First posted on 27 July 2013. Last updated on 27 July 2013.
The game is available at GamersGate.
The tale of Salammbô began in Carthage, an ancient city situated on a promontory near present-day Tunisia, Africa. During the first Punic War (264 BC - 241 BC), the defeat of the Ancient Carthage by the Roman Republic resulted in an intense rivalry between Carthage, Numidia, Libya, Syracuse, and other nearby nations. The Mercenaries, who once fought for Carthage against Rome, turned against Carthage when their troops were not paid. This led to the Mercenary War (240 BC - 237 BC), in which the Mercenaries convinced the Libyan conscripts to also revolt against Carthage. The war ended at last when the Carthaginian general Hamilcar Barca led an army to defeat the rebels in the Battle of The Saw. These events were recorded in The Histories by the Greek historian Polybus.
In 1862, French novelist Gustave Flaubert, using Polybus' accounts of the wars, penned Salammbô. Although the novel told of the Carthaginian conflict, it was also a fictional fantasy love story between Salammbo—the grand priestess of Tanith and daughter of Hamilcar—and Matho (or Mathos)—the leader of the Libyan Mercenaries.
Finally, between 1980 and 1986, French author and cartoonist Philippe Druillet produced a comic book trilogy of the same name based on Flaubert's novel. Cryo Interactive Entertainment then adopted Druillet's work to create the game Salammbo (also known as Salammbô and Salammbo: Battle for Carthage), with input from Druillet himself.
Salammbo is a first-person point-and-click adventure game. You take the role of Spendius, a Carthaginian slave who has been imprisoned and left to die. Upon escape, you encounter the resplendently beautiful Salammbo in a courtyard. She promises to aid your escape on the condition that you agree to secretly take a gold statute of herself as a token of love to Matho who is camped outside the city of Carthage. Beginning as a fugitive, you must first earn the trust of the mercenary chiefs. Using your guile and a silver tongue, you will eventually attain the rank of a general and lead your own army to victory. To win, you must protect yourself against treachery and traitors, choose your friends and allies wisely, and ensure that both Salammbo and Matho survive to reunite with each other in the end.
Installation of the game is simple and glitch free. The game includes an excellent manual that explains how the game works in details. The game supports up to 5 player profiles concurrently. The main menu features 5 choices from which you can select: Start a New Game, Resume Current Game, Logbook, Load a Game, and Options. From Options, you can also select from 3 screen resolutions, 16- or 32-bit color, Subtitles, Hinting, and volume levels for Music, Voice, and Sound Effects.
The game opens with a cinematic cut scene of Salammbo in the Carthaginian twin temples. Spendius is then seen working to exhaustion and is whipped by cruel sadistic guards, after which he is dragged off to a secret dungeon full of human bones. Cursing his fate, Spendius is determined to devise a way to climb out through a hole high up above in the dungeon to escape to freedom.
Controls for the game are straightforward. Navigation is made simple by the game's engine to enable smooth panning through 360° (including up and down) panorama. Directional arrows on screen highlight the paths to which you can travel. A map shows the location of each of the 6 mercenary camps that you have to frequent. Unfortunately, you cannot click on a camp to automatically travel to there. Actions are controlled through the use of 5 context sensitive cursors. Right-clicking the mouse accesses the in-game interface that includes the inventory.
Dying is a frequent part of the gameplay. The game has an automatic save function that will take you back to the last safe place before you die. The game also allows for manual saves from the main menu. There are 10 save slots available. As well, a rapid save can be made by pressing F5 on the keyboard.
The game's overall production is impressive. The game features hand painted artwork by Druillet that are based on his comics. The highly stylized art gives the game a real foreboding, apocalyptic, and almost Gothic atmosphere, much like that of the H.P. Lovecraft. While all of the characters apart from Salammbo have a somewhat alien appearance due to Druillet's passion for science fiction, the intricate details of these characters are simply amazing.
The story told by the game is interesting, immersive, and surprisingly believable. Despite the fictional narrative, much of it gives a fair account of the life and conditions experienced by people living in that time period. There is feeling and empathy told regarding both the Mercenaries and the Carthaginians. It also tells of the barbarism, violence, mistrust, and superstitions in a time when chaos rules. The characters seem real, as do their actions and fates that are based on historical events. You can feel yourself going back in time and participating in the war. The dialog is well written and really helps to develop the story. The end of each chapter even features a comic strip to fill in any gaps that may otherwise exist in the storytelling. Additionally, the story goes deep to explore each of the characters individually. You learn of their personalities, their idiosyncrasies, and their craving for greed, honor, and love.
The puzzles are the most varied among adventure games that I have ever played. They include matching sound patterns, making potions, playing a cottabe game, calibrating a giant crossbow, killing pigs, deciphering riddles, matching Roman and Carthaginian numerals, and others. Many of the puzzles are very challenging, and a few of them involve time sequences. Solving the puzzles requires you to be super observant. Consulting the Logbook can often be helpful.
The voice acting is excellent. Barbara Weber Scaff plays the role of Salammbo. Sound effects are solid. Ambient background music ranges from dramatic interludes to full orchestral symphonic pieces. The music seldom plays but is certainly effective when it is playing.
The game takes about 20-25 hours to complete. There are some 69 inventory items to be found or used in the game. The game is very linear, in that no progress can be made out of turn in the game.
In sum, Salammbo is a very good adventure game. The game encapsulates Flaubert's love story and the complicated historical events of the period. Druillet's macabre artwork also befits the brutality of war that sets the backdrop for the game. Regardless whether or not you are a fan of Flaubert or Druillet, I unequivocally recommend this game.