The Tale of Bistun
Gameplay 7
Graphics 7
Sound 8

The Tale of Bistun is a unique title that draws inspiration from an epic 12th-century Persian poem. As such, the focus is very much on the story and not so much on the occasional action sequences that punctuate long bouts of walking through beautiful environments. Nevertheless, the game is brief enough not to become too repetitive, and the excellent narration keeps the adventure compelling. There’s not much here for action fans or those expecting an RPG experience, but fans of the source material will enjoy this unique interpretation.

Gameplay: Apart from some brief hack-and-slash combat sections, the game features lots of wandering along a linear path while listening to an omniscient narrator.

Graphics: The visuals could be more detailed, but everything is colorful, and there are plenty of beautiful areas to traverse.

Sound: The traditional Iranian instruments used for the soundtrack are a nice touch, and the narrator is excellent

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The Tale of Bistun

Developer: Black Cube Games | Publisher: IMGN.PRO | Release Date: 2022 | Genre: Action / Adventure / Indie | Website: Official Website | Purchase: Steam

Not many games can boast that they are based on epic romantic poems from the 12th century, but The Tale of Bistun is one of them. It draws inspiration from Khosrow and Shirin by the Persian poet Nizami Ganjavi. While the poem is about a love story between the Sasanian king Khosrow II and the Armenian princess Shirin, the game takes a different approach. Players are instead cast into the role of an amnesiac protagonist who wakes up on Mount Bistun. It soon becomes apparent that our hero is a stone carver by trade, and his destiny is revealed with the assistance of a magical tree and sparkling bird.

While it is very ambitious in the story department, the gameplay of The Tale of Bistun is a lot more down to earth. The game splits its focus between a mountain in ancient Mesopotamia and a mysterious magical place called the “Revelations Realm.” The mountain sections see the protagonist following the Hoopoe bird down a linear path while a very talkative narrator explains the story. Occasionally, our hero will enter arenas where the exits are blocked until a few waves of enemies are dispatched. Combat happens in real-time, and the main character is proficient in hatchets as well as an ax. However, most enemies are very easy to kill, and most players should be able to complete these combat sections without breaking a sweat.

After making their way through the mountain sections while performing tasks such as freeing trees from the blight that is corrupting everything on the mountain, players always return to a central hub area. From here, they can enter the Revelations Realm, which, true to its name, reveals more about the mysterious story and the lead character’s motivations. Players familiar with the poem should already know more or less what is happening, but the game does a good job of keeping things interesting. Like the mountain sections, the areas in the Revelations Realm are short and linear, with lots of walking while listening to the narrator and the occasional battle.

Along with being linear, The Tale of Bistun is also a concise game, which can be completed in about three hours. The game does feature two different endings, but players can essentially pick which one they want to see by making a choice right at the end. This, coupled with the heavy focus on the story, means that the game does not have a lot of replay value. There is some incentive for exploring the various areas to find snippets of lore or statues for achievements, but the game does not allow players to stray too far off the clearly set out route. For players who want a short, focused experience, this can be a blessing, while those searching for something with a bit more depth and replay value will be disappointed.

At first glance, The Tale of Bistun might look like an action RPG, but this is not the case. The game has no stats, inventory, or much in the way of unlocking weapons and skills. Instead, players have access to three different weapons, each with a basic attack and a special attack on a cooldown timer. Players get their health restored after every battle arena, and the generous checkpoints mean that even if players are killed, they won’t lose much progress. In fact, the only time we died in the game was during the final boss fight, where it took us a while to get used to the new, slower weapon we were given. Fights are, for the most part, a hack-and-slash affair, although players can perform a dodge roll to get the protagonist out of harm’s way. The two types of weapons players have access to for most of the game can be swapped between or upgraded at certain altars, but except for minor differences, they feel about the same in combat.

The Tale of Bistun is a vibrant-looking game, with the Revelations Realm in particular sporting some nice colors and effects. Although the character models are not very detailed, the animations are fluid, and the overall art style is a good match for the game’s theme. The environments feature some lovely ambient details, such as birds that fly off if approached and wildlife roaming about, but apart from being able to carve some clearly marked stones, players don’t make much of an impact on their surroundings. The game makes use of a fixed camera that stays overhead most of the time, but it does pan around in some areas for a more cinematic effect or to highlight important structures up ahead. Unfortunately, the game does not feature any graphical settings to tweak, which is a somewhat surprising omission.

Since The Tale of Bistun has such a big focus on the story, it’s a good thing that the narrator does such a great job. There’s a lot of narration, but every line is delivered with enough emotion to keep players invested in the story. The levels are also designed in such a way that players don’t have to worry that they will “outrun” the narration and reach the next section before it is finished. Instead, winding paths and ledges must be crossed slowly, giving the narrator more than enough time to complete his story. Backing up the narration is also a great soundtrack that features traditional Iranian instruments for extra authenticity. The controls are kept very simple, so players only have to worry about running, rolling, and attacking. The game is playable with either a keyboard and mouse or a controller, but there’s no way to remap the buttons for either.

Overall, The Tale of Bistun is a brief but enjoyable title that doesn’t excel in any particular area but also doesn’t have any significant flaws. The combat can become a bit repetitive, but the game is short enough that it ends before players can get tired of the gameplay loop. The heavy focus on story does mean it can feel more like a walking simulator than an action game at times, but the narration is done so well that it’s hard to complain. The easy difficulty also means that it is an adventure that anyone should be able to complete without too much effort. Players interested in the original poem or simply searching for a quick and easy title to complete in between more involved games should definitely check out The Tale of Bistun.

System Requirements

  • OS: Windows XP SP3
  • Processor: Intel Core 2 Duo 2.0Ghz or equivalent
  • Memory: 2 GB RAM
  • Graphics: Intel Core HD Graphics 3000/4000, NVIDIA 8800 GT, ATI Radeon HD 4850 or better
  • DirectX: Version 9.0
  • Hard Drive: 3 GB available space
  • Sound Card: DirectX 9.0c compatible sound card
  • Additional Notes: NOT SUPPORTED: ATI Radeon X1600, Intel GMA950, NVIDIA Geforce 7050
  • OS: Windows 7, Windows 8
  • Processor: Intel Core i5 2.8Ghz or equivalent
  • Memory: 4 GB RAM
  • Graphics: NVIDIA GeForce 450, AMD Radeon HD 5670 or better
  • DirectX: Version 9.0
  • Hard Drive: 3 GB available space
  • Sound Card: DirectX 9.0c compatible sound card
  • OS: Snow Leopard 10.6.8 or newer
  • Processor: Intel Core 2 Duo 2.0Ghz or equivalent
  • Memory: 3 GB RAM
  • Graphics: Intel Core HD Graphics 3000/4000, Nvidia GeForce GT 330M, ATI Radeon HD 4850 or better (ATI Radeon X1600 NOT SUPPORTED)
  • Hard Drive: 3 GB available space
  • Additional Notes: NOT SUPPORTED: ATI Radeon X1600, Intel GMA950
  • Processor: Intel Core i5 2.8Ghz or equivalent
  • Memory: 4 GB RAM
  • Graphics: GeForce GT 650M, AMD Radeon HD 6750M or better
  • OS: Ubuntu 12.04 or newer, other unsupported distros may work
  • Processor: Intel Core 2 Duo 2.0Ghz or equivalent
  • Memory: 3 GB RAM
  • Graphics: Intel Core HD Graphics 3000/4000, NVIDIA 8800 GT, ATI Radeon HD 4850 or better (Open Source Drivers NOT SUPPORTED)
  • Hard Drive: 3 GB available space
  • Sound Card: lib32-alsa-plugins or libasound2-plugins:i386 and libasound2-plugins-extra:i386 may be required.
  • Additional Notes: NOT SUPPORTED: ATI Radeon X1600, Intel GMA950, NVIDIA Geforce 7050
  • OS: Ubuntu 14.04
  • Processor: Intel Core i5 2.8Ghz or equivalent
  • Memory: 4 GB RAM
  • Graphics: NVIDIA GeForce 450, AMD Radeon HD 5670 or better
  • Hard Drive: 3 GB available space

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