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.