Ankh: Battle of the Gods

Posted by Peter Rootham-Smith.
First posted on 23 April 2011. Last updated on 26 February 2013.
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Ankh: Battle of the Gods
Assil takes time to admire his indoor swimming pool.
Ankh: Battle of the Gods
Who expects a French chef in ancient Egypt?
Ankh: Battle of the Gods
The d├ęcor of the Luxor Casino is surprisingly modern.
Ankh: Battle of the Gods
Gods are really normal folks at heart!
Ankh: Battle of the Gods
The Escher influence in the Room of Ordeals is obvious.

Ankh: Battle of the Gods is the third game in the Ankh series starring Assil set in ancient Egypt (or at least somewhere slightly influenced by ancient Egypt). This time, you must navigate Assil safely through a number of comic scenes in order to defeat the villain Set (or Seth as the game has it) of the Egyptian pantheon.

The sequel is developed by Deck13 Interactive, the same German developer of previous games of the series. Not surprisingly, this game is going to be most appreciated by gamers who have played either or both of the earlier games. There are references to events from previous games, and characters from previous games also turn up. Nonetheless, the latest sequel in the Ankh "sitcom" can be enjoyed on its own.

Installation of the game is straightforward. The game support unlimited save slots. The system menu allows you to adjust screen brightness, change screen resolution, toggle subtitles on and off, and modify other graphics settings. Moving between scenes is pleasantly fast. The inventory is displayed at the top of the screen. Pressing Tab will show you your current tasks.

Gameplay starts as Assil and Thara try to escape from their burning house. The start of the game is the only time you have control of both Assil and Thara. For most of the game, however, you play only as Assil, until the very end when you play as Thara. The game's story follows very much in the tradition of cartoon comedy adventures, with a not quite all-conquering hero bumbling through a good number of humorous encounters with off-the-wall characters. There may not be a lot of rationale to the scenes and characters (such as a stereotypical French chef) beyond simple humor, but the game is not trying to pretend to be otherwise.

The game uses the Ogre 3D engine to good effect. It is played from a third person perspective, with fixed viewpoints in each scene. Some of the scenes set the viewpoint a bit far out. Almost never do the characters walk through the scenery or each other. Visual effects of water and smoke make the scenes more alive (the Luxor Casino is particularly striking). The 3D graphics are not as sharp as I expect, but I suspect that the effect is deliberate. The cut scenes are rendered entirely as in-game cut scenes using the same engine, so they blend in seamlessly. There are plenty of transition scenes or cut scenes as Assil performs different actions. The cut scenes can be skipped by pressing the spacebar.

The voice acting is more hammed up than convincing, but the game is not aiming at offering realism. The voice of Assil is quite listenable, which is good as you hear him a lot (glad not to hear much of the seer!). The background sounds and music keep the game from feeling empty but without getting in the way.

There are plenty of dialogs in the game. Happily, they are short and sweet, unlike in the original Ankh. The dialogs are quite funny (even very funny in places) and are more fun for gamers who have played the previous games. Oddly, the spoken dialogs do not always match to the subtitles. Sometimes, they are even completely different. The dialogs can be clicked through. Hovering the cursor over objects brings up their descriptions as well as actions which you are about to do. The English translation (from the German original) is odd and makes little sense at times, as in "Use This is for extending the awning".

Assil has to move around quite a bit, on what at times amounts to laborious fetch quests. Double-clicking moves Assil faster. Steering Assil around in the Room of Ordeals can be a little hard. The game highlights what you can look at and what you can interact with, but the division is not always clear. Some of the hotspots are easy to miss. Though pressing X automatically highlights all the hotspots, the hint is often too vague to be that helpful in practice. To interact with an object, you have to right-click on it, even when using an inventory item on another item that you already have.

The puzzles are traditional inventory and dialog puzzles. Sometimes, to get the right dialog choice, you have to perform another action first. There are no sliders, mazes, arcade sequences, color puzzles, or sound puzzles. Several puzzles have timed elements. Occasionally, a few puzzles descend to brute force of "trying everything with everything else". The answers do not always make sense, but mostly the solutions are fair. There are some good, clever puzzles in this game. Assil cannot die, so you can experiment away with little or no penalty.

Ankh: Battle of the Gods is a pleasant enough game, with plenty of humorous scenes and reasonable challenges. It is a fun traditional adventure, even though the story does not make a lot sense overall.

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