SALAMMBO: Battle for Carthage


Genre:   Adventure

Developer:    Druillet

Publisher:    DreamCatcher

Released:   2003

PC Requirements:    Windows 98/2000/ME/XP, Pentium II 333 MHz or Higher, DirectX Compatible Video Card, 4x or Faster CD-ROM, 64 MB RAM

Walkthrough   Walkthrough




by gatorlaw

SALAMMBO: Battle for Carthage


Salammbo is a tale first told by Auguste Flaubert. However, it took the talent and vision of Phillippe Druillet to take this saga and bring it to life in the form of graphical fiction. Druillet creates a dark and brooding tapestry with his art, reminiscent of Mobeus and others who raised the bar for illustrated fiction. With Metal Hurlant and it’s American cousin Heavy Metal, "comics" evolved from Scrooge McDuck on the bottom rack of the corner store to an adult oriented art form.  Druillet is at the heart of that evolution.

For those unfamiliar with Druillet’s computer gaming credits, he is the guiding force behind Ring 1 and II. Now we are fortunate to travel in the environs and reaches of his newest effort… Salammbo: Battle For Carthage. The somber graphics, evocative music and characters create a dark tale of love, hatred, quest for power and the darkest motive of all…. Revenge.  

The Scheme of things…

The game opens with a sweeping view of the twin temples and Salammbo high priestess. We spiral down from this lofty vista into the great city state of Carthage. Finally at the end, we find ourselves deep within it’s most brutal and sinister interiors. For this adventure centers not on our beautiful priestess or even her love, the mighty Mathos. Instead this story centers on a lesser individual, Spendius, a mere slave. He is enslaved within the city, beaten, tormented and ulitmately thrown into a forgotten dungeon. His fate is now cast. His future is to die and take his place among the bones crowding the floor of this fetid pit. But in ancient stories, the least shall be the greatest. The gods and goddesses were famed for their caprice. To aid his cause, Spendius is clever and resourceful. A thief by trade, a survivor by default - He vows to escape this place and take his revenge upon the city of Carthage and it’s masters.

As fate may have it - he is aided by a vision that Salammbo receives from her Goddess and mistress. Salammbo is desperate to contact Mathos, a fierce warrior and general encamped below the city. She has fallen in love and is determined to send him a message and proof of her love. Sending Spendius on his way in secret, she has no idea what forces she has unleashed with this small act.

The Players in our Tale

The characters in Salammbo are wonderful to encounter. These are complex personalities. An uneasy mix of self interest and honor. Greed and selflessness. Salammbo is the high priestess for the Goddess of Carthage. Her father is the commander of the Carthaginian Forces and rules this great city.  Mathos, a general of uncertain motives and unsettled passions is the leader of the Mercenaries. Our main character, Spendius is crafty, devious and bent on destruction of all he sees. He has well oiled phrases that gain him allies (for the moment) and an instinct for advantaging sudden shifts in loyalties and power. In the barbaric days of ancient Carthage, the best one could hope for is a temporary alliance. No one can really be trusted and all are suspect.  A wise man would always sleep with a knife at his side and one eye opened. In this game, you may not like Spendius.  But you understand his ways and admire his capacity to advantage every situation and most importantly his will to survive in desperate times.  The other characters are also noteworthy. Salammbo is fixated on her love, but ever mindful of her position. Mathos has a passion for this priestess, but is canny and power seeking. Other people that you encounter through out the game all have very distinct personalities. The people of this story create a rich focal point for the plot. I found the interaction and development of these figures to be one of the strongest points of the game.

A Tapestry of sight and sound

The graphics are as mentioned above, brooding and strongly built. These are the colors Wagner, Bartok and others would have used if they painted pictures rather than composed brooding symphonies and operas.  What is interesting is the use of metallic lines against soft swatches of color. Hints of teal and pink, stand in stark contrast to the overwhelming structures of iron and stone. . This creates a surrealistic feel and mystical quality to this game. I found myself instantly transported to ancient and mythic times. You become absorbed in the mood of Salammbo rather quickly. For those who have played Druillets earlier games, this will all look very familiar. For those who haven’t, I would try to envision a world of gods and goddesses, adventurers and sorcery. These are not the graphics for those who like light hearted tales.

The ambient sounds are excellent and aid greatly in setting the mood. Even better is the musical back ground. Like Ring and it’s Wagner cadences, the developers of Salammbo have chosen a symphonic based musical background for their game. In this instance – it is the music of Dvorak. I felt like I was playing an interactive great symphonic opera than a PC game. No dumbing down here with dialogue, characters or music. It is difficult to review Salammbo, and treat the music, graphics and sounds as discrete events. It is the synergy of them all that create the flow and art of this game.


Salammbo has the most varied mix of challenges/ puzzles in any game I have played in some time. There are inventory based standard puzzles.  You have dialogue trees where the right question or response will get you where you want to go. Choosing badly will hinder your progress and possibly could even lead to your death.  There are a few practical hands on puzzles. Calibrate and ancient weapon, toss a helmet at a shield. You have infinite chances at these and they are not too difficult to quickly master. There are some strategy type puzzles. You set up where people should go in particular scenes and sit back for the auto play and see how you did.  I enjoyed these very much and was pleasantly surprised by their inclusion. For those who hate the thought of in game challenges that are timed, there are a few of those. Fortunately, failure lands you back at the point of your ill chosen move. These again are not the hardest type of this puzzle. You can save as you go and baby step your way though them or ramble through a couple of times to see the quickest route and then do it very easily.

One thing has to be mentioned. You can die in this game. Wrong dialogue choice and you can find yourself in deep trouble. Walk into the wrong place and - woosh - you are captured. Carthaginians had one sentence for escaped slaves - immediate death. It is a bit of a treat to run into these from time to time as you get to see  cartoon panels unfold that detail your fate. The good news is, after watching cut scene of your death, you are re-deposited exactly where you were in the game before you made your bad move or statement. Unless you have a low tolerance for any "games over" moments, no matter how gentle - I wouldn’t let this game aspect scare you away from Salammbo.

I do think that although most of the puzzles in this game were hinted at from dialogue, encounters, observation and intuitive attention to the story. There were a few that were quite difficult due to a lack of hints or sense of what to do. I managed to get past these - but it could be necessary to consult hints or a WT for these areas. This warrants a slight depreciation of where I would rate the game - but it is hardly a game killer.

Interface & Game Mechanics

I found the game interface and controls to be very easy. There appear to be unlimited saves or at least a very generous number of saved slots. All saves are labeled with a time/date stamp, but the associated screen shot shows up to your left when scanning through saves.  The controls are the mouse. Movement is slideshow in appearance  - but the transitions are very smooth. Once stationary you have 360 degree panning available.  The overall interface is almost identical to Zork Nemesis. However, you can get a bit lost in some locations. This occurred primarily in the Mercenary Camp below the walls of the city.  Clicking on a forward arrow will carry you way past where you would expect to end up and you may spend some time back tracking in this area.  However once you are within Carthage, there are maps throughout the city and it is quite easy to get around. Later in the game - you get a map that allows you to go from place to place by using the map feature. I wish they had employed the same tool for the camps below Carthage. I am not sure why the interface had such inconsistencies and it is one black mark against an otherwise intriguing game. I was not thrilled with the constant wandering around I had to do whenever I was in this area of the game. Even after I felt fairly familiar with what was where - I still got momentarily lost and would have to back track.

One big plus was the well designed "options" area. You can alter the resolution, color settings for the game load. You can also access or turn off in game hints and/or sub - titles. Most of any fine tuning to accommodate system config differences could be accomplished here. I like adaptable games – where you can re-configure the game – rather than having to adapt your system.

Game Tips

I played Salammbo on W98SE. I had a problem initially with the audio and video in the cut scenes synching up. By adjusting the options to 640x480 screen resolution and 32 bit color - the game played perfectly after that. There is also a patch that was released for the European edition. I am not sure that you need it for the US version - but I installed it just in case and it didn't cause any problems. So if it’s needed it’s there and if not - it didn’t seem to affect the the game load/play negatively.

You can get the Salammbo update here: Salammbo Patch

Final Thoughts

Given our current sparsity of released games - it is easy to give Salammbo high marks. Regardless of your past exposure to games on the dark side and/or games with a few timed sequences, it would be worth your dollars and time to get Salammbo.  Even if the games were rolling out daily - I would strongly recommend this game. My only caveats are inconsistencies in the movements within the Mercenary camp and what I perceived as a lack of logical hints or plot threads for a few of the puzzles. But with the rich story line, music, graphics and  characters I think you will find Salammbo worth a try.

I give Salammbo a B+.

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