The match-3 genre isn’t quite as much of a draw as it once was back when Candy Crush sparked a global craze, but there are still plenty who enjoy a spot of tile matching and developers Panda Games Studio are looking to target them with their new game. Will Ancient Stories: Gods of Egypt be a perfect match and become your latest addiction, or should you instead be going elsewhere for your fix?
It is a tricky one really, because Ancient Stories: Gods of Egypt as an isolated case ticks a lot of boxes for a match-3 fan. The main problem is that compared to others of this ilk it lacks original ideas and feels far too familiar. There are other issues too, which does the experience no favours whatsoever.
Ancient Stories: Gods of Egypt is, as you already know, a match-3 game where the general aim is to match similar tiles together. Before analysing the gameplay though, let’s focus on the story that’s in place, which is set in an Egyptian city. The nefarious pharaoh Tutmos craves power and in order to achieve immortality, he unleashes a nasty plague across the city. Only you can put an end to it and save the day by destroying a collection of alters – using your matching skills, of course.
The plot is told through sporadic comic book style storyboards and I have to say, it’s bloody terrible. Sure, it’s good to have a purpose for what you’re about to do, but sometimes it’s better to have nothing than conjure up a bad story. Bland and predictable comes to mind, with uninteresting characters and boring designs adding to the disappointing offering. Even the in-game character models for the baddies look identical, aside from the colour of their outfits.
Nevertheless, the action is what matters the most and from the outset you’re presented with three difficulty options to choose between: Casual, Relax, and Expert. The Expert difficulty is naturally the toughest as it will limit the amount of moves you can make to complete a level and force you to race against the clock. The Casual setup does away with the time element, while the Relax option is geared up for those who want zero challenge as you’re not constrained by either moves or time taken. It’s good that there’s a difficulty to suit all, but choose wisely because you’ll not be able to change it; it’s too bad if you end up finding it overly tough or stupidly easy, there’s nothing you can do except delete progress.
For the hundred levels ahead, the goal is often as simple as matching a specific number of coloured tokens to progress. Now, that could get terribly boring, however there are new gameplay features and additional objectives introduced fairly regularly in a bid to inject freshness. These features include obstacles like blocks which are destroyed via matching tokens adjacent to them, portals that filter tokens into different columns, and even various coloured frogs that jump around as you attempt to match with them. Often, removing blocks, frogs and such are incorporated into the list of objectives. In the later levels, obstacles are used in tandem to make it all the more difficult and the number of moves permitted becomes very limited.
There are a lot of neat ideas to help you progress past the trickiest of levels and the fact you can create super powered tokens by matching more than three regular ones together is perhaps the most important. Upon matching with these special tokens, entire rows or columns are annihilated, but it’s the pharaoh mask that’s a real game-changer as combining it with a token will remove every single token of the same colour from the board. Heck, if you want to really cause chaos on the board, fusing the special tokens together is also possible.
Furthermore, some limited use abilities are unlocked via progression and an in-game currency earned through level completion allows you to upgrade them. Essentially, you call upon the gods to aid in your task and so when you’ve matched enough of their preferred colour, you activate their ability. For example, Horus destroys a single token of your choosing and then removes a couple more at random, while Tot adds special tokens onto the board. It’s nigh-on impossible to succeed without the deities, but of the seven on offer, only a few are actually worthwhile.
Outside of the main levels, there are the boss encounters and bonus levels to attempt too. The boss levels see you trying to deplete the health bar of an enemy by matching tokens it is weak to. They all follow that concept and overcoming them is quite underwhelming. The bonus levels are no better either because these are more akin to puzzles, where the idea is to remove every single token from the board through meticulous matching. It’s very boring as it’s too easy to make a mistake and have to restart.
You may have to restart for another reason though, with Ancient Stories: Gods of Egypt bugging out here and there. Occasionally it will just stop you moving any tokens and restricts you from using any abilities, rendering you completely stuck unless the game is reloaded – even the pause menu doesn’t work. Another minor issue is the visual clarity of the obstacles and such, because some colours are similar in shade and it is confusing as to which tokens to match near or with them.
Aside from the god abilities, the rest of the gameplay seen in Ancient Stories: Gods of Egypt has been done many times over within the match-3 genre. The only difference is the Egyptian branding and overall theme. The levels are still enjoyable for short pick up and play sessions of course, but don’t expect to find anything groundbreaking in Ancient Stories: Gods of Egypt. It’s cheap enough for a quick fix, but there are free games like Frozen Free Fall: Snowball Fight and Gems of War on Xbox which provide better content for your gaming pleasure.
If you wish to match up with Ancient Stories: Gods of Egypt, it’s available right now from the Xbox Store