A swordsman, a dwarf, and a monk walk into a bar. The barman asks “What’ll you have to drink?” the dwarf says, “I can’t remember.” “I’m sorry,” says the barman, “we stop serving clichés after lunch.”
This past week I spent some time with a preview build of Sword of the Guardian. The game is a side-scrolling combat brawler, in a similar vein to Dragon’s Crown, Golden Axe, and Castle Crashers. In the preview build I was playing you could choose from one of two characters; the swordsman or dwarf. There is also a monk characte, but that was not implemented in the preview.
On the surface Sword of the Guardian seems pretty standard. The player moves across the screen, left to right, taking on waves of enemies. As each wave attacks, the player cannot progress the stage any further, only able to continue on once the masses of enemies have been wiped out and they are given the “OK” to proceed.
The story too seems quite generic. An evil “anti-government” army is on the attack and a small village is in the crossfire. A swordsman and monk set out to get help, running into an inter-dimensional amnesiac dwarf along the way. Pretty standard stuff.
But after spending some time familiarising myself with the game, it actually shows a bit of promise. Each character has the ability to attack, defend, and perform a special move. The attacks are fairly standard brawler moves, being a series of hits which can knock the opponent down when delivered in quick succession.
Each character has a different defensive move. The swordsman can roll, either springing ready to fight at the end of the manoeuvre or using the move to ram enemies he comes into contact with. This makes the character quite fluid, perfect for players who like to keep moving. Whereas the dwarf’s defensive move sees him hunkering down and weathering the rain of blows. He is not a sitting duck however, as he can counter hits with a shield flash which damages nearby enemies.
Both special attacks target groups of enemies. The swordsman dashes, leaping into the air performing a number of hits, while the dwarf tosses a cluster of bombs. Both special attacks fling enemies into the air, where the player can land additional hits on them if they are quick enough.
After each level the player is rewarded with experience. In the preview build amassing enough experience advances the character a level, increasing some of their health and hitting power. It is quite possible that this will also unlock additional abilities further into the games development.
On the graphics side of things, it is a mixed bag. The backgrounds look interesting, especially the last stage in the preview build, which is quite dark and atmospheric. However the character and enemy sprites seem a little out of place and uninspired. Hopefully they are still in development, and can be designed with a bit more originality, as well as treated in a way that makes them feel like part of the world and not just sprites plonked on a background.
The writing is quite lacklustre, with the background story of the game being wholly unoriginal. Even the dialogue interspersed throughout the first stage was poorly written, containing nonsensical sentences, as well as bad spelling and writing. But this game is being developed internationally, so hopefully the developers will have someone with some familiarity with English look at the text before release.
While a lot of Sword of the Guardian has been done before in thousands of games, there are some intriguing ideas in the preview build. If handled properly this game could grow to become quite an enjoyable brawler. I doubt the finished product will prove revolutionary, but fans of side-scrolling fighters should keep an eye on this as it could result in a fun and worthwhile entry to the genre.
Sword of the Guardian is being developed by Billy Chan and Black Shell Media, and has recently been greenlit on Steam. You can download the preview build by following the link on the Steam Greenlight page.