You know, after beating down my five hundredth Roman soldier, I had to think — Asterix & Obelix aren’t very nice people. Sure, these pesky Romans are causing a whole world of bother, but they’re just trying to make a living. What about their poor wife and kids that are now partnered with a soldier that I’ve just froze to death? Is nobody going to think about them? Asterix & Obelix sure aren’t.
These are the sort of thoughts that would pass through my brain as I mercilessly mowed down armies. Battalions of fathers, brothers and husbands who would never reach home again. Their sacrifices would not have been for nothing if Asterix & Obelix XXL 3: The Crystal Menhir provided any sense of challenge for this rampage of carnage. Instead, I mindlessly plowed my way through, thinking of the little people who met my hand — which is ultimately The Crystal Menhir’s downfall.
The crystal that the game is rightly named after plays as a constant deus ex machina. This is a plot device which conveniently gives you abilities when required, or when the game feels as though you may be bored enough — which is pretty early on. Everything starts off mysterious; a strange letter, a mysterious crystal and a quest to save the land for our two heroes. This is as far as any sense of mystery extends though, as Asterix & Obelix XXL 3: The Crystal Menhir reveals its hand far too early and leaves little to be desired.
If you enjoy walking to the edge of the screen, spamming the attack button when enemies appear and moving on again, then you’re in the right place. If that sounds like a bland explanation of what the general gameplay is about, that’s because it is. You do occasionally flick a lever for completely obvious roadblocks though, so let’s give it some credit.
Remember those Romans? The ones that are now either removed from this world or clawing their way back home with a variety of broken limbs? Well, there are multiple ways of disposing of them, and none are particularly interesting. Attacks are mapped to the four main controller buttons and are usable with a simple tap of LB. There’s no sense of accomplishment, so all in all their sacrifices result to nothing.
As stated before, the crystal menhir is a device that provides you with new abilities; ranging from enhancements such as ice and fire. It never really develops anything beyond that and suffers from a serious lack of creativity, and there are hundreds of brawlers out there which provide you with elemental powers to tackle foes, so none of this is particularly new or interesting.
The main crux of the issue is that combat isn’t particularly refined enough to warrant a full game. Past Asterix & Obelix adventures allowed for more creativity with environments to explore and platforming to break things up. There’s none of that here. A fixed camera angles sees fit to show that there is no room for exploration. There are chests to break and crates to smash, but you’ll probably be reeling in from the repetitive strain injury that the button mashing combat brings.
The lack of soul extends into the game’s world. A hub area provides a space to upgrade, the chance to talk to characters and opportunity to continue your adventure, but it is so barren and lifeless that the less time spent here the better. The area is simply too big with no sights to behold, any sense of progression or heart incorporated into its aesthetic. It’s nothing more than a glorified menu system, save a few cutscenes and character interactions.
Where one saving grace can be found is The Crystal Menhir’s inclusion of co-op, which is a first for an Asterix & Obelix game. Sharing the burden of taking down an armada of Romans can provide some fleeting fun in short bursts. It’s also a glimpse of how intuitive the combat could have been as you both communicate to effectively mix up elemental styles to approach situations. Some minor (and I mean minor) puzzle solving will break up the constant beats of beat-em-up action, but ultimately you will be performing the same tasks over, and over, and over. If you can find someone to join you, then great! If only someone could have accompanied me while my own inner turmoil over these helpless Romans I was slaying consumed me.
This series has become something of a cult hit over the years. In certain European countries, Asterix & Obelix are still mighty mascots — France even have a theme park dedicated to the duo. It’s unfortunate then that their license has been relinquished to such a bland and uninspired creation in Asterix & Obelix XXL 3: The Crystal Menhir on Xbox One, especially when previous entries have been quirky, imaginative titles. Die hard fans may find some enjoyment in the joyless massacre of thousands, but others will no doubt find more to digest within the previous entries. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to mourn the loss of those poor, poor Romans.