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That Pharaonic borrows heavily from the Dark Souls is clear in the first 20 minutes of the game. But while playing the game, I couldn’t shake off the feeling that the game was also influenced by another, much older game, the original PC classic Prince Of Persia. Which is not a bad thing at all, infact Pharanoic merges 2-D scrolling combat, with brutal difficulty and minor RPG elements to create a game which will find you rage-quitting and returning to the game for days on end.


Pharaonic

Detailed Review


(+) A Tale of Egypt

The narrative in Pharaonic follows a prisoner who has been released to fulfill his fate of stopping the Red Pharaoh. The Red Pharaoh is an Egyptian King who has been ruling the land for more than 400 years thanks to resurrection. Now that Egypt is under siege by the sea-people, and the Red Pharaoh has gone into hiding, the rebel group (in this case a group of mysterious, teleporting women) have decided to strike, starting with breaking you out of the afore mentioned prison.

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There are no spoken dialogues or cut-scenes in Pharaonic, which means you are left to piece together the plot of the game by talking to NPCs that you find scattered throughout the game. Most of these conversations though add little to the actual story, ditto with the bosses of each area. Apart from the Warden, most bosses have no prior explanation of why they exist on that location apart from the fact that they are blocking your way to the map’s next section.

(+) Prince Of Persia Egypt Edition

Gameplay is where the influence of Prince of Persia on Pharanoic is most evident. You move across a 2-D world running into different kinds of enemies.  Every encounter is slow paced and is more reliable on strategic swipes than button mashing. Stamina is the main resource here, something that you will use up when you attack, defend or dodge. Running out of stamina, finds your defenseless and open to all kinds of damage. The light and heavy category of armor and weapon adds another layer to this mechanic. While Light armor provides lesser protection, the heavier armor limits the max stamina available. This extends to your weapons as well, while light weapons have quicker attacks, heavier weapons drain a lot more stamina but deal out a lot more damage. Each battle hence becomes an intricate match of utilizing your stamina.

(-) Dying an Egyptian Death

It helps when the enemies have prominent tells and their attacks are predictable. Most enemies (bosses included) give you enough time to judge what kinds of attack is coming next and plan your move accordingly. What does not help is that those attacks deal enough damage to kill you in 3-4 hits, a problem compounded when you run out of stamina and find yourself surrounded by enemies (Don’t find yourself in this situation ever). You can heal yourself a limited number of times using your canteen (vis-a-vis Dark Souls) but the refilling stations and save points are few and far between. Add the fact that every point you save the game all enemies re-spawn, and you will find yourself dying, a lot…I mean a lot.

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The similarities with Dark Souls are clear here, but with the 3D environments and verticality not present, avoiding encounters becomes nigh impossible in the game, you can run past some of them, but mostly you need to kill them before moving forward. This becomes especially irritating when you need to face minions after the last checkpoint before a big boss fight. A few lucky shots, and you would be either low on health or low on your canteen when you enter the boss fights, which feels like a cheap trick rather than a hard game.

(-) Lost In the Deserts

Another thing that makes the game harder than it should be is the map and traversal. Each area’s map marks important locations but no legend is provided. So it will take you some trial and error to figure it out. None of the maps tell your current location either, so planning your next move involves multiple reference to the map, and identifying the various landmarks that you should or have crossed. This wouldn’t be too cumbersome, if the map wasn’t stored away in your inventory under the Items sections, which is the second to last option on your inventory screen. Even that would be OK, if the game remembered the last position you exited your inventory from, instead of starting from the top every time the inventory is opened. All of this would be bearable, but you need to buy the map for each area from a merchant placed in that area, the location of which you have no idea about. So you have already discovered and are are trying to remember half of the area, before you actually get your hands on it. Its the little things.

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(+) Egypt in technicolor

Milkstone has done well to create a varied colorful palette for the game, even though the game is in Egypt. Any other studio could have lazily used the yellow to brown shades for the entire game (Technomancer, I am looking at you) and be done with it. Instead Milkstone have put in popping colors in all their levels which draw attention to the cell shaded design. The panning camera highlights each location as a beautiful vista through superb background detail. Not only that, but the camera and subtle lighting provide enough allusion to environmental traps that will undoubtedly catch you off guard one time or another. Which like the rest of the game are deadly.

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Sound on the other hand in the game are limited to grunts and shouts as you attack or are attacked by an enemy, and in that it is nothing special. Cutscenes are reduced to small introductory videos of the bosses, but the frame-rate did dip once or twice during my later playthroughs. Apart from that, the game performed flawlessly on my PS4, and I had no one else to blame when I died.

VERDICT

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