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Swordship

Swordship

High waves and fast gliders are on the menu in the new indie game Swordship.

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I love it when games dare to be simple, and of course we're not talking about simplicity in difficulty but in concept. Indeed, many of the best games in the history of the world have leaned on simplicity, and it's hard to argue with the greatness of games like Tetris, Pong and Pacman even if they don't have the most advanced components. More modern adventures have then of course also embraced this simplicity, and looking at titles such as Elite Beat Agents, Portal and Guitar Hero, these too are imbued with a simplistic playability where the challenge lies in perfecting one's skills within a strict game plan. The reason I write about this is because the new indie game Swordship operates in similar waters, and while it may seem treacherously simple at first, this straightforward combination manages to sail surprisingly far and long.

Swordship

Swordship is essentially about stealing containers and delivering them to your criminal cronies, and you do this by manoeuvring a hovering ship that glides just above the huge bodies of water that now dominate the world. Stealing these coveted cargo crates takes a great deal of skill, however, and in addition to travelling at high speeds over the rolling waves, you do so while various enemies do their utmost to stop your progress. It all may not sound that advanced, and in all honesty it isn't at heart either, but much of the challenge lies in the fact that you as a player are crammed into a very small space where the slightest mistake can cost you everything.

Swordship
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This is because you can see the game from above while your craft moves from the top of the screen downwards, and attacking enemies do so from below the surface or in the airspace. The problem is that you can't fight back. Your ship is not equipped with any missiles or machine guns, and the only way for you to defeat your opponents is by tricking them into firing at each other. For example, if you want to get rid of a trailing tank gun, you'll have to move in its vicinity so that other enemies take aim, and just as the shots start to pour in, you'll have to get out of the way to avoid being killed in the process. It's a constant balancing act between being offensive and defensive, and while you don't have to master your opponents all the time, the more of them you manage to discard to the bottom of the sea, the more points you'll score.

Of course, this wouldn't be fun in itself if the gameplay and control itself weren't something to write home about. Fortunately, however, developers Digital Kingdom deliver a solid feel to the controls where you really feel like a smuggler who, with the help of quick maneuvers and an even faster mindset, always has a chance to make it out alive. It's kind of hard to describe the euphoric feeling that comes from standing between two gun turrets aimed at you, only to see them both blow each other to smithereens as you glide beneath the waves like a lithe dolphin just before the projectiles hit their target. Many sequences in this way are straight out of action movies, and as the camera can zoom in and slow down time as these moments occur, it adds incredibly to the experience.

Swordship

An important aspect of Swordship is then the progression. For every container you receive - and manage to deliver - you're faced with a choice before the next path begins. Should you send the goods on to your bosses and increase your score, or should you save them and use them as extras in case disaster strikes? Again, it's a balancing act to consider, and since you can only unlock new things (new abilities and other odds and ends) by reaching the next point cap, you're always forced to weigh the pros and cons and decide whether to take a chance or play it safe. Because there is no way to "grind" your way to success in Swordship, you have to constantly evolve and get better to take the next step and move on.

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Swordship

The presentation then goes hand in hand with the rest of the game's overall philosophy, and with clean and simple graphics, where bright colours and bold outlines paint a world of danger and speed, it manages to get an incredible number of points right. The music, too, is catchy as hell, and as with games like F-Zero and Wave Race, it's a joy to watch your little craft hurtle along to the pulsing tones pounding out of the speakers. The only real minus I can think of is that I would have liked a bit more control options. Because as your ship is travelling so fast, and the slightest misstep could spell the end, it would have been nice if you could fine-tune your lateral movements with the shoulder buttons. Having only the left stick does work perfectly, but in some cases it's really all about the millimetres, and being able to slide slightly to the right or left (as you can in games like F-Zero GX) would have made an awesome experience even a little better.

Ultimately, though, Swordship is an adrenaline-filled indie game where the watchwords are challenge and finesse mixed with speed and action. The simple concept is firmly at the heart of it, allowing players to evolve around simple elements, and while it can certainly be classed as 'thin' for those who demand extra everything, it's a joy to tackle for more minimalist gamers. Admittedly, the game can feel a little monotonous for extended periods, but if you use this as a well-timed breathing space between that majestic RPG or the next adventure game, there's plenty of entertainment to be had for shorter sessions.

Swordship
07 Gamereactor UK
7 / 10
+
Great design, fun gameplay, awesome music, wonderfully challenging
-
Slightly monotonous during longer sessions, a bit stingy with control options
overall score
is our network score. What's yours? The network score is the average of every country's score

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Swordship

REVIEW. Written by Joakim Sjögren

High waves and fast gliders are on the menu in the new indie game Swordship.



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