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Pharaonic Reviewed by Cyril Lachel on . Inspired by Dark Souls, Pharaonic is a punishingly difficult adventure game set in ancient Egypt. While the setup is compelling and the developer gets most of the basics right, this game is plagued by awful technical issues and repetitive action. It's a compelling concept that is seriously let down by the crummy execution. Rating: 40%
Pharaonic
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  • Review Score:

  • C-
Whether you're a fan of the series or not, it's hard to deny Dark Souls' impact on the games industry. Since its debut, the series has managed to inspire dozens of games, including everything from Titan Souls to Lords of the Fallen to Salt & Sanctuary. And it's not just that these games are difficult, but how they structure their risk vs. reward mechanics, forcing players to fear for their life each and every second. With so many of these games on the market, it makes me wonder if we'll eventually see lazy game critics like me use the dumb shorthand term "Soulslike."

Pharaonic is the newest example of the Dark Souls influence. It's a 2D action game set in ancient Egypt where our customizable hero battles dangerous enemies while searching for the truth behind the Red Pharaoh. It's a punishingly difficult adventure game that takes many of its ideas from the Souls series, while transplanting everything into a compelling new setting.


This is the kind of game where when you die, you'll need to race back to that location in order to pick up your dropped experience. It's the kind of game where a single enemy can ruin your entire day and save points are few and far between. I'm talking about the kind of game where every attack has a long wind-up and flasks of liquid heal your wounds. If all this sounds familiar, it should. Pharaonic lifts most of Dark Souls' key mechanics and shifts them into a 2.5D side-scrolling adventure.

And for the most part it works. The game is good about throwing you into deceptively large areas full of paths to take and enemies to fight. The goal is to battle your way to the various bosses, which you'll need to defeat in order to collect a key to unlock a giant door. It's a pretty simple concept that is made painfully difficult by the freakishly tough bad guys and some rage-inducing technical issues.

Pharaonic (PlayStation 4)Click For the Full Picture Archive

We're given a couple of combat strikes to use, both of which take large chunks of your stamina. Our hero will also be able to use magic, roll away from attacks and parry opponents to get the upper hand. Even a single enemy can do some serious damage, so you'll need to learn patterns and wait for the perfect time to strike. Unfortunately, the 2D plane does limit the action, which holds the game back from being as exciting as you would want.

Even with the addition of all kinds of weapons and equipment, I couldn't get past the repetition. Too many of the fights started to blend together after a while, and I hated how many enemies I needed to fight just to pick up my dropped experience. Pharaonic is plagued with frustrating difficulty spikes that come out of nowhere and almost always end in a painful death. In Dark Souls, this sort of thing would inspire me to try a different path or approach. But you can't do that in this 2D game, and it takes away a lot of what I like about this type of adventure.

Pharaonic (PlayStation 4)Click For the Full Picture Archive

Sadly, it's not the repetitive fights or the rough graphics that sink this game. The biggest issue I ran into was the rampant technical issues. It ranges from simple background items appearing out of nowhere to inconveniently-timed frame drops to all kinds of crashes. And when I say the game is prone to crash, what I actually mean is that there are areas that are nearly impossible to pass without the game ending abruptly. And that's not the worst of it.

Pharaonic does this weird thing when the background introduces lattices. You might not think that this simple background object would ruin everything, but it took me more than two dozen attempts to get through these sections without the game crashing back to the dashboard. And even after I managed to successfully make it beyond those game-ending lattices, the same thing happened when attempting to take on the boss. Worse yet, the game's instability ended up corrupting my save file not once, but twice. I finally got to the point where I gave up on Pharaonic, but I assure you, it wasn't for lack of trying.

I assume that the developers at Milkstone Studios will eventually patch this issue and gamers will be able to play through the adventure without fear of it crashing every few minutes. But even when that does happen, Pharaonic is a hard game to recommend. While it gets a lot of the basics right, this quest feels especially limited when compared to Dark Souls and the many games it inspired. This is a compelling concept that is seriously let down by its crummy execution.
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