Developer and publisher Artifex Mundi has recently taken to finishing off the many series trilogies that they had brought across to Xbox One. There's only one of those trilogies left, but instead of taking the opportunity to finish telling that story, they instead decided to hit us with a surprise standalone release. Persian Nights: Sands of Wonders
might have an independent story, but it has very familiar gameplay despite a couple of minor attempts at improvements.
Persia's king is gravely ill. Grand Vizier Zaved is reigning over the country in his absence, but his harsh rule is bringing the country to its knees. As if the country's residents aren't suffering enough, a mysterious disease has swept through entire cities. Apothecaries such as protagonist Tara have been unable to halt the spread of the disease. In a search for its cause, Tara meets a soothsayer that sends her to the Temple of Nightfall's End, suggesting this might be the place to find answers. It's here we join the protagonist as she rather predictably finds that things aren't quite what they seem.
A chance encounter sees Tara teaming up with Darius, who possesses a mysterious amulet with magical powers that may be the key to saving the country. As the game is another hidden-object themed point and click adventure, Tara is the one tasked with providing the brainpower while Darius provides the brute strength and agility. Despite the roles, Darius is an extremely patronising companion who seems to believe Tara incapable of performing anything more complicated than counting on her fingers. He soon becomes irritating, but unfortunately this game's "unique" hook is to converse with him at set points in the story to fill out some background and gather clues as to the next course of action. Your hopes of ignoring him completely soon fly out the window, so you settle for engaging with him as little as possible.
No, you can't push him in
As an apothecary, Tara's main ability is to create potions out of herbs and other natural ingredients. It's an ability that a lot of the Artifex Mundi protagonists seem to share, and there's no surprises here with how the feature works. What is different is her newfound magical abilities thanks to the aforementioned amulet. This allows her to take part in the rune battles that are becoming a staple of the publisher's games and they have a much more prominent role in this title. The rune battles do take on a slightly different format to previous titles, now taking place across three rounds with different tasks to accomplish. Players can take their time with these puzzles and there's never a sense of panic, meaning they never feel as tense an encounter as they should.
The same lack of urgency is present amongst the rest of the usual mini-games, puzzles, and hidden object scenes that are dotted throughout the game. All of these work without any of the issues found in previous titles, such as hitboxes that are over-generous or too specific, or the spelling mistakes that can sometimes make it through the translation process. There's the usual hint system for those who get stuck, although those wanting to gain all of the game's achievements will want to give this a wide berth. In this respect, the game very much works as intended and is still a great introduction to the genre for casual players.
You're told exactly what to do
The game's story is linear and seems a bit shorter this time, clocking in at around 2-3 hours to complete without a guide. Only a small number of locations are available at any one time before the characters move on to another area of the country. This efficient storytelling with little backtracking and few opportunities to reuse scenes makes for less confusion and contributes to the shorter playtime. However, it does mean that if a player misses one of the game's Khur Marking collectibles, some of which are hidden incredibly well, then an entire new playthrough will be required.Persian Nights
doesn't come with an alternative to the hidden object mini-games, no does it include a bonus chapter, so there is very little replayability once players have completed the campaign once. It's a good job, then, that all of the achievements can be obtained in a single playthrough. There are several unmissable story related achievements. You'll also need to make sure that you play on Expert difficulty, find all of the game's collectibles, exhaust all conversation options with Darius, and not use any hints or skips. None of these achievements will provide much of a challenge, although you may want a guide for some of the more obnoxious collectibles.Check out our Best Xbox Adventure Games Available in 2018 article for a compilation of other great games in this genre.
SummaryPersian Nights: Sands of Wonders
may well tell a storyline independent of the publisher's other titles, but the game mechanics will be more than familiar to those keeping up with them. The mini-games, puzzles, and hidden object scenes all perform as they should, and the rune battle encounters have been switched up a little to try to keep them fresh in one of few changes to the game format. The protagonist's companion can make conversation painful at times, which is a shame as the developer chose to try something new here too. Regardless, the title will still sate fans of the publisher, and those looking for a quick GamerScore fix, as well as providing a great entry point for those new to the genre.
- Gameplay well suited to the casual crowd
- Efficient storytelling
- Fewer pointless collectibles
- Obnoxious companion that can't be ignored
- Story is shorter
The reviewer spent 3 hours saving Persia from disease and evil intentions before she then forgot to pick up the last collectible. After some interesting language, she then played through the game again to fetch it and earn all of the game's 29 achievements. An Xbox One copy of the game was provided by the ID@Xbox team for the purpose of this review.
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