Disclaimer: A copy of the game was provided by the Developer for the review.
Last year, Milkstone Studios released a game called Ziggurat which provided a fun take on the first person shooter genre by mixing in elements of a roguelike. It’s something that has been played for hours on my Xbox One. When I booted up Pharaonic for the first time, there was a feeling of excitement coursing through my veins. Not only was it the next game from the studio, the official description for Pharaonic drew comparisons to the Dark Souls series which is one of my personal favorites.
What followed was a fun, but ultimately flawed experience that gamers should be cautious about. For every great thing that Pharaonic does right, there are a few elements that just don’t work. Let’s start with the positives. First off, the setting takes place in an era where many games haven’t been before. As the title suggests, the game is set in the Egyptian era. A war has broken out between several factions. The Sea People have been trying to overthrow the Red Pharaoh, a leader who has used resurrection as a method to rule over the land for 400 years. It’s our job to stop the Red Pharaoh.
While the narrative is hit or miss, it’s great to see a story set in Ancient Egypt. There is so much lore and mythology in Egyptian culture and a lot of this is front and center throughout Pharaonic. The gameplay is very much like Dark Souls. Players control a customizable character (male or female) that will be fighting through hordes of soldiers, lizard creatures, and other beasts that stand in the way of victory. You can equip a weapon on one hand and a shield in the other. Additionally, there are different pieces of armor that you can wear. The more you put on your character, the harder it will be to maneuver.
To remedy this, you can find gems which can be used to upgrade different stats such as the ability to master light weapons, heavy weapons, light armor, heavy armor, light shield, heavy shield, and offensive and defensive backpacks which are magical abilities. The combat is solid and often times very tense. Every enemy in the game has a specific pattern that must be learned in order to win a fight. Running into battle is not advised. While you may not have much time to think occasionally, evaluating your environment before attacking is key.
The graphics aren’t the greatest, but the cartoonish visuals are appealing. Mainly the environments in broad daylight are the more memorable locales. While the character models look decent, they are reused time and time again. Everything starts to feel repetitive and that’s when Pharaonic becomes dull. The audio is also one of the biggest problems in the game. Sometimes all of the effects were loud and clear. Other times, after death, I would respawn to minimal audio. My attacks wouldn’t make noise and I would only hear the enemy movements. What’s worse is that when an achievement would unlock, I would check out my achievement list and then after unpausing the game, the sound wouldn’t be working properly.
There are also plenty of technical problems in the game. Just like Ziggurat, Pharaonic is fun when it works well, but much of the experience is littered with slowdowns and glitches. When multiple enemies entered the screen at the same time, those fights were usually very buggy and the framerate would drop. One battle in particular sent me to the dashboard on 5 different occasions. One other problem is definitely the repetition. Throughout the journey in Pharaonic, our hero/heroine will be traversing the many pathways found throughout all of the areas in Egypt. This means that the same enemies will be fought over and over again in the same places. Although combat is fun, having to do everything multiple times started to feel boring after 11 hours into the game. While praying at a statue is a gameplay mechanic (which is similar to resting at a bonfire in Dark Souls) and that resets the enemies in the area, it just made the game tedious.
There is a lot to like about Pharaonic. The game explores a culture and time period that is often absent in the video game industry. It’s also inspired by one of the most popular series on the market at the moment. Milkstone Studios clearly has a love for the action genre and it shows, but there are too many technical problems that make Pharaonic an occasional chore to play. Those with patience and a love for strategic combat will feel at home and those on the fence should wait until the game has been patched. Despite the game being fun, it’s tough to recommend unless you’re a Dark Souls fan.