Gift of Parthax begins with a mage named Arif who is trying to help his friend Veleus recover from his wounds. To do so Arif decides to step into the arena, work his way to the top, and take on Parthax himself in an attempt to claim his gift that can save Veleus. That’s about all there is to the plot. When you first begin the game you can get a feel for the controls and you can use either a mouse and keyboard or a controller. I tried using a mouse and keyboard a couple of times but for some reason it was a bit clunky outside of combat when trying to click on NPCs to talk to them or to purchase items, so I ended up using an Xbox 360 controller which still has a couple of quirks, but worked a lot better for me. When using a controller the right stick will aim the direction of your spells.
The goal of the game is to work your way up the arena’s ladder which is split into multiple seasons, each season consisting of several battles, each match consisting of around three to four waves. After all of the battles are done you can fight that season’s boss, after which you’ll move onto the next season. Combat in Gift of Parnax is spell-based; you’ll start out with a simple fireball spell and as the game progresses you’ll start to learn other spells, being able to equip up to four at any one time. The spells in Gift of the Parthax can have elements such as fire and earth, but also can fall into different types such as projectiles, summons, traps, and strikes. Projectiles will travel across the room until they hit something, traps can be laid on the ground for non-flying enemies to walk over and take damage, strikes are your typical area of effect spells that can damage nearby enemies, and summons let you summon a creature to attack enemies for a short duration of time. You’ll also gain access to more powerful archspells as the game progresses such as making a giant tree grow in the arena or summoning a tornado of fire that can constantly damage any enemies it comes into contact with. As you defeat more enemies you’ll eventually be able to use your archspell.
Between rounds you can visit a shop to purchase potions and runes, the latter of which you can add to your spells to give them certain effects such as splitting a spell into more projectiles or giving them a poison effect. You can add up to four runes per spell and can even add the same rune multiple times. I’m not sure if this has any extra effects such as doubling the amount of poison an enemy can have, but you can always replace a rune you’ve already placed. Something I found interesting that actually helps in the early going is that when you buy a rune, you can use it as many times as you like. In other words, if you buy a rune that can split a projectile into two projectiles, you can place that one rune in all of your projectile spells at the same time. Granted not all runes are compatible with all spells; each rune falls under a category such as fire, earth, trap, and so on, but having more runes early on can help proceed through the battles more easily.
That being said though, the game is easy in the early going, especially if you stick around Spring and grind up a bit. Between battles and when you’re done with the shop, you’ll be taken to the preparation hall which, to be honest, is not incredibly useful. It includes a shop…which you just came from, and a library…which let’s you access your spell book which you can already do at any time when not in a battle. However, there’s another room you can go to and visit FRIEND’S NAME. In there you’ll possibly find a couple of other objects you can interact with that say they give you “knowledge”. Knowledge is kind of like an experience counter of sorts that you can’t see, but gaining knowledge will give you more health, mana, and offensive power to your spells over time. You also gain knowledge after battles so if you’re stuck on some of the later seasons, you might want to head back down to Spring and grind up a bit. This also lets you get more gold so you can purchase more runes and potions. This is definitely useful as the boss of each season is no joke. Grinding for runes and potions before a boss battle can make things a lot easier on you.
The combat itself is pretty good once you get used to it, but I did have a few moments of frustration with it. For starters, your hitbox for the most part is your entire body. That sounds like it makes sense, but considering this is a top-down 2D brawler and you start to wonder how a fireball didn’t just go around you but instead barely nicked the top of your head and caused you to take damage. You do have a dash maneuver that makes you perform a quick dash in the direction you’re moving and makes you briefly invulnerable when using it, though you have to let it recharge for a few seconds between uses. Get used to using the dash because it’s almost impossible to dodge a lot of incoming attacks without it. Almost every battle in Summer starts off with several enemies shooting multiple volleys of fire at you, and a quick dodge is the only way to get out unscathed. Basically a lot of the combat is knowing what enemies you’re facing and how to best avoid their attacks.
So I mentioned potions earlier and I also mentioned grinding gold to buy more potions. Potions are pretty cheap and you can buy a lot at once, but there’s one small quirk to them that frustrated me when I found out. This game takes the Diablo II approach to potion usage, at least for health potions, and using a potion doesn’t instantly refill your health by the specified amount; it fills it up over a short period of time. Furthermore, the potions actually have a cooldown timer so you can’t just spam them to refill your health quickly. Personally I don’t mind the gradual refilling when using a potion instead of it being instantly, but the cooldown timer was a bit much for me, especially with how slow the health refills. Thankfully mana refills slowly on its own so mana potions aren’t quite as bothersome.
The difficulty can seem a bit skewed and I’ve read where some people didn’t have any issues until the fourth season, whereas I took my first death on the second. A lot of the difficulty all comes down to how much time you spend grinding for gold and runes, which runes you place in which spells, and which four spells you take into each battle. It also doesn’t help that for a lot of the battles I was literally just running around in circles while firing projectile spells. I did occasionally use other spell types, but there are risks when doing so. With traps and strikes you can stand back and move a cursor around to determine where it gets placed, but summons and pulse (AoE) spells are pretty much done right where you are with enemies still closing in, plus they take a second or two to cast meaning you can easily take more damage when trying to cast them. Basically a lot of the difficulty is all in how you play.
Overall, Gift of Parthax does have its quirks but is overall still a pretty decent game. I do like the graphics as I’m a sucker for anything done in an 8-bit or 16-bit style, and the music fits the game pretty well. The menu controls can be a bit clunky until you get them down, especially when dealing with adding runes to spells, and I definitely recommend trying the game with a controller over the keyboard and mouse, at least with the menus. Beyond that, the game is enjoyable and you do have to employ a decent amount of strategy when it comes to which spells to take into a battle and what runes to put on it. If you can get by some of the clunky menu controls and the easiness of the early going, especially if you grind gold and knowledge in Spring, Gift of Parthax is an enjoyable game with little plot elements and a lot of spells to sling.
* The product in this article was sent to us by the developer/company.