Pharaonic is a game that feels authentic to its own idea of a game set in Egypt, from the characters that are heavily tanned with strong facial features, to the environmental designs featuring hieroglyphs and ankhs and even the deadly scimitar carried around by the enemies. There is a strong sense of being transported to a different continent as you explore the world around you and try to make sense of being chosen to overthrow the Red Pharaoh.
Set in an almost linear fashion, you move from area to area via side scrolling exploration and cross over to different areas as you watch the game change angles and direction with a rather enjoyable 3D effect. This adds a little more depth to the gameplay as you see more of the changing world around you and even find some secrets you may not have been aware of. There are definitely a few moments when the camera pans around you and I saw something I had missed and decided to double back to claim my prize.
There are some incredible designs at use in this game too and the overall sense of exploration is heightened by Pharaonic’s use of Egyptian artefacts, surroundings and solid character design. The “Prayer Statues” that heal your health as well as acting as save/respawn points for your adventure are also very well designed and fit seamlessly into the game. During the opening as you customise your character you can easily visualise yourself becoming a High Priest, a Warrior or ultimately even Pharaoh. It is a common moment to get lost in the idea of creating a character with purpose in any game, but even with slightly limited customisation options there is a real feeling of care behind these Egyptian characteristics.
Of course, the main aspect of the game to talk about is the combat system. Interestingly this is where it gets a little divisive in my opinion. Pharaonic employs the now-typical “Dark Souls” style combat system, whereby the enemies start out tough and gradually get more and more challenging to a point where you spend half of your time rolling out of the way of very heavy sword attacks. This adds a separate dimension to the game, that of searching for better weapons, keeping plenty of water and making sure you abuse spells where possible. In addition to this it is a very good idea to keep going back to fight against easier enemies to rinse some experience and level up. The reason I mention this as being divisive is that not everyone will enjoy this combat style. Many will find it to be a challenge which they will relish but for some it becomes tiresome. For myself, the gripe I had was that the combat system feels very heavy – in that sometimes I found myself waiting for a few second delay between the button press and my weapon actually moving, and it is in this few brief moments that an enemy can swiftly put an end to your adventure.
The game does reward the persistence of those players familiar with the game style and combat systems of “Get good”. I found enemy drops were rather frequent and there were a decent number of chests to grab some essential loot from. I was quite pleased with the opportunity to upgrade my weapons and linen wraps at decent intervals in the game. The style of clothing is certainly something that you wouldn’t come across in most traditional RPG games but that helps the authentic feeling with the Egyptian influences. It gives Pharaonic a more solid aesthetic because of the sheer attention to detail. However, there is one other detail that I feel lets this title down and that comes from its near lack of background music. There is a low level of music that plays during the game but it’s a very quiet piece that I found left the game feeling a little bit hollow.
For me, Pharaonic is a lovely game that can induce rage, awe and even educate at the same time. Its charm and love for Ancient Egypt is clear from the start and if you are willing to stick with its difficulty curve as the story moves along you will get some real enjoyment from it. I would rate this game as being a 7/10.
Pharaonic was released on Xbox One, Playstation 4 and Steam in 2016, however because of the upcoming retail release of the game we are reviewing it now. In order to review this title I received a copy from a PR representative and this had no impact on my opinions or writing.