Grolier Interactive and developer Silmarils have teamed up to
make Asghan, a 1st/3rd person adventure where you play the
title character on a quest to stop his evil uncle Morghan from
calling him a big baby. Or something like that. Now, Asghan
has to be one of the worst titles for a game in recent memory,
second only to the upcoming Varginha Incident. I wish
developers would learn that vaguely disturbing nonsense
names tend to make a bad impression on most people. Asghan
boasts to have been "Inspired by the works of the great J.R.R.
Tolkien" (the name Silmarils was directly lifted from his books),
but in reality it feels like any generic fantasy world most of the
time, and a boring one at that.
Although it is billed as a 1st/3rd person game, Asghan is really
just a third person adventure. It was a cool idea to allow both
perspectives, but the first person view is only used to shoot
arrows and is fairly worthless for doing anything else although
you CAN use it more often. As a result, the inevitable
comparisons to Tomb Raider come up, and Asghan does not
Upon starting the game you are presented with an options
screen that was lifted directly from the Tomb Raider series
(which actually stole the system from Alone in the Dark), with
the spinning 3d objects that go around in a circle. All of the
menus are in this style, and are a good indication of the
amount of innovation and quality that can be expected from
this title. To put it simply, the graphics are weak. To put it
slightly more complexly, the game supports 3dfx, D3D and
software rendering, but as far as I can tell only in 640x480.
The engine suffers from horrible clipping problems, with arms
and weapons constantly going through walls. As for nifty 3d
effects, they are non-existent. Whenever you kill something a
puff of smoke comes up-- a 2d puff of smoke. This trend
continues with trees, bushes, torches and assorted background
items all using 2d sprites. Needless to say this is not a plus.
Textures are a mixed bag. Some of them are very pretty and
high-quality. When I first started the game there were these
beautiful cliffs surrounding me, and I thought to myself "What a
wonderful world. I hope the rest of the game has textures like
this." Well, my wish was granted, as the rest of the first level
proceeded to use and abuse that same texture over and over
until it was nothing but a bloody pulp lying on the ground.
Sound is fairly boring. I'm of course referring to the sound in
Asghan, not just the general concept of sound. Oddly enough, I
happen to thoroughly enjoy sound, at least when it isn't being
blasphemed like it is here. There is some decent 3d positional
sound stuff going on, but its all for naught as the actual effects
are boring, repetitive and flat, much like the rest of the game.
One thing worth noting is the voice acting, which isn't so bad.
My favorite character is this fairy that you meet throughout the
game who sings you songs about what you do next. I'm
gathering that the music director was drunk the day they wrote
the songs, because they're the most crack-infested pieces of
dementia I've ever heard in an otherwise serious game. After a
bit my only motivation to play was to see if I could get to the
next part with the fairy.
Presumably the people that designed Asghan haven't played a
computer game in at least three years, if ever. You see, half of
the game is spent solving clever puzzles, which invariably
amount to pulling this mysterious device they call a `lever' and
hoping it doesn't send you to the beginning of the dungeon or
any number of other annoying things. In the first dungeon
alone there was somewhere approaching 40 of these
miraculous `levers'. If only other game developers would take
notice, it could revolutionize the way games are played!
Seriously though, these puzzles weren't particularly fun in the
original Tomb Raider, and they certainly aren't fun now. The
other predominant puzzle type is jumping over and around
various obstacles or traps. What makes it so difficult isn't that
you need skill or timing, its that the jumping interface is so
awkward that its a challenge to even do the simplest things. I
truly wish companies would start taking a cue from Nintendo's
Mario 64. That game wasn't so damn fun because of the
graphics or gameplay. It was the jumping, pure and simple.
Unca Wongmo is going to fill you all in on a little secret about
3rd person games: If running around and jumping is fun, the
game will be fun. If not, the game will suck. Just go back and
look at any 3rd person game you've ever played, it holds true
for all of them (except for Zelda 64, that's the one exception).
The controls are uniformly bad. It is keyboard only, with the
mouse used to adjust camera angles, and there's no way to
change the key settings. On the issue of the camera, I'm
working under the assumption that Silmarils hired their janitor
to code the camera portion of the engine, its not possible that
an actual professional programmer could write something so
sloppy. Combat is particularly frustrating. You can only
use your sword from the 3rd person view, and during fights the
camera has a tendency to shift around until you can't see
anything. Perhaps this is just a form of clever AI, with the
enemies moving your camera angle to force you to stop
attacking and fix it. Finally, there are many bugs and glitches
throughout the game. At one point I tried to jump up on a
ledge, but my player got caught in mid-air and just started
doing this weird Macarena twitch. At another point I was able
to make a monster walk completely into a wall. The list
honestly goes on and on with small annoying glitches that
could easily have been caught in beta testing.
There is no multiplayer option, which is fine because nobody
in their right mind would want to play it. Also, the style of the
game just wouldn't translate well to multi.
There is very little enjoyment to be had from this title. Its not a
good thing when I have to struggle and force
myself to play a game so I can write an honest review. The
only fun to be had out of this title is to laugh at any poor saps
that actually bought it, screaming "Bah ha ha! I listened to
Unca Wongmo and didn't waste my money on this piece of
tripe! Bah ha ha!"
It is obvious that Silmarils wasn't setting out to make a bad
game when they started work on Asghan. The plain fact that
there's a detailed and lengthy background story for all of the
characters in the game shows that they had their hearts in the
right place. They also even had one or two neat ideas, such as
setting the game in both the 1st and 3rd person. Something just
went wrong, and they ended up grinding out a poor excuse for
an adventure game (unless your idea of adventure is frustration
and tedious, repetitive gameplay) with an outdated engine and
very few redeeming factors. I'm sure that someone,
somewhere in the world will pick this game up and be
absolutely entranced. Unfortunately that person will most likely
be on some sort of drug at the time, or be recovering from
Decent background stories, attempts to combine 1st and 3rd
person perspectives. Certain textures are nice. The wandering
fairy is the most brilliant character in the history of video
Outdated graphics engine, boring sound, tedious gameplay.
Very little in the game works well.