Comics have been in my life since I was little. I still remember being on the farm with my Pop when I was six years-old, going into ‘town’ and being able to choose one gift for myself. I chose a Star Wars: Return of the Jedi
hardcover graphic novel (wish I still had it), which he would read to me and my cousin each night before bed while we stayed there. Later, I would discover the worlds of Batman
, The Justice League
and my personal favourite, The Incredible Hulk
, at my primary school library. All were great and were excellent gateways into both reading and the creative world, but when I changed schools to one with a bigger library, I discovered Asterix & Obelix
. The latter will be familiar with the older generation, but for the younger ones it’s either “oh, the little viking dudes?”, or “what?”. Which is a shame, because Asterix & Obelix are formative in their barbarians rising history, comedic as it may be.
The series was first released in France
in 1959, and follows the adventures of the titulous characters, Asterix and Obelix. The Roman Empire
has conquered most of Europe save for one small village of Gauls
. They’ve garrisoned themselves around the village but, try as they might, simply cannot defeat them. This little village, as the comics will reveal, has a druid capable of concocting a special elixir that gives the Gaul’s super-strength for a limited time. Asterix often dispenses his meds to take care of the Romans, Obelix, however, fell into a vat of it while he was young and now has permanent strength to “greet the Romans nicely”. He also has a penchant for menhirs -- upstanding stones carved for solstice-esque activity, building and druid… stuff. (Just think Stonehenge
"For the most part, your role overall is to defeat the garrisoned Romans. Eventually, however, you discover a close friend of Getafix, who has left a magical menhir..."
And now, with that opener out of the way, we turn to the latest piece of transmedia for the IP in the form of Asterix & Obelix XXL3: The Crystal Menhir
, which is a fun little fixed-camera brawler played in either single-player or co-op, featuring both characters, excellent visuals, animations and voice-acting and the ability to beat up the pesky all-conquering Romans as lead by Caesar
in the series’ timeline.
The game kicks off in and around your village. Some characters are interactive, but for the most part, your role overall is to defeat the garrisoned Romans. Eventually, however, you discover a close friend of Getafix
, who has left a magical menhir as a means of finding her, is missing and likely at the hands of Caesar
, and thus your adventure begins. Taking you to places like Roman-occupied Tyre on the shores of Egypt, or to the island of Crete, the game serves up different environments with varying options for exploration and hidden spaces with different types of collectibles up for grabs. By and large though, the game plays to a similar loop which is built around brawling where you have a basic attack via X (on Xbox One
), but holding down LB gives a further four face button attacks, though these rely on an energy meter that depletes with each use. Successful base attacks, including a crowd-controlling enemy-by-the-legs swing attack refills that meter though, so you’re never out of the special move fight and this makes the game fast, frenetic and ever-rewarding.
Frustration comes by way of the garrison ‘instances’. These are areas of the map where, once engaged, any death resets the entire instance and the deeper you get into the game, the harder they become. Mostly this is due to combinations of enemy-types. For example, some enemies come with shields which need to be uppercutted away or other spearman aggressively ping you, which stops you in your tracks and, if you’re facing more than one, will likely turn you into a pin cushion. The game allows for revisits of these ‘dungeons’, so upon first playthrough, it’s recommended you just get to the final gate as it’s entirely possible to avoid a lot of the confrontation awaiting you.
You do get to upgrade a little bit, but it’s not an overly expansive system. Still, it doesn’t need to be. Combat here is centred cleverly around how you crowd control; enemy-by-the-feet swings, uppercuts, back and forth punches, the menhir smash -- all of it can be used in a unifying way based on your approach. And it’s arguably the most rewarding part of the game. Attacks feel important and getting through a tight skirmish with just half a heart of health left is an invigorating experience. Health is replenished by way of floating roasted boar, actual boars you beat up, or via picnic baskets. Currency comes in the form of Roman helmets (of varying grades) which you can then spend at Ekonimicrisis’ shop for health, or basic upgrades, but honestly, it’s all bare-bones.
"It’s also wonderfully presented on an excellent engine and just keeps this very old license alive in a celebratory way..."
And fairly, that’s the best way to close out this review. This has been one of my favourite games to play this year due largely to its simplicity from a management perspective, but its subtle depth where combat and crowd-control is concerned. It’s also wonderfully presented on an excellent engine and just keeps this very old license alive in a celebratory way. The ever-green Asterix & Obelix world is one the younger generation should wholly embrace and games of this nature serve that purpose well. It’s not without some shortcomings, but they’re few and far enough between, that they’re easily overlooked for the greater product, which is fun, cute and engaging brawler where you get to beat up on oppressive Romans, look for hidden collectibles, navigate gauntlets and uncover a globe-trotting story worthy of the original books the game itself is based upon.
And in co-op, it’s twice the fun (especially given the single-player buddy AI isn’t as aggressive or proactive as it should be), particularly on the couch. This Holiday season you honestly couldn’t get a better family-fun game to play, and there’s a lot to sink into here. There’s no flash-in-the-pan design around this; it’s full of longevity, replayability and life -- everything you want in a game for everyone. Highly recommended.