The Best Game Never Played
Hoard (Strategy Action / PC)
Introducing the Genre
I’ve never really played a game like this, at least not on the computer. It half-reminds me of a board game, but it’s played in real-time, at the speed of an action game. The closest thing I can compare this to is Hungry Hungry Hippos, but with depth. You can easily employ a strategy and if it’s not working, adapt, change, and implement a new one at any time.
Introducing the Game
Like many games, I saw it when Steam was having it’s annual 2012 Summer Sale. There was a dragon on the cover, so I was immediately drawn to it. I conjured up a game on the Perfect 10 section based on the Dragon’s World fake-documentary. This game seems to have actually taken many of those features and brought it to life. It’s called, Hoard!
There just aren’t enough games out there where you play AS a dragon, living the dragon lifestyle. Raid kingdoms, kidnap princesses, repel knights, fight other dragons, and hoard treasure. You get to do all these in Hoard. Throw in a batch of random power-ups and score multipliers, you’ve got yourself a game. I’ve just never played a game where you live a dragon-life. There are other games that might involve dragons like Breath of Fire, Lair, Panzer Dragoon, but the dragons there are just tools or fancy-looking vehicles. The fact that you’re riding a dragon isn’t played up.
The game plays like a re-imagined “digital” board game, if that makes any sense. There are dozens of maps to play, different game types, and ways to win. You begin with a lair where you will deposit gold. Fly out into the countryside to burn down buildings, supply carts, or crops and take the treasure back to your lair. As time goes on, stakes escalate. Towns become bigger, wizard towers appear, princess can be kidnapped, archers and knights try to take you out, thieves come to steal your hoard, and it all happens in 10 minute sessions. There is a distinct early-game, mid-game, and end-game. There can be multiple dragons on the same map with lairs spread out. You can rob other dragons, destroy towns, have them fear you and pay tribute. There’s many different strategies to implement.
As your hoard increases, your dragon levels up. When this happens, you can increase your flight speed, fire breath power, carrying capacity, and natural armor. Every round you begin fresh. So you can level up all over again, and adapt to changing circumstances with every level. Maybe you want to stay close to your hoard to protect yourself from thievery? So flight speed won’t be important. Maybe you want to fight knights off, so firepower and armor are more desirable? If you play co-operatively, and I love co-op games, you can each customize your dragons to optimize your hoarding strategy.
Your dragon has a health bar that can be affected by archers, wizard towers, other dragons, giants, and knights. When your health reaches zero, you automatically fly back to your lair to heal. The longer you go without reaching zero, or having your hoard robbed by thieves, you gain a gold multiplier up to x3. Every gold piece deposited counts as 3. One strategy I enjoy is to attack other dragons just to remove their multiplier. It really gives you an edge.
This is a fast paced action game, not the Dragon’s World game I imagined, but it’s the closest thing to it. Instead of a long campaign of hatchling to elder, it’s all played in 10 minute bursts. Instead of customizing your own dragon’s appearance, they’re all the same except for color. Instead of a behind-the-shoulder camera, it’s all top-down. Regardless, I’m very happy with this. There’s nothing else like it.
This is an action board game, there really isn’t much of a story other than: You are a dragon. It’s your job to hoard treasure, kidnap princesses, raze the countryside, and fight away knights, thieves, and other dragons.
The graphics are exactly what they need to be. Everything looks a little small because of the “board game” perspective. It looks like a high-resolution version of Warcraft II. I’d love to see more detail on the dragons, but that’s not really necessary. It’s just me wanting more dragons. On the plus side, the simpler graphics mean more computers are able to play it. It’s an excellent game for resource wary computers.
The music is enjoyable, not too repetitive, not of poor quality. It hasn’t been stuck in my head yet.. yet. By the end of the month, it may be. The music is not dynamically generated so that means there are some actual signature tunes in this game. I haven’t played a game with a definitive soundtrack in a long time! Yay!
Since this is an, action board game, it might not be out of place in any arcade, the sounds are very video-gamey. The sounds are simple and distinct so you always know what’s going on in the chaos. It matches the small scale of a board game.
The game is very easy to learn, though I must confess that I failed the first tutorial mission. I quickly recovered and have been enjoying it immensely. The dragons all fly using a combination of WAS and D. Fire is the left mouse button. Activating a power-up is the right mouse button. Leveling up is done with the space bar. This game might do well on the mobile or tablet market. Fly with a digital stick, tap a circle to breathe fire, and double tap to activate a power-up, tap level-up to apply points.
This would be an excellent LAN party game. You can arrange teams verbally, if you like, or just go all out and team up on whoever is winning in a frantic king-of-the-hill climb. The game plays out in 10 minute rounds, so whoever wins, might not hold the title for long.
Even in single player mode, there can be multiple dragons. To me, that feels like playing with bots in Counter-Strike, and that’s good enough for me. The AI dragons all have personalities reflected by their name like, Mr Honorable, Miser, Sheriff, and so on.
Steam offers a 4-pack bundle, 4 being the max number of dragons on a map, so you can gift it to friends. I think I’ll do that before I host the next LAN event.
This game is endlessly replayable. The more gold you hoard, the more powerful your dragon becomes. Each player, human or AI, can customize their dragon. If you find a need early-on, you can invest in one skill above another. Skills are flight speed, fire power and quantity, carrying capacity which increases deposit speed as well as amount, and armor. You might find a preference right off the bat which doesn’t work, you can change easily enough. If you lose, the next game begins in less than 10 minutes. Do you want to fly back and forth to your lair quickly, or gain an advantage over other dragons by defeating them and denying them the score multiplier? It’s the old buff vs de-buff argument. Do you want to increase your hoard, or decrease theirs? Do you want to fight wizard towers and claim large gems? Or kidnap princesses and fend off knights? Maybe you just want to sweep the countryside and capture supply carts? Are you waiting for a particular power-up like max speed, max fire, fireballs, or ice breath to use in your strategy? Do you attack the town without destroying it? That makes it fear you and supply you regularly with gold and tributes. Do you let the towers, towns, and castles grow so they produce more valuable carts, princesses, and wizard gems? Or do you raze everything as fast as you can, keeping the world in the dark ages?
The strategy involved in this game is very interesting compared to a game like Starcraft or Command & Conquer. In those RTS games, you usually have to find a Rock, Paper, Scissors strategy and stick to it. Adapting means wasting an investment. If you immediately made a bunch of upgraded marines, and the enemy invests in area effect tech to wipe them out, you’ve already lost, it’s just a long, long time before it’s official. In Hoard, it’s much easier to come back from a strategy that didn’t work.
Every dragon is personal, every strategy is adaptable. The maps are many, the game modes are varied, the AI is varied, the treasures are varied, there’s enough variation mixed with strategy to keep anyone interested for a long time.
Dragons! What more do you want? Mod tools. There’s got to be some mod tools or a map maker available for this game. Google, ho!
This would be a great first game to introduce young players to.
Boiling it Down
This may be one of the first of a generation of endlessly-replayable, digital family board games, appropriate for all ages. And, dragons!