Ankh: Ankh

One piece of good news: I figured out how to run! You do it by double-clicking. This greatly improves the experience of crossing the desert. Just like in The Watchmaker, I’m only learning how I’m supposed to be interacting with the game when it’s half over. But in The Watchmaker, I had only myself to blame for not reading the manual. Here, I have no manual. I really feel like the game is supposed to have one, but it’s not in the box, nor on Steam.

Mind you, the game is also politely making running across the desert a bit less of an issue by repeatedly temporarily locking me into rooms. Limiting the scope in this way makes it easier to find all the necessary items. In my last session, I didn’t need the walkthrough at all. The two-player-character section is over, though, which is a shame.

This seems to be one of those getting-in-deeper-and-deeper-trouble stories. People make attempts on Assil’s life, the death curse (which initially manifested as a tattoo on his hand) spreads across his body and starts to interfere with his motor functioning (in cutscenes, at least), and after a certain point, not only does the Pharaoh have it in for him, but Osiris himself does as well. Well, mortals have managed to survive the wrath of the gods before. There are myths about it. Consider Odysseus, arguably the prototype for your Monkey-Island-style adventure game hero, overcoming trials and challenges through a mix of trickery and perspicaciousness.

What did Assil do to earn the personal enmity of kings and gods? Mainly, it’s not really about him. It’s about the macguffin he wears around his neck: an ankh necklace, acquired in the same mishap that earned him his death curse. Why it’s so important, I don’t know, except that it apparently came from the gods, and the gods want it back. Assil himself mistook it for a bottle opener. In fact, he’s not the only character to make that mistake, which seems really strange to me, given what a prevalent symbol it is in Egyptian antiquity. Sure, this game isn’t a realistic depiction of Egypt, but it’s a little like setting a game in, say, France and having half the cast not know what the Eiffel Tower is.

My main task right now is to find the Pharaoh’s daughter, who Osiris has taken away to the Underworld, to ransom her for the ankh. So, we’re back to rescue-the-princess again. NPCs start gossiping about the disappearance immediately after Thara leaves your side, intending to lay low for a while, and this made me initially wonder: Is Thara actually the Pharaoh’s daughter? This turned out not to be the case, but it would have been interesting. Thara is fiercely opposed to the Pharaoh’s rule, but expresses this opposition mainly through defacing monuments and throwing banana peels — in other words, trying to humiliate him rather than overthrow him violently. I could easily see a father-daughter dynamic in that.

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