In Parvaneh: Legacy of the Light's Guardians, we follow the story of a young man named Fadia. He lives in an idyllic village nestled between a crystal clear river and the tallest mountain peak in the land. In years past, the villagers isolated themselves in their town to escape a terrible monster-spawning disease that was destroying the land. When disease pollutes the village's river, Fadia must battle strange monsters and uncover the truth about how his beloved home became infected.
The game crashed immediately on launch, which is not a great way to start. I launched it again to the same result. Determined to get the game to play I kept trying. I reloaded Steam, followed the support steps provided and rebooted my computer. On one of the attempts I heard music, so I suspected that SOMETHING was loading. I found the game icon in my taskbar and clicked it. There was a brief flash as the game window pulled up and then immediately dropped again. Undeterred, I clicked it again. After the 4th try, a solid black screen stayed up. I didn’t hear music or see any indication that the game was loading, but I waited anyway. After 30 seconds, the game started.
The touchiness of the game didn’t end once I had it going. The volume was far too loud, but there are no in-game volume or sound effect controls. Alt-tab to reach the computer’s volume controls resulted in a game crash. I had to follow the same try-and-try-again approach to reload the game. After an absurd amount of false starts, I was finally able to get it going.
Happy as I was to get a chance to play the Parvaneh: Legacy of the Light's Guardians, had I approached it as a player and not a reviewer, I would have given up and requested a refund for the game before ever seeing the first screen.
The game has all the essential elements of a fantasy RPG. A young character who has lived as an ordinary person in an ordinary village until a catalytic moment reveals the character’s extraordinary traits, launching him on a quest to save the world.
Despite being quite young, when the monsters first invade his village, Fadia is forced to defend many of the adult inhabitants from the slimy invaders. There is an element of reality in this scene. Some of the adults fight, but others freeze in fear, hide, or get trapped. Whether intentional or not, Parvaneh reveals a life-truth: in a moment of crises, not everyone is a hero. The main character does not suffer from lack of courage, of course. He battles green glob monsters with nothing more than a wooden sword and determination.
Not only is young Fadia a fighter, he is also a craftsman. He finds “recipes” and must make every tool and weapon he uses in his adventure. Resource materials are found on slain enemies, in chests/boxes scattered around the world, and sometimes given as a quest reward.
The crafting system is a Sudoku-like puzzle minigame where the player must arrange resources in tiles horizontally or vertically to ensure each row and column has the correct number of resources. As items grow in power, the puzzles gain in complexity. In-game instructions explain that once a piece is complete, the puzzle can be bypassed by putting the item in the section for "known" goods. Unfortunately, due to a glitch, this section is offscreen and inaccessible.
Combat is basic hack-and-slash. The character has power attacks which must be charged. The power attack is the most vital aspect of combat due to an issue with fighting. I am not sure whether this is a bug or how the game was designed, but standard attacks cannot be aimed. If the character is fighting a monster to the north, and a monster approaches his South flank, you cannot re-aim his attacks to the South. When the character swings, he swings in a fixed direction. Attempts to re-aim the swing are futile, To kill the monster, the player is forced to position the character so the swing will hit the monster instead of targeting the swing where you want it to go. It’s also inconsistent. Sometimes Fadia can swing in West, East, or South, but there isn’t any way to know which direction he will be locked to before making a strike. As a result, combat is painfully clunky and frustrating.
The AOE power attack is the only salvageable aspect of combat. It isn’t necessary to have the character in the correct position since the power attack kills everything within range. Unfortunately, the power attack takes a toll on Fadia’s weapon, leading to another frustrating gameplay issue.
Fadia’s first weapon is a wooden sword. It is fragile and breaks easily. Fadia will eventually get a stronger weapon, but I anticipate it will also suffer damage from use. The issue arises when weapons break mid-battle. If you haven’t already crafted a stockpile of spare swords, it is necessary for Fadia to stop the battle, pull out his crafting supplies, and whip up a fresh weapon on the spot. I thought my Skyrim character making Draugrs wait while she scarfed giant cheese wheels was unrealistic. Mid-attle crafting far exceeds the implausibility of fight cheese and is disruptive to the flow of the game.
Despite its issues, Parvaneh has elements that drive me to keep playing.
The stylized environment is gorgeous. It is beautifully organic as if the town grew around the natural features of the land instead of the other way around. It’s easy to believe it’s modeled after a real place, and given the chance I would devote an extraordinary amount of time in the game just exploring.
The character and costume designs are vibrant and enchanting. Adult women have their hair covered. Men wear clothes in accordance to their status in the town. Each model is exquisitely layered and detailed. The characters feel genuine, and interacting with them isn’t just a means to advance the plot, but feels like an opportunity to peek into another culture from the inside. The music is also quite lovely. It fits perfectly with the theme of the game.
Sadly, the great things about this game make the issues all the more jarring. A lot of care and effort when into making this game. It seems unconscionable that so many aspects of it are broken when contrasted against the quality of its other elements.
It would almost be easier to list the things in the game that work rather than list all its problems. I was unable to progress very far into the storyline due to the issues.
Startup - The game crashes a lot when attempting to launch it. It is enough of a pain to make it work that if I wanted to finish the game, I’d be tempted to leave it running when I need breaks rather than face the song and dance required to start it back up once I was ready to resume.
Text - The game was developed in Iran and the characters do not speak English. The game is subtitled, though, and the translations were professionally done. Translations are at times wasted: in the intro and many of the text boxes, the words exceed their bounding box and are unreadable. The player forced to extrapolate instructions based on the context, but it isn’t always possible.
Like the text, other important game elements are off-screen. Many of the game controls are in the character’s “book,” but half the book is inaccessible.
Frequent glitches - During an escort quest, the person I was escorting disappeared. I was unable to complete the quest and had to restart the game. In another area, the character got stuck between a crate and a rock and couldn’t get out. Again, I had to restart the game. Glitches of this nature occurred several times.
What I want most is a game that functions. If I could have that, my next request would be in-game volume and sound controls. If the combat system is intentional, where it is impossible for the character to aim his strikes, that needs to go. It doesn’t make sense in the context of the game, and it is unnecessarily frustrating. Lastly, crafting should be separated from standard gameplay. Crafting a sword while fighting a horde of glop monsters detracts from the excitement of battle.
Parvaneh: Legacy of the Light's Guardians has so much potential. From what I have managed to play, I can tell I would have loved this game. Its promise makes its problems all the more disappointing. As it stands, the game is unplayable.