Age of Barbarian by Crian Soft is a hack-and-slash side scrolling adventure game inspired by the 80s Sword-and-Sorcery genre. It’s fun and ridiculous although it does have some issues here and there. I can’t deny that the game does what it sets out to do. It’s campy, cheesy, and fully absurd. They probably didn’t mean for it but there was a few moments where I was laughing out loud.
Undoubtedly Age of Barbarians oozes an aesthetic reminiscent of the classic Sword and Sorcery comic books and novels which helped spawn such iconic badasses as Conan, Dave, and Dwayne Johnson. In fact, Age of Barbarians reminds me a lot of Conan. In fact it is so unapologetic of it’s ripping that it’s main male character just looks like Conan. I love how tongue in cheek it is with it’s brutality and goriness. It’s a beautiful love letter to the genre in a way that I haven’t seen done in years. Not since the 2011 remake of Conan the Barbarian have I seen such an accurate portrayal of the barbarian lifestyle. The writing is quirky, albeit at times it can be overly ridiculous in a way that is actively unappealing. Age of Barbarians appeal lies in it’s simplicity. It does not set out to achieve the status of masterclass, to bathe in the warmth of Video Game Valhalla. No, it wants to be dumb and cheesy in a way that far too many games are afraid of being now a days.
A narrative is critical to the enjoyment of any game that I play. I need something to drive me forward and make me want to progress. Complete open-endedness is a major detractor to me as well as lack of a cohesive plot. Luckily, Age of Barbarians strings together a narrative that is so self-indulgent and unabashed of any deterrents that you can’t help but look upon it’s work and smile. The game has some of the best one-liners I have ever heard. I love this game because of how genuine it is. It’s so far out of left field, and accomplishes what it set out to achieve so perfectly, that I can’t help but be impressed with the end product. Here’s one of my favorite lines: “Raahan emerged from the water. His naked muscular body stood statuesque, rippled in unadulterated strength.” The reason I love that particular line so much is on account of it’s absolute absurdity. It’s written in a way that captures the essence of pulp writing. So many other lines contain this style which, I had believed, had been evaporated from writing as a whole. It is simplicity at it’s finest. The entire plot is simplicity at it’s finest, and it’s awesome.
Age of Barbarians allows the player to decide between two equally devastating characters. Both characters tout interesting mechanics which change slightly depending on which character you choose.
The first character is Rahaan, a heavy brute hell-bent on annihilation. His particular style is rather slow and lumbering but he inflicts high damage to his opponents. This was the character that I ran through the game with on my playthrough. I felt that his style particularly suited what I had been looking for in a character. High power and attack.
The second character is Sheyna, the warrior princess. I only played with her briefly after the completion of my first run and I will say that there is a noticeable difference between the playstyles of Rahaan and Sheyna. Sheyna is fast and light on her feet but does significantly less damage. Most opponents would fall after about 4-5 swing while playing as Sheyna while opponents fell at 2-3 hits as Rahaan.
The gameplay is your standard affair for a side scrolling hack and slash. While I played on PC I did use an XBOX 360 controller since the PC controls felt wonky and at times were unresponsive, directly resulting in my untimely death on more than one occasion. As I mentioned earlier, I did play as Rahaan who moves and attacks slowly, which made for some boring fights. Alongside the standard melee attacks are a slew of defensive opportunities. Parrying and Dodging are included in the game but prepare to take some time to master them. The window between an enemy’s attack and a possible parry is slim at best, causing difficult combat scenarios. The dodge will be your best friend in this case since it allows for a greater margin of error and the timing window is far greater. Throughout the game you will gain experience which levels up the character, although it is purely numbers going up, leaving very little up to player agency (which is disappointing). You will also collect loot throughout the course of the game which will grant you skulls and gold. The animation to pick up lootable items is one of the most unintentionally hilarious things I have seen in a game in a long time, leaving me with a hearty chuckle long after my initial hysterics had faded.
That is correct dear readers. In what may be the most mystifying and heinous act committed in the game, your Player Character collects items by standing over said item, crouching on top of it, and allowing his high-powered vacuum level anus consume the items into the folds of his ass cheeks. It’s strokes of brilliance and shades of reason that allow such acts of mind-boggling majesty to occur.
Visually, Age of Barbarians is a striking product that I wish more games would look upon. The use of digitized sprites gives the quality of the game a strikingly older feel. It harnesses an inherent nostalgia for this style and uses it effectively within the context of the product. The animations are stilted and janky but are forgivable since it meshes so well with the visual aesthetic of the game. The music is also particularly excellent since it harnesses the machismo and adrenaline induced rage that comes with the extinction of a horde of nasty monsters.
Some issues that I had encountered during my playtime were unacceptable. On several occasions, during cutscenes the narrators voice would cut off and leave no sound, graphical glitches such as terrain blending in with the background creating a very disjointed feel to the levels, and crashes. The crashes only happened twice but still it doesn’t seem especially comforting for a game that has little to no graphical power running poorly and crashing.
Overall, Age of Barbarians is a game that gets the job done. It had set out to create a game inspired by the old sword-and-sorcery comics and books and it succeeded. What the sword-and-sorcery genre was known for was it’s use of macho over powered killing machines disguised as humans. The plot and visuals all took a backseat to the actual character. No one is interested in the moral dilemmas and ethical complexities that come with being Conan. No one cares. What we know about Conan is that he is a freaking death bringer and that he will annihilate anyone that stands before him. That’s what Age of Barbarians does. You are given a vehicle to perpetrate deeds of murderous intent and villainy under the guise of revenge and justice. It’s simple and beautiful. No one will question the motives of Rahaan or Sheyna since their heads will have already have been dismembered by said characters. Age of Barbarians is a solid adventure hack and slash game with minor issues here and there. If you can overlook the issues, you really have a neat game that I’d recommend to a lot of people. Not everyone will enjoy this title since it’s so far out of the mainstream but it’s to each their own. Either way, it’s a great game.
Age of Barbarians
+ Fun combat
+ Cheesy writing
+ Great visual design
– Graphical Glitches
– Major sound issues
Link to the game: http://store.steampowered.com/app/402880