Every game should be valued on its own merits. Even though some games draw inspiration from other successes, most retain their own qualities. Unfortunately, even after really trying to find some, there is little difference between Garshasp (what’s in a name) and its desperate attempt at being God of War. It even has collectable orbs, which is blatantly obvious as a reference, since orbs are a very specific object. Regardless, let’s try to see what Garshasp: The Monster Slayer has to offer.
Meet Garshasp. It's time to get ominous now.
The story of the hero bearing the Garshasp name is based on actual mythology. Since the otherwise great, active narration spews a lot of unfamiliar names during gameplay, it’s hard to grasp the entirety, but it boils down to simple enough traits. Evil-doers descend to the regions of our hero and wreck the place, while killing loved ones and stealing a mace of critical importance to the land. Our melted-face protagonist sets out into the mountains to follow the murderous antagonist and seek revenge, while reclaiming the mace and restoring order.
The quest for justice will take Garshasp through his elaborately constructed settlement, to a lush jungle, some caves and more hills; to ultimately arrive at the demon Hitasp’s domain. The Persian surroundings echo glory from all sides, even if they’re sometimes squared or jagged. All settings are filled with grand statues, engravings and ornaments of all sorts to truly engorge the ancient vibe; which is amplified by the overall score. Additionally, the landscapes Garshasp goes through will make him seem puny, as the camera pans out to reveal gargantuan sculptures and idols merging into an equally huge horizon. That is, when there’s some downtime, because there are also a ton of heads to cleave.
Would it be culturally insensitive to shout something like 'Shish Kebabs!" right now?
Kratos, is that you? Yes, but now he has hair. Furthering aforementioned similarities, Garshasp’s combat portion will play out exactly as expected. As a designated area is entered, monsters emerge on screen en masse and our hero will start chaining simple attacks or special moves together to kill them. The fun part is that this works well, looks amazing with fluent animations and is as fast-paced as it should. There are a handful of varying enemies, with some being tougher than others, which offers some changeable appeal. However, there are only 2 weapons, which can be leveled and upgraded, but still don’t offer a lot of difference, other than both being brutal. Also, our hero only emits one sound time and again, which can be annoying.
But the bad part is that the grabbing mechanic is flawed in several ways. For one, grabbing, or some hits for that matter, requires a very precise approach and even then Garshasp will sometimes prefer grabbing his genetalia instead. And if a grab does succeed, our hero leaves the combat plane entirely, with monsters going through him without him taking damage. And as there’s also only 1 animation per grab, it leaves nothing to be desired; not even the obvious, prolonged quick time events for tougher enemies and bosses. Additionally, the camera will not always be helpful; sometimes leaving Garshasp out of the picture completely or positioning itself behind an obstruction.
Steady as she goes Garshasp. You wouldn't want to fall down, again.
There are also some annoying platform scenes in this otherwise very short game. These sections feel more like a cheap death mechanic to add length, rather than to be an obstacle in need of completing. It doesn’t help either that our hero dodges as recklessly as possible or shows not one shred of doubt to inch himself off certain platforms, while being deadlocked on others. Having at least some resistance when approaching crevices would’ve been great, especially in cases where there are breakable objects on an edge. Additionally, some timed segments seem so viciously precise, they’ll add more frustration.
Luckily, there are a lot of different sections and those will therefore offer variation to the action portion of the game. Running, jumping and sliding down rock walls; our hero does it all, even if it’s not at all logical to have a weapon that cleaves through rock like butter. There was one specific section near the end that did bear striking resemblances to Prince of Persia however, but that may be attributed to mythology.
I am the God of War! Time to rip off some heads!
But what Garshasp lacks in execution, at least it makes up for in gusto. What is truly impressive is the way the entire game is fused together in one giant whole, with unnoticeable transitions between regions. Together with the active narration and some truly inspiring cutscenes, this makes Garshasp a game that can be played in one shot, without ever realizing the progress made. It is only when a distant horizon shows previous locales that one can truly see the glory of this transition.
In all, Garshasp: The Monster Slayer only falls short because it’s that game which is ‘the other God of War that’s also Prince of Persia’. There’s no real merit in that stamp, but aside from all the severely unpolished bits, there is at least a great potential in the game. It’s a shame that it can be completed in as little as 4 hours, but at least it’s a thrilling ride; be it a very minimalistic one. And while there is some replay value to be found, the real intrigue lays with the anticipation of Dead Mage Studio’s next game. Garshasp showed the world what they’re capable of, one can only imagine what that may result in time, with a lot more resources and effort put into it.