Indie Focus At EGX Part Two: Shadowhand, Kingdom & Strength Of The Sword Ultimate

As promised, we’re back with three more indie games we loved at EGX. This time around we’ve got a kingdom builder, a non-traditional card battler and a hack and slash extravaganza.


Kingdom | PC, iOS, Android | TBA

If you’ve ever felt a desire to build your own medieval kingdom from scratch then Kingdom really is the game for you. However, if you’re now thinking about games in the Civilization model, then get that out of your head right now. Where those games are huge and expansive, Kingdom is intimate. Rather than the omniscient overview that most games of this kind feature, Kingdom is instead presented in a 2D, pixel art style.

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With this side on view you can’t jump around your kingdom to manage things, instead your king or queen must ride their horse around the kingdom to spend their gold. In fact that’s literally all there is to the game in terms of controls, and this simplicity is one of the key points.

What really works is the way the game quickly builds complexity out of this simple mechanic. You’ve only got so much gold on hand, so you’re always forced to decide how you want to invest. Do you want more archers to both defend your kingdom and hunt for rabbits, or would you rather have more builders to help you buff up your small kingdom more quickly? Perhaps you’d like to attract some new citizens with a little currency, but then again, your defenses do look like they could do with an upgrade.

Each of these decisions will have a very real consequence when night comes, because that’s when the other half of the game comes into play. When the sun falls the game’s zombie-like enemies come come out to attack you, with their sole aim being to steal anything of value from your kingdom. This includes items like your archers’ bows and your builders’ hammers, but also your crown. Of course, you can’t have a kingdom without a crown, so if they get away with that then it’s game over.

What’s refreshing in Kingdom really is the simplicity. Riding your horse through your kingdom and spending gold as you see fit is a nice break from the complex menus that many kingdom building games feature, and the immediacy with which you can see the results of your decisions makes the game feel nice and fast paced. The game’s sound and visual design really ties everything else together, meaning the game leaves a really lasting impression on you.

Kris


Shadowhand | PC, Mac | TBA

Card games seem to be a real trend right now, but instead of following the path marked “Collectible Card Game”, Shadowhand is very much in the realm of more traditional card games. In fact Shadowhand can best be described as solitaire with combat.

It’s a relatively simple concept, and solitaire adapts surprisingly well to a multiplayer game. As long as you can keep placing cards without having to draw from the deck then it will remain your turn, but as soon as you have to draw a new card your opponent takes over. It will also shift to your opponent’s turn if you deal some damage, and that’s where Shadowhand’s real mechanics come into play.

Your character, Lady Darkmoor, starts the game with a simple flintlock pistol, but it has to be charged up to fire. There’s a small bar on the card that describes each weapon, which is where the game does seem to lean a little more towards the mechanics of a card battle, and you can fill it by succeeding in the solitaire game that’s taking place.

It’s all easy enough to understand, but it’s the gorgeous art that really sold me on Shadowhand. It’s not a particularly animated game, with both the cutscenes and the gameplay featuring fairly static characters, but the game’s art style wonderfully captures its 18th century setting, with highwaymen and pirates galore.

Shadowhand certainly isn’t going to be for everyone, but if you want a twist on a classic card game with an intriguing story and wonderful art, then Shadowhand is the perfect fit.

Kris


Strength of the Sword Ultimate | PS4, Xbox One, Vita, Wii U, PC | TBA

While wandering the indie section of EGX, I happened upon Strength Of The Sword Ultimate, a successfully Kickstarted project that sports a brilliantly chunky fantasy aesthetic, married with a weighty and considered style of combat. Watching the screen over someone else’s shoulder I knew this was a game I needed to play.

The creation of Ivent Games, Strength Of The Sword Ultimate is set for release on PS4, Xbox One, Wii U, PS Vita and PC and is an extended and reworked version of the PS3’s Strength Of The Sword 3.

In the EGX demo I was able to try, you’re offered the choice of two different character loadouts: the Soldier with his menacing sword, and the Gunner, whose weaponry was hugely reminiscent of the Gunlance from Monster Hunter. You then set about making your way through three different arenas against a host of enemies, with a fourth bonus level opening for those successfully making it through unharmed.

I immediately loved the chunky graphics, and the hissing mechanised soldier you controlled, but it was the combat that really grabbed me. As an avid Monster Hunter fan I could clearly see that this game promotes a very similar approach, with thoughtful, tactical play finding much more success than simply wading in. The need to dodge, strike and retreat made combat feel hugely involving, with pleasingly tight controls and a constant sense of being on a knife-edge making it feel like every movement must count.

The first enemies I came up against were thin and goblin-like, brandishing swords and shields. Despite it being the opening section they still packed a punch, forcing you to attack at the right moment and punishing you if you didn’t. They were then replaced by orcish brutes, one of whom was outfitted with a flamethrower, and whose lumbering attacks dealt serious damage when they connected. Swift movement remained key, and I was able to wade through the area successfully. The next arena featured a flying foe, and having picked the Gunner for this round I immediately had to change my approach.

I couldn’t seem to target my enemy when he was in the air, though this could have been purely down to my lack of familiarity with some of the controls, but when he returned to the ground I was able to punish him with blasts from my gunlance. Your character’s special moves, including gunfire, have to cooldown ensuring that you don’t rely too heavily on them which again added to the challenge.

Having made it through each of the main areas, I unlocked the fourth bonus round, but my previous successes were soon washed away. The immense creature brandished a massive hammer, caused huge amounts of damage, and often shrugged off my attacks, forcing me to reset and try a different approach. Though dodging and leaping in seemed to be working he soon got the better of me, using a powerful floor attack to finish me off.

I came away desperate to play more, and am looking forward to seeing how the full release will pan out, with its character customisation and extra modes. A brief chat with one of the developers revealed that they were certainly channelling elements of Monster Hunter, but this is entirely its own creation. Either way, I don’t mind waiting for the game to release – I’m still trying to work out how to beat that last boss.

Dom

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2 Comments

  1. First time I’ve heard of Strength of the Sword Ultimate, sounds promising, hope the Vita version turns out to be solid!

    • Played it as well and really enjoyable. Tough but rewarding.

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