Next year heralds a big birthday for Asterix, our favourite potion-powered Gaul. The diminutive dynamo turns the grand old age of 60! Six decades of tearing through the Roman invaders, heading off on merry jaunts of utmost importance and cracking, mostly weak, jokes.
During that time he has enjoyed peaks and troughs along the popularity roller-coaster but has impressively managed to stay in the mainstream vision and consciousness. In part, of course, this is down to folk of my age readily willing to bathe in the waters of glorious nostalgia, but also it is likely down to the fact Asterix, Obelix and the world around them offers a nice, light-hearted escape into adventure. Despite the corny jokes.
Now, as we prepare to usher out 2019, the whole Gaul crew – plus extras – are back in the gaming business. Asterix and Obelix XXL3: The Crystal Menhir (Yeah, that just rolls off the tongue) hopes to bring a new exciting chapter to the well-aged franchise. Developed by Osome Studios – pronounced Awesome, which is, uh, awesome – and published by Microids we have a game touted as dropping a whole heap of adventure, exploration, puzzles and face-slapping right onto our collective noggins. But, does the game deliver a tasty uppercut, or is this one franchise well overdue its journey to a distant sunset and well-earned retirement?
Before I pull this game apart quicker than Obelix shreds a wild boar, let me lay some story foundations. This won’t take long.
Our resident druid and brewer of wondrous potions aplenty, Getafix, has received a letter containing troubling news. Said news acts as a perfect catalyst for our intrepid heroes, Asterix and Obelix, oh and faithful pooch, Dogmatix, to head out on an equally intrepid adventure. The basic gist is there is a magical crystal menhir that is missing a few shards and we have been tasked with restoring it to its fully-fledged glory and in turn, saving the day.
That is basically the foundations and the upper levels of what’s in store with Asterix and Obelix XXL3.
It is not exactly pushing the boundaries of imagination in regards to its story and this lack of creative boundary-pushing is the first thing that becomes as crystal clear as the titular menhir. This is a game that has few genuine surprises in store for the player. I would label it as the gaming equivalent of a Bon Jovi track. From the moment it begins you can tell almost note for note exactly where this journey will take you. Now, this is not necessarily a bad thing, I mean there are moments in life I am suddenly overcome by the urge to go Living on a Prayer with the Jovi boys – okay, there aren’t, but there are definitely moments I am happy to embrace games that allow me to almost switch off and let the game do its simple thing. And, Asterix and Obelix XXL3 is rife with simple things.
The basic premise is that as we play we can switch control between Asterix and Obelix depending on the situation. Both do very similar things in terms of attacks and neither feels different enough from the other to really warrant any strategic thinking when it comes to the switch-a-roo. Both have a basic slap attack and a small selection of special attacks – triggered with a push of the left bumper. These special attacks require energy to perform and energy is either collected by beating up Romans or collecting pick-ups. What this means is that thanks to an abundance of Romans lining up for a slap, there is rarely an issue finding the energy for special attacks.
The special moves themselves are almost identical for both Asterix and Obelix. This leads to additional questions over why bother switching characters at all – although Obelix can destroy objects with the Crystal Menhir which occasionally proves vital. Asterix meanwhile can gulp down some potion and run wild for a few seconds which is fun briefly but by and large, the two heroes are distinguishable by their looks rather than their actions.
Each landscape we travel – also a little too traditionally obvious for myself, forest, desert, snow etc – is littered with crates to smash. These crates drop roman helmet collectables that can then be spent on powering up the characters. This is not unlike many other games of its ilk, and if anything, quickly proves a little repetitive. We will return to repetition soon.
Each area also contains a number of Roman forts to be attacked. What this means is that players basically run riot through the fort, laying waste to everyone inside until an object is found or an exit uncovered. A score rating is then delivered and we quickly move on. These sections might sound fun, but in reality, I found them to be quite mediocre and at times frustrating.
The main issue with the forts is the one that plagues much of Asterix and Obelix XXL3. It is just so incredibly repetitive. Go back to Bon Jovi for a moment if you will and imagine that the New Jersey rockers now write songs that last upwards of ten minutes each, every song, verse-chorus-verse of routine, uninspired music that slowly drains the colour from your face and has you grinding your teeth as you wish for someone to punch you in the face so you can at least feel something again. This is the forts in Asterix and Obelix – maybe a tad overstated, maybe.
I hate to be repetitive, but this repetition haunts every corner of this game. The most that is ever asked of you as a player is that you button mash the slap move and chuck in occasional special slaps. For myself, it wasn’t enough to pull me in.
But let me try to balance this as I have gone in quite hard. Perhaps, despite a love for Asterix in comic form as a kid, I am not the target audience. Possibly, the creators were never trying to redesign the wheel here but were instead simply hoping to deliver something that was fun and throwaway to be enjoyed in small blasts. In this respect, it sort of succeeds. The fun is in there before it undoes itself via the rinse and repeat process of its gameplay. There are attempts to capture the feel of the comics too with some mildly humorous dialogue and the overall look of the game but it simply isn’t enough to warrant repeated or prolonged sessions of play. Ah, ended on a negative again.
Let me cast a little light over the current shade. Graphically the game is true to its theme, managing to bring the pages of Asterix comics into very nicely realised life. Everything is colourful and cartoony and the individual characters are easily recognisable. To play such a vibrant looking game does at times alleviate the monotony. Asterix and Obelix XXL3 is visually very pleasing in a simple sort of way that my own eyes found thoroughly agreeable.
Another decent element comes from the Menhir. As shards are collected the Menhir gains additional powers. For example, the first allows Obelix to freeze enemies momentarily. It’s a nice extra layer to play with and whilst not earth-shatteringly wow-inducing, it is pretty cool.
Elsewhere, the challenge offered is pitched at a level I found tricky at times but rarely frustrating. The puzzles are simple and easily solved and the battles – although occasionally frantic – revolve largely around a bout of button mashing that manages to be somewhat satisfying when a whole screen of sword-wielding Romans are left in tatters.
Now to something that may well add some legs to the game. Co-op mode. The game offers single-player and co-op opportunities. The chance to play alongside a friend is certainly something that brings a much-needed additional layer of enjoyment to the otherwise frequently routine play. Whilst it doesn’t change a great deal in terms of what actually takes place on-screen, the fact it becomes a shared experience certainly elevates the experience.
But is this light enough to make Asterix and Obelix XXL3 an illuminating experience?
What we have here is a game that manages to capture its theme beautifully but then crashes under the weight of its own monotonous gameplay.
I see it as a game that may well delight a younger audience, but then I question is the younger player even aware of Asterix as a thing? The guy turns 60 next year. Does this instead leave the game lost in the wilderness overlooked by kids seeking something more familiar?
How about the older generation then? Those who grew up with the characters. Well, if you enjoy ploughing from level to level tackling largely the exact same tasks in largely the exact same manner then Asterix and Obelix XXL3 might make you smile. For myself, once an avid fan, it simply doesn’t do enough that I haven’t done before in countless other games. It is better than some of those other games and worse than some and this is where the game sits. Slap bang in the beige wallpapered waiting room of mediocrity. By no means is Asterix and Obelix XXL3 a bad game, but unfortunately for Microids, it is a hugely forgettable one.
This game was tested and reviewed on Xbox One. All of the opinions and insights here are subject to that version. Game provided by the publisher.Want to keep up to date with the latest Xt reviews, Xt opinions and Xt content? Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.