Review: Qasir al-Wasat: International Edition
Most games that are set in the Arab world involve no small amount of sand, dingy cities and brown men yelling at you and firing guns. So whenever I see a game that explores a different aspect of the Arab world, I’m usually interested. Qasir Al-Wasat does just that, transporting you to an ancient, magical castle in medieval Syria. Now we’re not quite free of the killing just yet, as your job there is to assassinate three different guys. Well, you can’t win ‘em all.
The reason for your dubious mission is that you, a strange catlike creature, have been summoned into the human world by the mysterious sorcerer Farid ibn Abihi al–Saahir, who is referred to as Al-Sahir(the sorcerer) throughout the story. Your kind exists in another realm, and you are typically brought into the human world for various reasons, but the humans are bringing you less and less often. Al-Sahir summons you, and then tasks you with killing three of his rivals. Of course, he also binds you with a magical contract that keeps you in the human realm until you finish the job. Once you accept, you’re locked into the mission.
The game’s story is quite original, and it’s well-told. Your protagonist comes off as a sort of otherworldly creature, existing as an outsider in the world of the humans. In some rooms, you find lore about the creature, who has been entering the human world for thousands of years, and in others you learn about Al-Sahir’s sinister plans. You pick up chatter from patrolling guards, read scrolls you find, and reach conclusions through the game. Overall, the lore was enjoyable, and it drew on Arab mysticism well.
In general, the game does a great job of bringing Abbasid culture to life, and it features wonderful Persian and Arabic art. You see the palace from a top-down perspective, but you can see all the little details they put into creating the palace’s setting, down to the rugs and the furniture. The game is colorful as well, so it ends up having its own very unique aesthetic.
Now, at its core, Qasir Al Wasat is a stealth game, and that ironically ends up being its biggest weakness. As a stealth game, it doesn’t really shine. It introduces a few of its own mechanics, but overall the sneaking sections never really click. The creature you play as is essentially invisible. However, if it moves around it makes noise. So, you have to press and hold the stealth button (Right trigger on the 360 controller) to sneak around. This is an issue for two reasons. Firstly, it’s inconvenient to hold the button instead of tapping and getting into stealth mode. Secondly, stealth mode is incredibly slow. Like, ‘pushing a dump truck through molasses’ slow.
As a stealth game, it doesn’t really shine.
And I get that it’s possibly meant to make the game more challenging, but it ends up making it frustrating. Add to that the fact that the movement isn’t particularly smooth (I regularly got stuck in doorways) and you have a game that can easily become frustrating. The game gives you the ability to kill guards, but penalizes you by covering you in their blood, thus making you visible (morbid but effective). However, it also gives you poison darts that you can use to kill them bloodlessly (you upgrade your dart count with every assassination). Honestly, when I started off I was tempted to do a no-kill run, but at certain points it just gets to be less frustrating to off the guards. I got the hang of the stealth sections after a while, and there were aspects I really liked (guard movements produce musical notes), but as a stealth game Qasir didn’t stand out for me.
The game does mix things up by offering up some exploration, room puzzles, and riddles. This is actually an aspect of the game I wish they would have focused on more, as it ended up being more enjoyable and memorable for me than the stealth. Overall, Qasir Al-Wasat ends up being a fairly short game at around 2 hours for a basic playthrough without 100% completion. There are other endings to unlock and more to gather, but it will take some dedication, as the puzzles and riddles can be tricky.
Qasir al-Wasat: International Edition was reviewed using an PC downloadable copy of the game provided by Aduge Studios. The game was tested on a PC running Windows 7 Pro, with a 4GB NVIDIA Geforce GTX 970 fitted on a 4th Generation Intel i7 4790 3.6Ghz CPU and topped with 8GB of RAM. We don’t discuss review scores with publishers or developers prior to the review being published.
• Rich, colorful Arab and Persian aesthetic
• Engaging sound design
• Original story with solid writing
• Lore that draws on medieval Abbasid culture
• Movement can be clunky
• Stealth gameplay is unremarkable
• Kind of short