Sunday, December 5, 2010

Salammbo: Battle for Carthage

Chapter 13 ("Moloch") of Salammbo: Describing the burning of children
inside the huge, hollow brass statue of the Baal Moloch

In this post I want to talk about a great game I recently finished, Salammbo: Battle for Carthage. Salammbo is a 2003 point and click adventure game designed mainly by Phillippe Druillet and based on the the book entitled Salammbo, released in 1862, and written by Gustave Flaubert. At times it really feels like a classical Myst clone, but at the same time the gameplay is so well balanced that it also seems like a game of the future, a game without the many issues epitomized by the Myst era.

What first drew me to Salammbo were the dark, brutal, and fantastical graphics (and the beautiful scantily clad women); But it was the equally dark, brutal, and fantastical story that really drew me into the game. And as a pleasant surprise the gameplay is an enjoyable difficulty comprised of constantly changing, unique, and interesting challenges and puzzles, perfect at keeping the game constantly new and fresh. Part of this is due to the fantastic log system that keeps track of what you have done and records important information that is needed in future puzzles.

Since they are the first thing that anyone will notice, and definably the most immediately noticeable aspect of this game, I will start by talking about the graphics of Salammbo. These graphics are very good and distinctive, and are comprised of three main types that you will see while playing Salammbo. Normal game graphics that are moderately low resolution, but still very good, and composed of static 2D backgrounds in the full 3D, node based, first person view, with some animation where applicable. The second type of graphics are the numerous CGI sequences, and when I say numerous I mean more then I have ever seen in a game before; These CGI cutscenes are very well done and I do not think they could of made them look any better then they already do. And it is not just the visuals of the CGI that are great, but also the content; They never got boring and always added to the experience. And lastly the graphical novel style log book that is used to tell the story at some parts of the game and as a record of your events for the others. What is really evident in all of these graphics is the dark and brutal fantasy visuals of both the characters and the environments.



What really compliments these visuals are the sounds, music, and voice overs. The game is completed voiced, and the user in only forced to read his own responses in the conversation trees; And I believe that a wonderful job was done in this department, I was normally too engrossed in the story to pay much attention, but I never noticed any odd sounding voices and I did notice a few particularly nice sounding ones, particularly the narrator. And to tell the truth I was normally to engrossed to notice anything about the sound and music, they both seemed good and never distracted form the experience, nor did I notice anything wrong with either of them. I did notice that the music did a fair job of inspiring some tense emotions when the game was obviously trying to put the player under stress to finish quickly or to be afraid of getting caught at any time.

Chapter 2 (“At Sicca”) of Salammbo: A description of the mercenaries as they leave a unappreciative but nonetheless cowed Carthage.

One of my favourite features in this game, the log, was used quite a lot, for multiple reasons. Firstly it is used as a story telling device, to fill in the gaps when gameplay could not correctly portray a scene. In this it does a wonderful job, I easily found the log the most moving parts of the story. Also, and ingeniously, it is also used to record important pieces of information and visuals that you need to remember for latter puzzles. In this it does a far better job then I have ever seen done before, you simply do not have to write anything down or have a good memory, the log is a perfect replacement. This log, as mentioned previously, is done in the style of a comic book or graphic novel and is voiced by the narrator; and it also shows the same attention to detail as the rest of the graphics and the game overall, it looks great, it sounds great, and the story told through it is simply superb. One notable feature of the log is that it records the entire story of the game, even many parts that are never used to tell to the player or for puzzle hints.



The puzzles and challenges of Salammbo are both top notch and incredibly diverse; Their is not a chapter of the game that goes by without introducing a new and interesting challenge. These challenges are in addition to the core game which is inventory, dialogue, and logic puzzles. And what an exciting bunch of challenges; Among other things you will be commanding armies, waging war and laying siege to enemies, avoiding assassination, and performing espionage and sabotage. All of these puzzles and challenges are well integrated into the story and contain logical solutions; And are quite easy overall, but then most great adventure games are at least a little on the easy side. What really helps with the difficulty is a complete lack of pixel hunting. I have never played an adventure game that is so lenient when it comes to finding objects. For the most part you simply do not have to look around in every node, if it makes sense to look around then do so, the important interaction zones and objects are always clearly marked and easy to find even with just a glance.

Chapter 4 (“Beneath the Walls of Carthage”) of Salammbo: A description of
Carthage from the perspective of an invading army, the mercenaries.

In particular the mini-game challenges are very unique. While the game starts you off with a fairly simple, though well integrated with the game, reflex based arcade sequence you soon move into more entertaining fare. For a few puzzles you get to wield a bow against moving and stationary targets in a FPS style challenge and, even better, latter in the game you get to command armies in a strategic simplified version of chess. These and more are available throughout the game, and are perfect at making the game feel constantly fresh and new.


Now onto arguably the best part of the entire game, the story. And this is not your usual fare, like mentioned previously it is based on a book This book, Salammbo, is based on factual historical events and myths. It is a great mature and dark tale involving love, revenge, death, destruction, war, and greed. You play as Spendious, a Carthage slave. Early in the game you escape your imprisonment, and along the way you encounter Salammbo, the beautiful, and scantily clad, head priestess; She helps you escape in exchange for your help in delivering a message to the leader of the barbarians, Matho. The message states that while they met last time she had fallen hopelessly in love with him and asks him to ask for her hand in marriage. With her help, Spendious escapes Carthage, but is still in a country obedient to Carthage and slave hunters will be looking for him. Escaping the city was a bold and lucky accomplishment, but any logical look at the facts gives him little chance in running, so hoping to find an ally he can only try to deliver his message and use all his skills to endear himself to anyone with the power to protect him.


One unique aspect of the story is the extremely mature subject matter that is included. Like any great classical story, Salammbo includes many vices: nudity, drinking, war, prostitution, sex, murder, and torture, to name a few. All of these subjects are handled in a mature fashion, and do not really make the game unsuitable for young children as no attention is really drawn to the subject matter.

Chapter 4 (“Beneath the Walls of Carthage”) of Salammbo: The insidious
words of Spendious nurturing the hate within Matho.


Note: I needed to install the patch to get it to work on my Win7 machine.

Positives:
The game log that provides a great way to tell the story and remember needed information for latter puzzles.
Negatives:
A few of the NPCs that you only interact with once did not have nice looking close up views while talking to them.
Summery:
One of the more unique and at the same time classical in design point and click adventures. While playing the game it seems to be the perfect mix of arcade action sequences, inventory puzzles, dialogue challenges, unique puzzles, and story to make a fully engrossing adventure.
Rating:
4.9/5
Developer:
Cyro Interactive Entertainment
Publisher:
The Adventure Company
Release Date:
2003
System Requirements:
OS: Windows 98 or newer
CPU: Pentium II 333 MHz
RAM: 64 MB
Video Card: 3D

16 comments:

  1. So glad I'm not the only one who loved Salambo. Have to play it again it seems, as I 've forgotten most of it and haven't actually ever finished it either.

    ReplyDelete
  2. please write a full story about this game in this site.

    just same such as the full story of any novels.

    but this full story came from pc game the salammbo.

    the full story is from the beginning game to the ending game.

    and it is not the review of the game.

    or it is not the walktrough of the game.

    but just only literature of full story from pc game the salammbo.

    are you understand the meaning of what i say ???

    don't miss understand from the meaning of what i say.

    and please to the next comment for translate the meaning of what i say.

    to be more understanding the meaning of what i say.

    thanks and bye.

    ReplyDelete
  3. I understand part of what you are saying, but I am not sure about the first sentence.

    You seem to be asking me to write a story about this game.
    Like my review stated it is based on a book, so a story already exists.

    ReplyDelete
  4. please forgive me because i am a girl came from tunisia, i am just 16 years of old and i am a christian is girl.

    but my english score is d plus so if you do not understand what i say so i am sorry.

    for your information this game is my country history.

    because in the past tunisia is a carthage.

    so this is very important to me.

    but sadly i am not know what this game telling about.

    like i said the full story of this game is such same as any full story in any novels.

    because of that, yes i am asking you to write the full story of this game within the dialogue of the character to another character.

    because i am already have the novels from Gustave Flaubert is writers of the salammbo is novels.

    but the story of this novels is different from the story of this game.

    that is because i am already have see your review of this game.

    because of that, i am asking your help so please i am begging you to write the full story of this game.

    including within the dialogue from the character to another character in this game.

    i think, in the any pc game there is a file containts a text full story of this game in that file from the computer is folder of salammbo.

    if you are open all file from any type of file came from the computer is folder salammbo with notepad or microsoft word or wordpad.

    you are will find that full story of this game including within the dialogue of the character to another character of this game.

    you are just copy paste the text full story from the inside of that file from the computer is folder salammbo to this site.

    and i am with all girl from tunisia will so gratefully, proud, happy and a lots of thank you to you.

    thanks and bye.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Ah, I understand. I am not sure if Salammbo includes this in a readable format but I will look.

    But something that might be even better for your purposes is videos of the gameplay. Youtube has at least one complete (I think) walkthrough (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_OOQbWVbAH8). That is part 1 of 14 I think. But it also looked like there was at least 1 in another language.

    ReplyDelete
  6. the girl from tunisia is right.

    there is also have christian's religion in the inside of tunisia's country.

    if you not believe it, so visit this wikipedia's site about religion in the inside of tunisia's country :

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Religion_in_Tunisia

    ReplyDelete
  7. I found it, but be aware that they often do not make these files in the exact right order, and all the dialogue tree is here. So it can be confusing to read.

    Here is a link to the text: https://docs.google.com/file/d/0B5EX7ycTqalid0IyaE9FUVlYbFk/edit?usp=sharing

    ReplyDelete
  8. i am sorry because i have difficulity to visit this link :
    https://docs.google.com/file/d/0B5EX7ycTqalid0IyaE9FUVlYbFk/edit?usp=sharing

    can you move that text full story of pc game the salammbo from that links with copy paste all text to this site.

    thanks and bye.

    ReplyDelete
  9. OK, here it is: http://wisnoskij.blogspot.ca/p/salambo-text.html

    ReplyDelete
  10. thank you very much.

    ReplyDelete
  11. many more thanks.

    ReplyDelete
  12. many many thanks.

    ReplyDelete
  13. soooo much thanks.

    ReplyDelete
  14. one tons thanks.

    ReplyDelete