After first going hands on with it during Gamescom, we’ve now been able to test the full version of Asterix and Obelix XXL 3: The Crystal Menhir. The game’s out now for PS4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch and PC – we played the Playstation 4 version.
I have fond memories of Asterix and Obelix dating back to my childhood, when I was reading the comics and watching the animated movies that it spawned. I was never into the live action movies that followed later, but was happy when the XXL series retained the look of the classic comic books. The even took me back to Operation Getafix, which at the time (back in 1989) was one of the best looking games I’d ever seen.
Asterix and Obelix XXL 3: The Crystal Menhir is being released 30 years later and of course cartoon/comic book style graphics aren’t as impressive as they were back then. Nevertheless, the game succeeds in igniting that spark of nostalgia, because XXL 3’s visuals are a clear homage to the comics and cartoons that first won me over.
To (somewhat unconventionally) start with the visuals, Asterix and Obelix XXL 3 is different from XXL 2 (which received a remake last year) in that it no longer has a traditional 3D platformer point of view where the camera is positioned behind the character as you make your way around the game world. Instead, the camera is more zoomed out, giving you a wider overview of the area from an almost isometric point of view. This leads to a look that is a mix of 2D (due to a less dynamic camera) and 3D that results in something that is actually closer to a traditional comic book than the previous games. On the other hand, the zoomed out perspective makes character models appear smaller and thus things can feel less detailed. Luckily, the animation is excellent and I enjoyed seeing a comic book style adventure unroll in front of my eyes. It doesn’t push the envelope and could have been released a console generation ago (something that is especially clear in cutscenes), but the comic book look is convincing.
In terms of the adventure at hand, you’ll see many familiar faces, even though the focus is firmly on the titular duo. When you return to the Gaul village, you find out that the village mail was stolen by the Romans, so you set out to retrieve it. This acts as a lengthy tutorial of sorts, in which you travel to a Roman camp, knock out plenty of Romans and cooperate to get past a few casual puzzles. When you get back to the village, you discover that the theft was port of a bigger ploy to gain access to the powers of a special crystal menhir – one that can be activated by adding magical stones to it.
Imbued with the power of the elements, these stones are what Asterix and Obelix then set out to find. As a result, fire, ice and magnetism become part of the gameplay and provide a kind of thematic diversity to the different game worlds as well, as you find yourself walking across frozen lands and through sweltering heat during your mission.
Gameplay is a mix of point to point action platforming in a linear fashion and storming Roman forts, which are a series of mini hubs that you must clear to get to the next one. This often involves defeating soldiers, and you’ll want to take out the ones to call out for reinforcements as soon as possible. Both gameplay types feature casual puzzles and the need to help each other out – be it in combat or by collaborating on puzzles.
This is where the best part of Asterix and Obelix XXL 3: The Crystal Menhir comes from: the ability to play this game through local multiplayer and work together. Very few games have nailed the two player platforming/action adventure, but this is an example where it works well and it’s especially fun if you’re already fans of the Gaul duo you’re controlling. Things get mixed up through new abilities as well, which you gain as you complete levels and find additional stones for the crystal menhir. Special attacks (and of course Asterix’s use of magic potions) can help clear a horde of Romans quickly, which you’ll need whenever you (or your buddy) is in a pinch. The experience can break apart a little when one moves too far ahead of the other (which can even cause little glitches), but work and stay together and the game’s a lot of fun.
What’s also fun is that the writing is full of humor, often with references to present day real life. And while the core gameplay tends to repeat itself between point to point sections and forts, there’s also a host of collectibles and optional mini games you can tackle with challenges that are offered to you by the many familiar characters in the game (which makes exploring the village a ton of fun as well).
Asterix and Obelix XXL 3 isn’t a groundbreaking action adventure, but it’s great fun – especially in local co-op and if you’re fans of the source material.