The tables have turned in Big Sandwich’s HOARD. The setting is familiar: knights, castles, princesses and treasure, however in this classic medieval-themed action game, players take on the role of the villain—the big, evil dragons—or, the “real hero” of the tales, as the independent Vancouver-based developer would have us believe. The goal of the game is that of its title—to hoard as much treasure (and princesses) possible, and to protect your stash from thieves and other dragons. The game was released on November 2nd, 2010 for the PlayStation Network in North America, and on April 4th, 2011 for PC via Steam.
There is little story in HOARD. According to the game’s website, a new kingdom of humans threatens to take what dragons live and breathe fire for—their treasure. That’s… about it, really. The game is about collecting loot, kidnapping princesses and destroying anyone and anything (including giants!) that gets in their way. If you’ve come to HOARD for a gripping, involving tale, you will be disappointed. You can find the entirety of the story by reading the humorous description on the game’s website / Steam store page.
One of the let downs I encountered was that there is no single player campaign in HOARD. I had admittedly hoped for some kind of silly storyline à la Magicka, perhaps not as in-depth, but still something to keep me interested in the single player mode. To my dismay, single player mirrored most of the multiplayer modes in that they were all just one-shot games with no progression aside from different dragon ranks as you go. The only mode available in single player that is not included in multiplayer is HOARD mode, a standard survival mode, and can prove to be quite intense the longer you last. I found myself enjoying survival the most out of all the different single player modes, as the other three game modes seem as though they were meant to be played multiplayer more than anything.
The game truly shines in the varying multiplayer modes, of which there are three: Treasure, Princess Rush and Co-op. In Treasure mode, you compete with other dragons to amass the most treasure, by collecting gold from burning pretty much anything you can, kidnapping princesses and destroying wizard towers to collect gems. In Princess Rush, dragons contend to collect the most princesses, and can steal them from one another if they don’t defend their respective lairs. In both modes, humans aren’t the only opponents you will face—other players and their respective dragons will duke it out to come out on top. With every mode except survival, you level up your dragon as you collect more loot, which will warrant points to spend on speed, fire breath, carry limit and armor. In survival, your dragon simply levels up as you pick up more treasure. Included with the game is a hefty amount of maps, varying in size and player capacity, so there’s quite a bit of content to burn through depending on your mood or playstyle.
While multiplayer is the obvious strength of HOARD, some diversity within the modes would likely give the game some added longevity. As it stands, Treasure and Princess Rush are both deathmatch-style gameplay in that every player is on his own against everybody else, and Co-op is just that—co-operative team play. I found myself wondering where the challenge of Co-op mode is, aside from earning some medals by attempting to get the most treasure collectively. A co-operative Princess Rush could prove entertaining, as would HOARD (survival mode). A 2v2 Team Treasure mode could also prove to be a fun option. Beyond that, a map editor for players would go a long way in terms of replay value, if at all possible.
Audio / Visual
While HOARD may not boast the latest, state-of-the-art graphics, the visuals are most definitely pleasing, and quite polished. The UI is simple to navigate, and the animations are fluid and very easy on the eyes. One of the most endearing aspects of the game to me is the tabletop model look and feel to everything, from the grass and trees to the NPCs and buildings. The games comes with map options to set it to day or night, and whether or not to include snow. Or, if you’d rather leave it to chance, you can set the night cycle to random. The dragons themselves come in several different colors, and yes, the girl in me squealed with glee when I saw that I could be a fabulous, hot pink dragon. At least silently, on the inside. But I did, nonetheless.
The sound effects are well done and just as polished as the graphics, although after a few hours I found myself reaching for the music volume control in the options, as the energetic (and sometimes neurotic) music wound up eventually grating my nerves, especially in survival mode.
You don’t need a beast of a computer to run this game as the requirements list; it even performs well on a netbook, making it a good game for when you’re on the go.
Overall, HOARD is a fun little action game (with a dash of strategy) that truly shines when played with other people. The fairly low price tag will definitely give you your money’s worth. If the game had just a tad bit more to offer in terms of gameplay, it’d instantly go from being reasonably priced to an absolute steal. Until then, we can keep our fingers crossed for future DLCs.