Hoard (PC review)   Leave a comment

Developed by: Big Sandwich Games
Published by: Big Sandwich Games
Out now
Reviewed on: 13th April, 2011.

Presentation: The graphics are simple, crisp and clean. It’s easy to see what is going on around you most of the time and what everything is. The music is nothing too amazing and I don’t think it fits the setting too well, but it is quite pleasant and does not get in the way.

Atmosphere: The atmosphere is somewhat light-hearted, with players controlling dragons trying to claim as large a hoard of gold as possible by terrorising the surrounding human settlements as well as backstabbing and thieving from each other.

Control and Mechanics: I thought the controls could do with a bit of improvement, personally. The controls are typical of dual-stick shooters (to which, in many ways, this game belongs), if you have a gamepad with two sticks that works then there’s no problem as long as you can use those sticks. However, without that, the keyboard/mouse control is not really suitable for someone with less dexterity in their keyboard hand and the mouse only control sacrifices some control that in multiplayer games will cost you. Their gamepad support is extremely limited with Xbox 360 controllers preferred (and I couldn’t get the emulation mode to work with any other pad I tried).

Who should buy this: Ultimately, those who like dual-stick shooter style games especially with the sort of multiplayer competitiveness found in a game like Galcon Fusion minus the long stand-offs. Those who like dual-stick shooters with a few interesting twists to the gameplay.

Who should avoid it: The game has a fair bit of variety to it for what it is so I would only really dissuade those who don’t like dual-stick style games, the backstabbing nature of online play or have difficulty due to the control’s lack of reconfigurability. Also, those who like the super reflex requirements and rapid thinking most dual-stick shooters require would best look at something like Bullet Candy or, better yet, Beat Hazard.

If I have to give a score: An enjoyable experience that stands out from the mass in its genre, has a lot of new ideas and doesn’t require the reflexes that they often require. 3/4

Review

It’s not hard recommending this game with confidence to the right sorts of people. It’s got a solid presentation with crisp graphics and a simple interface, and is simply lots of fun to play. This is especially true if you already have a group of friends with whom to play it but it does come with all the relationship-wrecking properties that all games encouraging ruthless, Machiavellian play have.

You control a dragon in an area of land where human settlements grows and these are your key to amassing the vast wealth you need to win. The aim of the game is just that: score as much as you can by amassing a hoard. The most basic way of doing this is go to a human settlement and burn it to the ground, reaping the gold from its destruction. Other alternatives are to steal that gold from other dragons as they are away from their hoard, terrorising settlements into giving you tributes, stealing gems from wizards or kidnapping princesses for ransom. All of these have their twists and problems and you’ll ultimately end up using a combination of them in order to achieve your goals.

It takes the form of a sort of dual-stick shooter: you use one stick (or alternative like a keyboard) to control your dragon’s movement and another (or the mouse) to control your fire attack. Also, as you gain sufficient gold you get to increase a variety of abilities like the duration of your fire breath, your speed, defence or the amount of gold you can carry before needing to return to your hoard.

Competing against you are other dragons, who can steal from you as well as attack you directly. Losing your health forces you back to your hoard, causing you to drop any gold you were carrying to be picked up by rival dragons or the wagons of the growing human settlements. Beyond this are knights who’ll attack if you get to near and attack your hoard to rescue princesses, thieves who’ll steal from your hoard, lowering your gold and destroying your score multiplier, archers defending their towns and wizard towers that rain magical energy on passing dragons.

Each single-player level offers three basic levels of success based on your hoard’s size when the time limit runs out. The single-player game does offer a steadily increasing difficulty and a fair bit of variety and replay value. This is good, because I imagine that it won’t be long before Hoard goes the same way as a multitude of other indie games and becomes increasingly difficult to play multiplayer due to the lack of players. This is better than a lot of others, I remember trying to review Crasher and found I really could not due to the lack of players as well as single-player content. Hoard successfully avoids this problem by offering a solid single-player experience to prop up the multiplayer.

If I have one overall criticism, it’s that I found the gamepad emulation did not work with any of the alternative gamepads I tried. This game really does require one of a small set of gamepads to work properly, principally the Xbox 360 controller and I find this lack of support for generic gamepads (which surely isn’t too hard as plenty of other games have it) is an unfortunate trend in a few indie games now. This is only a minor niggle really and as long as you have the required controller or don’t mind a keyboard/mouse combination (or a pure mouse control, but you’ll get beaten soundly in multiplayer) then this game has a lot of delights that should keep you entertained enough to more than justify the small price tag they demand.

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