ever there was one!”

    Then I saw the first paragraph of the store page blurb:
    “Years after the confinement of Azhi Dahaka by Fereydun, the evil Deevs (Monsters) who were the commanders in the army of darkness led by Azhi Dahaka rose again in different parts of the ancient lands of Khunirath and rebelled against the humans who were celebrating the victory of the army of light.”
    Wow.

    Anyway, I noticed on the game’s wiki page that it’s for Windows and Linux so that might influence the purchasing decision for some people.
    Edit: Apparently the Linux port is still in-progress.

    • oliverh72 says:

      For some reason, I keep reading it as “GASharp’. Doesn’t make me want to buy it, that’s for sure.

  4. Pie21 says:

    One’s combat solidity can never be too solid.

    • blorg.beard says:

      Also, one’s environments should never be both static and un-dynamic.

  5. Eclipse says:

    I got it, and for an iranian based team it shows it was made with love.
    It’s clearly a “we want to aim higher than we really can”, trying to do a AAA-like, but not in a bad way.
    I really like the visual style, the monster models are pretty damn good.
    And frankly, the price IS low. It’s a game for few hours of mindless fun. Is it Darksiders? No, not at all, but it’s still quite fun and engaging.

    • Icarus says:

      Yeah. For a game made by a small indie team in Iran it looks pretty astonishing. From the trailer it looks like they decided to punch well above their weight.

  6. DainIronfoot says:

    I think every indie dev who aims to do more than a 2d platformer should be applauded. More of this sort of thing please.

    • BobsLawnService says:

      This. Don’t get me wrong – I’m a fan of RPS but I find their adolation of every single Indy 2D platformer with a twist a bit odd. Hammering this because it doersn’t have God Of War production values makes me sad. Should we only reward games with no ambition?

  7. subedii says:

    Off topic: But any word on when you guys are likely to do a WIT on Brink? I’m guessing it won’t be until it officially hits the UK

    Very interested in that game.

    • Jim Rossignol says:

      We want to get some UK servers up and have a play. Probably won’t WIT for a few days.

    • subedii says:

      That’s cool. Better than reviewing it just for the singleplayer, which I’m actually seeing a few official reviews do already.

      Not that that technically isn’t a “valid” way to play, but I already had the expectation that bot play was going to be bad and the only real way to play this would be online.

    • Chris D says:

      That’s a shame. I was hoping we might hear something while it’s still possible to pick it up for relatively cheap pre-order prices, but them’s the breaks.

      I guess I shall just have to go by Eurogamer’s most unenthusiastic 8/10 in the world.

    • Jim Rossignol says:

      Reviewing it on the basis of the single player would be madness.

    • Premium User Badge

      QuantaCat says:

      Well since you guys got this savygamers thing as well, I went ahead and got it anyway, no matter the reviews.

      Basically, I liked Enemy Territory Quake Wars, and I am damn sure I will like this one too. Even if it would have technical difficulties, theyre a very devoted team of devs, and Im sure it will be awesome.

    • Chris D says:

      But I like single player….

      Oh well, I’m aware I have unusual tastes in this regard.

    • subedii says:

      By all accounts, the “singleplayer” for Brink is pretty much the singleplayer for Unreal Tournament, or Left 4 Dead.

      Which is: Multiplayer but with stupid stupid bots.

    • Odiorne Point says:

      http://www.joystiq.com/2011/05/10/brink-review/
      Ouch.

      Edit: sorry for the derail. Here’s a good place to talk about Brink:

      http://rockpapershotgun.com/rpsforum/topic.php?id=4571&page=3&replies=60#post-167375

    • subedii says:

      I’d actually suggest the Destructoid review, they’re pretty honest about the fact that this is a “love it or hate it” game. If you’re looking for CoD, this won’t be it.

      http://www.destructoid.com/review-brink-200746.phtml

      With the Joystiq review… well… let’s just say there’s been a little controversy surrounding it, and allegations from another review site regarding how much time that reviewer actually spent on it.

      I’ll refrain from posting which site or what they said.

      Personally from what I’ve read about the game, it sounds like the title for me. But I also know that it probably won’t be for everyone. The design decisions they took that I felt were extremely well thought out will very DEFINITELY irk others (attempts to reduce grenade spam, almost complete removal of one-hit kills, almost complete removal of “grinding” because of the ability to unlock all weapons and attachments extremely rapidly just by doing the training missions. Stuff like that).

      I suspect what issues there are to do with map design and balance are things that will just get sorted out over time (either through the community understanding the tactics of the game, or simply due to updates). That’s really the nature of most competitive online FPS’s. But at the same time, it wouldn’t be recommendable on that proviso.

      As it is, I guess I won’t be able to know until the game is shipped across the digital sea.

    • SpaceAkers says:

      unfortunately, brink is not that great.

      I took a chance on it and pre-ordered it, and it is pretty mediocre.

      It’s not an awful game, but it’s a C- game.

    • Snargelfargen says:

      After playing for about 10 hours in total, I can say that Brink is actually a lot of fun. It’s a great team-based shooter, and because you have more health/guns do less damage, you are strongly encouraged to use all the skills your class is given, not to mention play around with the melee combat. I would actually compare it to a cross between Unreal Tournament 2004 and Team Fortress (for people like me who don’t know what the heck ET is).

      The negative joystiq review has been pretty controversial, since it turns out the reviewer had only gotten the 360 achievements that turn up in the first 1 or 2 hours of play.

      On the negative side, the single-player lasts only a couple hours and is only there to teach you the basics. Also the challenges need to be done with a low-level character, otherwise they get craaazy difficult.
      People with AMD video cards should watch out, there are some serious driver issues which Splash Damage say they are still working on.

  8. Mike says:

    Seems like it’s hard to strike just above the indie bar on your first attempt. Actively being part of the indie dev community seems to tame people’s expectations and make them more involved with the project on a personal level.

    It looks lovely, and I love the mythology.

  9. StingingVelvet says:

    I love the story of the developers, but I can’t buy the game. Just not my “thing” at all.

  10. Oneironaut says:

    I like these kinds of games, and there aren’t that many available on PC. Too bad this one doesn’t look very good. Smooth “tight” combat is what makes these games, and if the combat is not flawless, then the game won’t be very fun. At least that’s my experience.

  11. Burning Man says:

    People are perfectly happy to shell out tons of cash for a great game but are iffy about paying a lot less for a good/just okay game. Shouldn’t everyone have figured this out by now?

    • trjp says:

      Surely this is a moveable target tho – not every game need be a 4-5 year £20M development…

      Price does NOT dictate content or quality – experience is a clue tho…

    • Jad says:

      They have. However, it’s very hard to determine what will be a “great game” beforehand, so what ends up happening is publishers plowing vast amounts of money into sequels and clones of other, popular games. See: Homefront, Medal of Honor, Crysis 2, DA II, and, relevantly for this article, God of War 3.

      Anyway, this game again seems like it will fall into my “if I had more free time” pile, which is unfortunate.

    • Hellraiserzlo says:

      I already bought shadow of rome, dmc, dmc3, gow , gow2 and a couple other in that area for the ps2 if I will ever need that fix I can just play them.
      Why would I want to pay for a game that tries to be them on the pc? a third person action game for the pc and low budget, yeah that’s going to sell.

  12. noodlecake says:

    Are there any good PC brawlers? It seems to be more of a console thing. I would love to know about them if there is though! :)

    • Jad says:

      Batman: Arkham Asylum is absolutely fantastic. If you don’t have that, get it immediately.

      I played a bit of Devil May Cry 4, it seemed fun, but the beginning was very repetitive and I didn’t last long enough to see if it got better.

    • Alextended says:

      Well, Devil Mary Cry 4 was ported and was pretty fun. Devil May Cry 3 too but I haven’t played it to know how good the port is. Darksiders is great. Severance: Blade of Darkness exists. Also Rune, that’s a bit older. Mount&Blade’s combat probably counts on some level. Dark Messiah of Might & Magic. Maybe Jedi Knight II? Vindictus too. Batman certainly! I think some of those EA LOTR hack and slash games were ported too. Also stuff like that indie Streets of Rage Remake remix thing that was shut down by Sega but is still easy to find and play if you want to give it a shot (you do). I think that’s about it. There are some upcoming ones like The First Templar and that Metal Gear game with the ninja.

    • subedii says:

      Will second B:AA and DMC4, loved them both. DMC4 though, you’ll probably want a gamepad.

      Zeno Clash is perhaps the only game I’ve ever played that’s done first person brawling well. Definitely worth looking at, bizarre as it is (and trust me, it is very bizarre). The demo gives you a good feel for how the combat handles.

    • Kdansky says:

      Batman: Go buy it now.

      DMC4: Avoid. When you get to that room before the first real boss, which makes you roll dice (and spawns a few enemies depending on roll) for twenty times (which takes you 20-30 minutes of mindless repetition) and then follow this up with a puzzle-boss fight (but no safe point), the kind which is easy if you know how, but need to trial & error your way into his pattern, and then die and have to do the slogfest over, you’ll hate it.

    • noodlecake says:

      I used to have Batman before my 360 died. :( Arkham Asylum would explode my laptop. I’m a student so I can’t really afford to go out and buy a gaming rig! I had to get something that was portable and good enough to deal with my graphic art and animation requirements which means it can just about deal with some modern games on the lowest settings (Like Portal 2! I was amazed! It slows down when my laptop gets hot but still!). Although in my friends circle I am the most techy. None of my friends would scrimp and save to spend £600 on a computer!

      Devil May Cry might be fun. I prefer using a game pad anyway. It means I can move around when I feel uncomfortable and just like mong out on my bed if I want to.

      I tried Darksiders and didn’t like the general feel. The general artistic direction put me off which is a shame because I hear it’s a good game! I put a couple of hours into it and just couldn’t bear it. I’m an art student so generally visuals are a big deal to me. Not necessarily like having loads of snazzy modern effects but character design and scenery and stuff have to feel right! Like Cave Story. :D

      What I would like is a hand to hand physics based beat em up with destructible environments and a deep counter system and lots of throws and slam manoeuvres (and possibly martial arts and melee weapons). I know none exist though. The closest thing to that is streets of rage but that doesn’t have the physics.

      I had a bash at the streets of rage remix. That was fun. :)

      Mount and Blade is awesome but I put bloomin aaaages into the Prophecy of Pendor mod and don’t seem to have made much progress at all.

      I’ll check out some of the other ones. Devil may Cry has a bit of a cheesy SEGA feel to me that I’m not right keen on but I will give it a bash. :)

      Thanks for the help guys!

    • Giaddon says:

      I really liked Prototype, which definitely tried pretty hard to open up the brawler framework it was built on.

    • subedii says:

      Apologies if this is a double post, the board seems to have eaten my first one.

      @ Kdansky:

      I uh, hate to tell you this, but the dice? You can actually set which number it’s going to show.

      The cube always lands on the face that was pointing up at the time you hit it. And it rotates in a set sequence. You see a specific number face turn up, then 6 twists later that same face will rotate up again. So you see the face, hit it the next time it crops up 6 turns later. The timing itself is fairly simple.

      So basically you see where the white (or yellow? Or blue? Can’t remember now) section is that you want to land on, note how many moves you need to make to get there, then hit the die at the appropriate time.

      You can go through the dice segments without a single fight basically (at least if I’m remembering right). In the ending set piece, you’ve still got the boss rush, but that’s not too bad once you know how to play them. And in a game like DMC4, I actually really enjoyed the boss fights, so YMMV.

      Actually talking about this now is giving me a hankering for re-installing it.

      Noddlecake, if you’re worried about system requirements for DMC4, there’s a sort of non-interactive demo app that you can download to test performance.

    • DOLBYdigital says:

      Will echo Zeno Clash! Really thought that game handled the first person brawler very well and also had a very distinct visual style and story. Highly suggested for those interested :)

      Prototype and Dark Messiah also had good fighting present, wish ninja gaiden or bayonetta would come out on PC but every once and awhile we get a brawler port that holds us over.

  13. trjp says:

    If nothing else, this game prompted a FANTASTIC thread on the Steam Forums (since deleted entirely) where some Americans tried to stir-up a protest against it because it originated from a country that is an enemy of the US and that by buying the game, someone from the US would be committing TREASON (their capitals).

    One guy even went to so far as say he’d have no problem with games from the UAE, Dubai, Saudi (countries mired in the dark ages with human rights records Hitler would admire) but he couldn’t stomach one from Iran (a country who’s status with the US was CREATED by the US).

    When I waded in with a few basic facts, such as Dead Mage being based in the US and Valve having probably considered the ‘TREASON’ thing and all, they got very upset. When I pointed them at a bit of world history and some Amnesty stuff they almost imploded – then the thread got deleted.

    Man it was fun whilst it lasted tho!!

    • subedii says:

      Somehow I am not terribly surprised that people would want to stir up angst over it because “EVIL EYE-RAIN-IANS!”.

    • Wulf says:

      You both realise that painting America with one, large brush is equally as bad as anything either of you are talking about, right?

      Probably not.

      Continue on with your America hate, don’t mind me.

    • Subject 706 says:

      Doubly amusing seeing how the mullahs are not exactly keen on Iran’s pre-islamic history…

    • Chris D says:

      Wulf, Trjp only referred to some Americans, Subedii didn’t mention them at all. I’m not sure there’s any kind of brushwork going on here.

    • Inigo says:

      If nothing else, this game prompted a FANTASTIC thread on the Steam Forums (since deleted entirely) where some Americans tried to stir-up a protest against it because it originated from a country that is an enemy of the US and that by buying the game, someone from the US would be committing TREASON (their capitals).

      That’s disgusting.

      You willingly read posts on the Steam forums? Ew.

    • Rii says:

      Sounds like a riot; sorry I missed it.

    • subedii says:

      What Chris D said.

      Wulf I didn’t say JACK ALL in judgement of anyone’s nationality. You can be an equal jackass regardless of where you come from.

      Take you for example. I have no idea what country you hail from, but right now I have no qualms in calling you an abject PRAT for even making that suggestion about me.

      Or maybe I could postulate that you’re just behaving in a reactionary fashion because you yourself actually HATE Iranians and despise the fact that others would discuss this product without castigating them?

      Now it would be irrational and completely fracking stupid of me to make such a statement about you. Wouldn’t it? Perhaps if you understood that then perhaps you wouldn’t go making it about other people.

      If I sound ticked off, it’s because I am. Your snide insinuations of “America hate” are asinine and completely uncalled for.

    • trjp says:

      I simply said that some Americans got upset because – well – because some Americans got upset! They talked, at length, about how Iran was an ‘enemy of the USA’ and that by supporting people from Iran (note: not people IN Iran – just FROM Iran) they could be committing TREASON.

      This is far too stupid a mentality not to tweak – you only goto the Steam Forums to see what controversy is stirring at the best of times and this was pure-fried-original-ignorance at it’s very, very finest.

      I dislike racial/national stereotypes and have no desire to enhance them beyond some gentle pisstaking BUT this was classic “I know nothing about the world other than what Fox News tells me” bullshit.

    • ManaTree says:

      Yeah, as an American, I don’t feel insulted at all. Because I’m not them. I thought the post was properly contextualized.

  14. Premium User Badge

    Foosnark says:

    Seeing as how I know almost nothing about Persian lore, the first sentence of description in the Steam store made me think “poorly translated, derivative mad-lib fantasy plot. Probably third-rate.” Then the description mentioned it was based on Persian mythology. I think they should have reversed those.

  15. subedii says:

    Reply Fail

  16. MythArcana says:

    All I had to read was the word “linear” for the instant turn off. New Vegas gave me the same feeling with its horribly linear environment, as do 98% of the FPS titles these days. But…I guess when so many companies are seeing the success of brain-dead titles like CoD and Mass Effect, they figure they can just cut and paste levels together and nobody will notice. ‘Tis a sign of the times, unfortunately…

  17. Zogtee says:

    Any indie game that is not another bloody puzzle game is worthy of praise, imo.

  18. luphisto says:

    The first picture really looks like the Prince from Warrior Within.
    Well, to me anyhow..

  19. roman2 says:

    Damn, that’s sad. I love the “God of war”-style hack’n’slay genre, but having only a PC as a gaming plattform I’m kinda stuck with DMC which will only get a new release every few years, so I really hoped Garshasp could fill these gaps a little :/
    But for 20EUR? With questionable quality? I think I’ll pass, at least as long as there isn’t any acceptable deal on steam.

  20. malkav11 says:

    This is $2.50 (USD, European/UK rates may vary) on Steam today, and so far seems worth it at that price point. Be sure to configure the game before launching it, because there are no in-game options at all and the defaults are a little strange.