Ankh 3: Battle of the Gods



Genre:   Adventure

Developer:    Deck 13

Publisher:  Daedalic Entertainment

Released:  November 2007; March 2009

PC Requirements:   Windows XP / Vista, 2 GHz Processor, 512MB RAM, 128 MB 3D-accelerated video card, DirectX 9  






by Becky


It’s an Ankh game, the third so far. I watch the opening cinematic, grinning ear to ear in anticipation. The music is familiar, though with a melancholic twist. In ancient Cairo, the constellation of the camel has appeared, fulfilling a long-awaited prophecy. The battle of the gods is about to begin! We’re following the exploits of Assil, an amiable slacker; Thara, his beautiful, sharp-tongued girlfriend; and the Ankh, an Egyptian artifact that has suddenly become sentient.

All the elements that made the first two games enjoyable are still present: 3D cartoon graphics, wacky characters, third person perspective, point-and-click interface, absurdist humor, and quirky inventory challenges. If you’ve played and enjoyed the first two games, this one is a welcome treat. Many characters reprise their roles and the pleasure of observing their development adds to the gaming experience. If you’ve never played an Ankh game, it makes sense to play the original Ankh and Ankh: Heart of Osiris first.

“You’re just frolicking around my house and getting everything in a shambles.”

The environments in Battle of the Gods are stylized with a simple cartoon-like aesthetic. A nice flyover of each new area the first time you enter establishes the scene. The desert daylight locations glow with brilliant color. Nighttime locations have muted purple shadows; comets or fireworks illuminate the dark skies. Animations make the scenery come alive – waving palm branches, water spraying from the elephant fountains and dust motes floating in the air. Character animations have improved since Heart of Osiris, so that movement is smoother and less rigid.

Scenery in this game varies much more than in the previous episodes, as Assil leaves Egypt to visit an alternate dimension. The music echoes this variety: dramatic orchestral music, exotic lyre and flute sounds, a picaresque tune that would suit a pirate movie, and melodies reminiscent of “Peer Gynt” -- Norwegian Ethnic Fantasy? (All of the above will make more sense once you play the game, I promise.)

“I herewith present the cup for the most pointless attempt.”

Battle of the Gods features inventory challenges and dialog based challenges. As in the previous games, some of the inventory challenges involve unusual uses of food and drink. A few of the combinations are tongue-in-cheek/nonsensical, but that’s just part of the fun. You’ll also discover a few simple mechanical devices that you have to modify in the proper don’t-try-this-at-home manner – the carousel and the altar with interchangeable parts, for example.

In one extended sequence, Assil and Thara (who are both playable characters) must cooperate to escape a burning building. This scenario was clever, and the game would have benefited from more like it. Much is made of our hero’s fear of water (a continuing trauma from previous games) and some of the challenges involve moving him past obstacles without getting his feet wet.

The cup for the most brilliant challenge goes to the upside-down-sideways Room of Ordeals. This is a giant puzzle box. To get through the Ordeals, you use observational skills and think “inside the box” to guide Assil as he walks on the ceilings and walls.

“So that’s what a real man looks like.”

The characters in Battle of the Gods are one of its strengths. You’ll have a chance to interact again with Volcano the mild-mannered firebreather, the rabble-rousing Israelites, and the usual menagerie – a snake, a cat, crocodiles, etc. Many new characters also debut, including a bombastic policeman and an insane god who’s googly-eyed from a thousand years in the Room of Ordeals.

The game is divided into seven chapters. Assil spends the first three in his pajamas, which suits his role as a wannabe layabout caught up in circumstances beyond his control. Working his way toward the impending battle, he trades in the pajamas for a couple of interesting disguises.

Voiceovers, with one exception, are expressive and over-the-top – just as they should be. Tut Cashen sounds suitably ancient and trembly, Seth is harsh and menacing, and the Ankh’s voice mimics that of a used car salesman from New Jersey. The biggest problem is Assil, who is voiced by a different actor than in the previous games. The current voice artist, Tim Beckmann, sounds similar to the old, familiar Assil. Unfortunately, his tone lacks the mischievous nuances that made our hero so memorable. Its impact is also lessened because the volume is softer than that of the other voices.

Two additional quibbles: the actors should all agree how to pronounce the word “Ankh.” Editor’s Note: I am informed by a reliable source that the correct pronunciation rhymes with “tank,” not “honk.” Also, when groups of characters talk together, there are long pauses between each line of dialog. This isn’t noticeable if Assil is running around solving puzzles and not paying attention to the group conversations. But if you try to listen closely, the long pauses become painful.

“All that’s missing is a sign that says: Attention! Secret hiding place!”

The story in Battle of the Gods is preposterous enough to be pleasing, with zany situations and unexpected locations. The game satirizes ancient Egyptian stereotypes, mythic stereotypes, and anachronisms.

Battling gods initiate a battle of beliefs -- a surprising theme in a comedic game -- yet this game blithely ambles through potential controversies and emerges unrepentant and unscathed. (Apparently, someone does watch out for fools, children, and games named Ankh.) In one segment, the characters’ beliefs appear as symbols above their heads, like the smiley faces in the pub scene in Heart of Osiris. I know this sounds ridiculous, but it works charmingly.

Many lines of dialog have that trademark Ankhian zing. Occasionally the dialog falls flat though, and the humor isn’t quite as consistent as in the first two games. (You can click through the dialogs if you wish.)

“I just made a wrong click!”

The interface is simple and elegant. The inventory system is easy to use, and a helpful keyboard command allows you to see all hotspots.  Although Battle of the Gods lacks a hint system, the game provides general hints, and hitting the “tab” key reveals a current list of goals.

Double-clicking makes Assil or Thara run; double-clicking on the exit icon usually takes you straight to the next location. I didn’t experience any problems with installation. The only glitch was one crash to the desktop. Thankfully, the game has unlimited save slots.

Ankh: Battle of the Gods has long loading screens as the game begins. This had me a bit worried (I’m not a happy watch-the-progress-bar type of gamer), but it turns out that, once in the game, the loading screens are only a minor annoyance.

Quick List for Ankh: Battle of the Gods

The third offering in the absurdist Ankh series. Colorful 3D cartoon-style graphics, tongue-in-cheek anachronisms, incorrigible characters. Lots of character interaction, some clever punch lines. The writing tends to be uneven. You can click through the dialogs.

Third person perspective, point-and-click interface. The “X” key reveals all hotspots.

Inventory puzzles, dialog based puzzles, a few simple mechanical puzzles, a crazy gravity-challenging puzzle room. No sliders, no mazes, no sound or color based puzzles, no timed puzzles. At first glance the game seems as though it should be easy. It isn’t.

Voiceovers are excellent, though the main character’s voice disappointments.

Ankh: Battle of the Gods is aimed at fans of the previous Ankh games, as well as gamers who appreciate a satirical view of ancient Egypt (in particular) and human foibles (in general). Most memorable are the game’s whimsical characters, who distract and amuse themselves until they can no longer avoid saving the world.

Final Grade: B

Ankh: Battle of the Gods can be purchased via download at The Adventure Shop.

My Computer Specs:

Windows XP Professional

Pentium 2.80 GHz

2.00 GB RAM

Direct X 9.0c

512 MB NVIDIA GeForce 7800 GTX

SB X-Fi Audio

May, 2009

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