Being a hero isn’t about saving the world, it’s about looking good whilst doing it. Grind for resources, manage your own fantasy village, create and equip your heroes and send them to collect swag in Swag and Sorcery – a new streamlined RPG from the creators of Punch Club and Graveyard Keeper.
Once upon a time…
Like all good fairy tales, this game starts with the old once upon a time introductory text. It’s an easy way to start a story but one that’s so common that it doesn’t fill me with high hopes. Probably a good thing as when the curtains are pulled back the stage is set with such a thin thread of a plot I was left wondering if there was really any story at all.
As it turns out, the Kingdom’s coffers are empty and enemies have occupied the frontier. The King decides to send his heroes out to search for his great-great-grandfather’s magical costume because it can save the kingdom. Meanwhile, unbeknownst to the king, an evil sorcerer is secretly plotting to overthrow the kingdom from within by unleashing a terrible monster in the woods (more on that shortly.)
As the player, my role is to manage a group of heroes adventuring forth from a small village. To start with I’m advised to hire a hero, send him out to the woods and then start equipping him with weapons and armour. In order to do that, I also need to build a smithy and hunter’s lodge to start processing the raw materials my hero finds out on his adventure and brings back, assuming he doesn’t die before doing so. The tutorial guiding me through integrates nicely with the story and is paced well. I’m not bombarded with features or information overload and I feel like I’m actually playing the game from the offset.
To start with the game is pretty swift and got me set up with most of the features with very little grinding to do. The quest system gave me plenty to do early on and rewarded me well enough to keep things going. With that said, it’s really not that long until things really start to slow down and the grind becomes real. It’s almost like someone grabbed hold of the difficulty slider and had a spasm whilst trying to increase it ever so slightly. All of a sudden, my hero could barely stand up to the now tough as nails monsters of the woods.
I like swag and I cannot lie
The game does have quite an extensive crafting system, and I’ve only really scratched the surface of it. Essentially heroes go out and collect raw materials and bring them back, as well as bits of the defeated monsters. You know the sorts of things; rat tails, wolf skin, green gloop, ogre’s left toe and the unwashed hair of a wicked witch and the like. They’re all used in crafting in one way or another. Woods, Ores and Skins can be processed and then used as a foundation ingredient for most recipes. All the other odds and ends can be mixed together at the lab to create more interesting ingredients which you can then mix with the other stuff to make more stuff.
All of this grinding for resources and crafting is so that I can not only make my heroes stronger and hopefully better at the grinding, but also to make them look good whilst doing so. You see, there is also a fashion contest that comes to town on occasion. Quite a unique feature in a game, or at least one I haven’t really come across before. The idea is that by customising the heroes with different items and colours they will get scored on how much they appease the judge’s personal preferences.
I can find out those preferences by gifting the judges with items before I start the contest, and this could give me indications of how best to dress my heroes up with whilst they saunter their swag in front of the judge’s bench. It’s a bit like dancing on ice, but less dancing and no ice. My heroes are too cool for that kind of thing anyway. The only problem I had with this really is that for something (at least to me) this unique I feel there could have been so much more done with it. For example, the first round I’m pretty limited by what equipment I have access to at this time. I can’t dye any of my clothes and it doesn’t take into account jewellery being worn (oddly). I think there could be some more done here.
Whilst the pacing of the game slows down pretty quickly with the resource grinding there is still some semblance of a story. After I’d completed what I considered to be the tutorial (more of a soft introduction to the game and its features in the form of quests), I am then tasked with defeating the mysterious monster in the woods. At this point, there is now a progress bar that fills up each time my heroes have completed an outing in the woods. If they die, a little progress is lost. Retreating is an option, and even if the hero ‘dies’ they’re not really dead more like they got knocked unconscious and woke up back at the village. Eventually, I make enough progress to face the monster of the woods, the dreaded Owlguard. As is the Owlbears of D&D weren’t terrifying enough…
A final word…
|Exhaustive Crafting System||Sudden spikes in increased difficulty|
|Good writing||A little too grindy|
|Unique fashion contest feature||Fashion Contest under-developed|
3.5 of 5