As a gamer, I’m always keen to invest my time in a massive game or two. However, occasionally, I love to pick up a casual arcade title. As such, when I was given Swordship to review, I couldn’t resist. Its retro look, simple approach, and fast-paced action were irresistible. But could its short, sharp gameplay hold my attention for extended periods?
Developed by Digital Kingdom and published by Thunderful Publishing, this is an arcade racer. What’s more, it flips the mechanics of the traditional arcade shooter. Consequently, you have to reset your brain and focus on a fresh take on this much-loved genre. Alongside this, Swordship has a brutal rogue-lite concept. This harsh but moreish element makes you scream with anger and dance with joy.
Swordship is a futuristic game.
The world has gone to shit, and much of the populace has been abandoned. Accordingly, these people are known as “The Banished,” and they must fend for themselves. However, there are a group of criminals who despise the lack of equality. As such, they steal containers full of food and goods and donate them to this unwanted group. You are one of these pilots who must risk their lives to bring hope and supplies to those that are less fortunate.
Though the plot sounds grand and dramatic, the delivery is anything but. Instead, the gameplay focuses on your tiny vessel as you weave, dodge, and avoid an army of psychopathic robots. Now, this may sound easy, but the relentless pace and never-ending attacks ensure it’s tough as hell. On top of this, the vertical scrolling and procedurally generated nature of the action keeps you guessing throughout.
Unlike traditional shooters, your vehicle has limited or no weaponry to speak of. Instead, you must use your enemy’s aggression against them. This twist on the usual approach was both interesting and tough to get used to. If you then consider the brutal pace and the random nature of the action, it adds fresh impetus to this well-trodden genre.
Points and upgrades.
Like every great arcade title, Swordship focuses heavily on a scoring system. Subsequently, you are awarded points for every action you complete. Furthermore, the more containers you steal and donate, the greater your points tally will be. However, with death just around the corner, sometimes it is better to sacrifice your points to give yourself a better chance.
If you so wish, you can keep every container you find. If you do this, you’ll be awarded extra lives as well as a temporary upgrade. Both of these were essential if you wished to progress. Consequently, you had to balance your score by gaining extra lives and improving your ship.
However, there is more to the scoring element than first meets the eye. As each run ends, your total score is checked against a progression meter. If you have gained enough points, you’ll unlock permanent upgrades and new ships to try out. These improved vehicles increase your chances of survival while enhancing your weaponry. Alongside this, you’ll discover hidden lore that improves an otherwise limited story.
Swordship has a classic arcade appearance.
Swordship won’t blow you away visually. However, I liked its simplicity and vivid colours. What’s more, every element was easy to understand. Yet, mastering every finer detail was no mean feat. With so much going on, it was tough to avoid the lasers, bombs, cannons, and much more. Thereupon, the developers have done a fantastic job of creating a deceptively simple title that is moreish and tough to put down.
I wish I could be so complimentary about the audio. Sadly, though, I cannot! The upbeat music plays on a continuous loop. Accordingly, once you’ve died repeatedly and listened to the same song many times, you get sick of it. Therefore, it would have been better if the developers had incorporated a wider range of songs into their library. If this had happened, the game would have been improved vastly.
I was pleasantly surprised by the drip-fed mechanics and the straightforward controls. Yet, the lack of accuracy and the sloppy nature of the movement was disappointing. Consequently, this was a factor in many deaths, and this made the action unnecessarily frustrating. Other than this, the inputs were relatively responsive, and this mitigated the shortcomings.
Thanks to the rogue-lite elements, there is plenty of replay value and longevity. Moreover, the interesting scoring system and the temporary upgrades ensure you had something to play for. As such, the moreish action was tough to put down while being incredibly rewarding as well.
Swordship was a fun but tough nut to crack.
Swordship did a fantastic job of twisting the normal genre tropes. As such, it delivers interesting and fun action throughout. However, its tough gameplay can become frustrating when you fail repeatedly. Consequently, it’s an arcade title that’ll take plenty of patience and practice to master. Though it kicked my ass repeatedly, I still loved it. Therefore, I’m happy to recommend that you buy it here! Can you help “The Banished”? Dodge, weave, and dive to avoid projectiles and collect cargo. If you do this, the outcasts may live to fight another day.