Reviewed: April 26, 2011
Released: April 4, 2011
Everyone knows about the fantasy cliché of the knight slaying the dragon to save the princess. Games usually explore the knight’s point of view, usually metaphorically, but what about the dragon’s story? In Hoard, you’ll be stepping into the shoes of a dragon trying to rack up a huge hoard of treasure to decorate its lair, kidnapping princesses, burning the countryside, and generally making a menace of yourself.|
The actual gameplay is one of a kind, resembling more a selection from the golden age of arcade games than any modern genre categorization. You start off as a dragon in a hoard, surrounded by an undeveloped medieval countryside. Your goal is to amass the greatest hoard within the time limit and get a high score. To do this, you’ll need to start throwing your weight around and taking wealth by force. At the start of the game, there won’t be much to claim, but the countryside grows and prospers as time passes, yielding larger amounts of loot for you to claim.
This growing part of the game is what really sets it apart. At the beginning of each game, there won’t be much in the world as you fly around and explore. A grain silo pops up and then fields of grain grow. If you burn these down with your fire breath, you can collect gold and drop them off at your hoard, but if you give them time, carts will show up and start taking grain to tiny towns that start to grow. They also send carts of goods to each other and create more buildings. You could burn a cart down, but you might also want to let it get to its destination for a larger payoff later. Of course, you’re racing against the clock, and in multiplayer, you might want to take it for yourself just in case your opponent isn’t quite as interested in the long run, so you can’t just let everything grow unchecked.
The towns won’t just lie down and let you take their goods, however. Archers will spawn to protect them, and towers will turn into castles and start producing knights, and dragons, though hardy, aren’t invincible. If you lose all your health, then you drop all the gold you happen to be carrying and get sent packing back to your lair, where your health will recover. This is especially troublesome, since the size of your hoard not only determines your score, but also your ability to upgrade. As you amass wealth, you can upgrade your speed, fire breath, carrying capacity, and health, making you a more effective dragon.
One point of concern is that a dragon that gets ahead is rewarded, but never has any additional difficulties, creating a rapid positive feedback loop where the strong get continually stronger. In a 2-player competitive game, this quickly leads to a player falling completely behind and being unable to change their position. In a game with more players, everyone might start teaming up to drag down the dragon who’s currently in the lead, but we were unable to test with more players. Since the game is based on a timer and not whoever reaches a certain score the quickest, the game is usually decided long before it’s over.
Towns have another feature that pops up in competitive play. Wrecking a town without completely destroying the town center is tricky, especially when dodging arrow fire, but if you do it enough times, a town will fear you. Their archers will stop shooting you, and they’ll periodically send carts of goods and gold directly to your lair as tribute. Their loyalty is only based on fear, though, so another dragon can show up and start wrecking the place until it they fear that one more than you, so you’ll have to keep them from muscling in on your territory.
A few other special features in the world are wizard’s towers, giants, and princesses. Wizard towers are a major danger and continually hurt any dragon that comes near them for a painful amount of damage. If destroyed, however, they drop a heavy gem that slows you down, but is worth a lot of money. The tower’s strength is what determines the value of the gem, so the game’s risk-reward tradeoff really comes into play here. Giants are huge creatures that show up and wreck towns. This is especially worrying if they’re headed for one that’s actively paying you tribute, but if you hurt them enough, they’ll change direction and head for some other target. You can try driving them to an enemy’s town instead and keep them busy.
The most iconic payoff involves the princesses. Princesses are occasionally sent from town to town in a carriage. If you burn it down and take the princess back to your lair, a timer will start. Once that timer finishes, you’ll ransom the princess for thousands of gold. However, princesses are also knight magnets, and you’ll have to work to make sure no one rescues her. Other dragons can also swipe the princess from your lair if you leave it unattended, so watch out.
The sound is serviceable, but nothing too special. The music is a unique mix evoking both medieval fantasy stories and a more mechanical flair, reflecting the game’s arcade influences. The graphics, like the sound, work for the game, but don’t pop out. Helpful icons mark everything going on in the map when they’re out of view and are a helpful convenience feature. The game doesn’t exactly have a high budget, but nothing looks bad, the artists and modelers having used style where sheer graphical power couldn’t be available.
The game’s $10 price tag seems about right. This won’t be a game you play for hours at a time. Every run of the game is restricted to 10 minutes, so it’s something you can turn to when you want a short whimsical diversion, whether by yourself, playing against a friend, or cooperating with a friend. It brings a lot of fresh and new ideas to the table, and striking out to get cash and seeing how far you can push your luck before a rival dragon burns you and takes it creates a good rhythm of action and resting. It’s better with more people, so if you have a few friends interested in multiplayer, innovative Flash games, or dragons, I recommend grabbing a 4-pack. It’s a great game to share with friends.