Developer: Ivent Games
Publisher: Ivent Games
Review copy provided by Ivent Games
Full disclosure: I haven’t played Strength of the Sword 1 or 2. Chances are you probably haven’t either since they don’t exist. The folks at Ivent Games are just a little kooky about their marketing as well as their art design.
Since those games don’t exist I had no clue what I was getting into. Half expecting a decent hack n slash game I sat down to cut through some foes and was promptly and embarrassingly smacked down time after time. After time. As it turns out this is a challenge-based arena style combat game and the developers mean business. They really put the player through the paces.
As a war golem it is your task to take on the forces of the Dark Mechanism. The story doesn’t matter though, they don’t even bother to tell it with words but a brief picture show. To do this you are presented with a basic sword and shield at the beginning but as you defeat minions and beat challenges more swords and shields become available. You’ll also gain magic attacks as you take down bad guys. That’s all pretty standard game stuff but the focus of the experience isn’t on being creative. It rests squarely on the difficulty. In short, the game will test your mettle.
Moves are fed to you early on the left side of your screen and you have to pick them up quick and execute with perfect timing. Start slashing away and blocking randomly and you’re toast. You’ll have to block and avoid to find time to charge your magic attacks which are on an wheel you can access with the right stick for ease. The moves aren’t exactly intuitive, which adds to the challenge. While you’re trying to figure out which moves work best against the enemies that are dropped into the level with you (sometimes one at a time, other times in packs) you’ll have to recharge your energy if you’ve used too many fancy moves. It feels kind of unimpressive until you employ a bevy of devastating combos and rush moves that make the critter who crushed you 10 times in a row feel like a weakling. Rush moves (hold L2) can assist attacks or defense. These will also be the nuts and bolts of putting together combos.
The levels are a good medium size but with so much fast action you’ll find yourself against the wall a lot. That’s a problem because the camera goes absolutely haywire when this happens. That’s not entirely unusual for a game like this but it is especially bad and it makes for a rhythm busting interference that can get you dead. Also, you can walk through certain objects. Other than that the controls are solid if you have the right timing. By right I mean absolutely precise, you can’t just transition from one move to the next in the same way most action games do by pressing anything at any time. It isn’t all about timing though, the bosses have weaknesses and patterns and you need to exploit them with some smarts.
I’m of two minds about what’s going on with the art. It’s a mix of quirky, cool ideas and undeveloped basics. Ivert certainly deserves props for coming up with some original enemy designs, even if they aren’t crazy detailed. The levels are less impressive but functional as a visual backdrop. The poly count is pretty low in this game so I expected some smoother animations than I got. Also the special effects were pretty flat.
The audio is unremarkable. Sorry but that’s the long and short of it. I just stepped away from my final play session and can’t remember a single beat. The sound effects were good quality but not all that plentiful or noteworthy.
For replay value, there’s enough for a game like this when you consider the audience. There may not be a multiplayer mode but it isn’t needed. Hardcore fighters will want to hone their skills in the challenge arena which has time based wave battles. You can take the stuff you earn from there on the road and see how you do in the online rankings. It’s pretty hardcore.
A great budget title, Strength of the Sword 3 is a must for fans of frustration and triumph of will. I can’t say anything about the game really popped or blew me away but it deserves some respect as an above average effort.