Sat. Jun 15th, 2024
The Tale of Bistun featured image

ID@Xbox really outdid themselves this year, making 40 demos available until June 21st as part of Summer Game Fest. I’ve been trying to play as many as possible, and so far have reviewed demos for Tunic, BattleCakes, and Dreamers. This particular game intrigued me, though, as it’s based on a Persian romance story, and I love that it has that theme running throughout it. I think it’s so cool that they chose to make a game around an existing story. The trailer looked to be pretty exciting, and I liked the art style, so I knew this would be a game worth checking out. Here are my first impressions of The Tale of Bistun demo.

Story

You play as a stone carver who has woken up in a strange place with his memories erased. As you follow the path along, there’s a narrator who reads the story, talking about what’s happening, and what the character is thinking. The story comes in snippets, and it’s intriguing to try and figure out what’s happening. The more we play, the more we learn, and after a while we find ourselves teleported to a weird, celestial world called the Revelation Realm.

First impressions of The Tale of Bistun demo Story
We see this quote when we load the game.

There’s some kind of blight afflicting this world, and when we destroy it, we free a special tree. The tree talks to us, and explains that its brethren are also trapped. It’s our duty to seek out talismans that will teleport us to the Revelation Realm to free more trees. He reveals himself to be a pomegranate tree, but doesn’t explain much more than that. At one point, we eat one of his pomegranates, and it partially restores our memories. We learn that our name is Farhad, and we see him breaking a statue of a woman. It’s hinted that this woman is important to us somehow.

The Tale of Bistun Revelation Realm
I love how colours really set the Revelation Realm apart.

Later on, we revisit the Revelation Realm, and have to once again destroy the blight. But as we do so, we free not a tree, but statues that have been carved from stone. Several of the statues are of ourselves, and when we free them, they pour a white liquid. This eventually is fed to the same female statue that we saw in our memories. When she drinks it, the stone statue shatters. We don’t get any more of the story after that, and I’m fascinated to see what will happen next in the full game. It’s clever that the story comes in snippets, as it encourages us to keep making progress.

The Tale of Bistun end scene
Such a beautiful end to the demo.

Gameplay

My first impressions of The Tale of Bistun demo were that it’s very linear. You follow a set path, and can’t branch off and explore, there’s only one possible route to take. The movement is pretty simple, you just use the analogue stick. Unfortunately it’s a little jarring, and there’s slight drift, so you keep moving a little after you’ve already taken your thumb off of the analogue stick. It could be worse, but I’d like to see smoother movement in the full game. You also can’t move your camera, but this isn’t too bad as it’s automatically at a decent angle. You start off only moving, but you learn skills as you progress, such as sprinting, attacking, and rolling. Being able to sprint is great for the pacing, but you can’t run when in the Revelation Realm.

The Tale of Bistun Sprint
The text boxes in this game look super professional.

Pretty early on you find your hatchets, and you use these for multiple purposes. You can open gateways to new areas, known as ‘qanat gates’. You can also destroy the crystals that bind the blight, as well as others that simply block your path. Moving through the world sometimes involves rolling under branches, or squeezing across thin ridges. However, the most exciting thing you do is combat.

The Tale of Bistun Hatchet
A talisman stone!

The Tale of Bistun is an action-adventure, so I was waiting for the action part. The game uses real-time combat, and you use your hatchet to slash away at the enemies that appear. The fighting is pretty basic, but can get more intense when you have to face multiple enemies at once. If you take damage, your healthy won’t recover over time, instead you replenish it after you complete an objective. All in all, the gameplay is quite simplistic, but still enjoyable.

First impressions of The Tale of Bistun demo Combat
All the purple rocks turn into enemies!

Graphics and Audio

I really like the art in this game. It’s really simplistic, and honestly looks almost like a mobile game in that sense, but the use of colour is beautiful. It gives it a magical and mysterious feel that really works with the story. You can’t interact with most of your surroundings, however they move independent of you. So, for example, you might see animals grazing or leaves swaying. I also love that the colour palette changes between the real world and the Revelation Realm. It creates real visual differentiation. There’s also a really cool constellation art style when you retrieve your memories.

The Tale of Bistun constellation
A really compelling and unique art style.

When it comes to audio, my first impressions of The Tale of Bistun demo were very positive. From the start, even the music on the front menu screen is slow and captivating, whilst having a delightful melody. When you start the game, you’re greeted by the sound of a very talented voice actor. His tone is deep and smooth, and it matches perfectly with the nature of the story. The only gripe I have is that the volume is a little inconsistent, and it’s sometimes hard to hear what he’s saying. The background music feels reminiscent of Arab tunes, without the upbeat speed that’s common in the culture. It fits really well given that the story is of Persian origin. The music also changes as you progress in the game, and it has an epic feel to it.

First impressions of The Tale of Bistun demo graphics
I love the way the bird stands out from the surroundings.

Overall I was really impressed with the audio/visual aspects of this demo. However, I would say that the text is a little small, and I’d like to see it be a bit bigger in the full game. I worry about how accessible the story is for those who are hard of hearing, otherwise.

Overall

On the whole, my first impressions of The Tale of Bistun demo were that it’s a great little indie game, and well worth checking out. The demo is of a decent length, and gives you a good idea of what to expect from the full game. It’s not the most amazing game I’ve ever played, not by any stretch of the imagination, but it was a fun use of my time, and I’m glad I found it. I’d happily play it again, and I’d recommend anyone else to do the same. It has a high production value, and is very impressive for an indie studio. If you enjoy gaming, why not join our Facebook community?

The Tale of Bistun Demo

7.8

Verdict

7.8/10

Pros

  • Beautiful artwork
  • Engaging story
  • Enjoyable audio

Cons

  • Text is very small
  • Gameplay is overly linear
  • Volume can be inconsistent

By Screen Hype

Hi! I'm Melika Jeddi, a content writer and aspiring author. I've created Screen Hype to share my unique brand of entertaining articles with the world, and to create a fun space that everyone can feel a part of :)