I love a good mythological story, as they are intriguing and captivating. What’s more, game developers use a healthy dose of creative licence to add their touches. The Tale of Bistun is a prime example of a classic story with a modern and unusual twist.
Developed and published by Black Cube Games, this is a story-driven action-adventure title. Furthermore, it has a high degree of hack n slash gameplay and oodles of arena-based combat. Alongside this, there is rich lore to explore, a plethora of characters to encounter, and bags of secrets to find. All of this content comes together because of a booming and well-delivered narrative. Consequently, you experience a beautifully paced story that grabs your attention immediately.
Like all great mythological stories, The Tale of Bistun explores drama, romance, and loss. Its plot revolves around the famous Persian tragic romance “Khosrow and Shirin“. You play the part of Fashad, a stone carver who has lost his memory. As the hero awakens, he is haunted by whispered words. Determined to find the source, he begins his journey. En route, he jogs his memory and discovers a tale of unrequited love. However, this does not deter him as he must find the source of the persistent whispering.
Quite the dramatic plot, but the bite-sized chapters prevent it from becoming overbearing. This was phenomenal, as it allows you to enjoy every twist and moment in your own time. Subsequently, I revelled in my fleeting success and was invested in sorrowful elements.
The story focuses on Farhad and his journey. By saving the cursed pomegranate trees, images flood his mind. The further he progresses, and the more trees he saves, the clearer the picture becomes.
But how does he save them? Well, this is where the arena battles come into play. Every chapter comprises an array of fights with varying enemies. You’ll face off with bats, goblins, orcs, trolls, and more. Each of these ghastly creatures has strengths and weaknesses that must be exploited. Accordingly, this is where Farhad’s powers come into play.
He begins as a meek and powerless man. However, things soon change as he finds a magical pickaxe and learns new skills. These abilities must be harnessed to defeat his foes, annihilate the Deev Bistun, and fulfil his destiny.
What’s particularly great about The Tale of Bistun is its array of fascinating characters. The story is filled with drama and emotion because of each of the protagonists. The most important of these are Farhad, your guide, the Hoopoe bird, and the gargantuan and evil Deev Bistun.
Farhad takes on the brunt of the action with his hack n slash combat and crazy powers. His desire to do the right thing is admirable and his naivety is charming and touching. The Hoopoe bird, on the other hand, is your guiding light. The further you progress, the more important she becomes to the myth and the gameplay. Her role is cleverly introduced, and she prevents the story from plateauing.
Finally, the villain of this tale is Deev Bistun. This horrendous beast leeches darkness into his surroundings and curses everything he touches. He is the key to discovering the truth, but defeating him won’t be easy. Consequently, you must find every weapon, learn every ability, and be lucky if you wish to succeed.
Because of its mythological roots, I expected a clean and simple approach with a sepia finish. However, instead, the developers used an isometric viewpoint, cartoon graphics, and a rich and deep colour palette. Subsequently, it looked bizarre as it was more surreal than I expected. Yet, because of the dreamy imagery and cutscenes, it worked extremely well. But what I wasn’t so keen on was the fixed camera view. This was restrictive and frustrating. Consequently, the gameplay would have been improved if you could freely explore your surroundings.
Though the visuals were strange, the audio was amazing. The combination of eerie music, crazy sound effects, and booming narration worked perfectly. Every chapter was described by a beautifully narrated script. As such, it was easy to immerse yourself in the odd but fascinating world.
Much of the combat relied on hack n slash mechanics. However, finesse was still essential. Farhad can roll to avoid damage, slash his weapons to hurt his foes, or unleash a special ability. Whatever you do, it is easy to understand and buttery smooth to execute.
My biggest gripe with The Tale of Bistun is its repetitive nature and its linear approach. The lack of freedom was annoying as the environment begged to be explored. Accordingly, you may worry about becoming bored, or there not being enough longevity. Well, fear not as the action is fun and there are many secrets to search for. In every chapter, you must carve statues of your beloved, find lost tablets, and uncover hidden carvings. Subsequently, there is plenty to do if you want to extend your time with the game.
The Tale of Bistun would have had to be terrible for me to dislike it. My adoration of mythology will always make me biased. Yet, from a professional viewpoint, I can honestly say that this is an excellent indie title. Yes, there are shortcomings, but these don’t deter from the great end product. Unsurprisingly, I loved it and I recommend you to buy it here! Will Farhad regain his memory and become a hero, or will the Deev Bistun sow his demonic seed? Save the pomegranate trees, weaken the beast’s power, and discover the source of the whispers.
The Tale of Bistun is a wonderful mythological tale. The interesting characters, booming narration, and excellent plot are thoroughly enjoyable. Moreover, the excellent aesthetics and intelligent controls compensate for the minor shortcomings. In short, it is a great title that’ll capture your attention from beginning to end.
(Rating PEGI 12 Moderate Violence Release date: 13/07/2022 Price: £13.49)
(Reviewed on the Xbox Series X. Also available on Xbox One and PC (Steam))
© 2007-2022 Movies Games and Tech