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Hoard Review

Reviews - PS3

Written by Jayce Diaz
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Indie games seem to come and go on consoles. For every Comic Jumper or Super Meat Boy, there are 1500 massage games or baby-maker-whatsitz that scare me away. Lately, I've found that the time needed to go to and fire up a console to play one of these games is worth more to me than anything I could take from the experience of actually playing it.

Then I played Hoard. And Hoard is good.

Hoard is a top-down Indie title on the Playstation Network that supports four players locally and online. Players each take control of a fire-breathing dragon who must attack, burn, and kill everything on the map to get to the precious gold hidden beneath it. Once they have as much gold as they can carry, they have to bring it back to their respective lairs, and then venture out for more medieval violence fun.

The premise sounds simple on paper, but there is A LOT more going on then you'd think. For starters, the dragons have the ability to attack each other. What happens here is when a dragon reaches zero health, he drops all the gold he's carrying, and runs off to his lair to recover. During this period, all other players can scoop up his dropped loot and claim it for their own. New (or wreckless) players will find this happening often during their first playthrough, though after leveling their abilities it becomes less of an issue. In addition to this, the villages you attack have defenses of their own, and over time can establish things like pubs (which generate thieves who steal from your lair), and archers. This may entice you to try and reduce the whole city to ashes, but that would be a fools' move. If you cause enough damage to a town without destroying the main structure, you'll earn the fear and respect of the people, who will in turn fight all other dragons and even wheel in carts of gold directly to your lair. This works extremely well within the games eco-system, as the player now has unofficial goals to accomplish and things to protect from the other dragons while he goes out and collects more gold.

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Another big part of the gameplay lies with the princesses and knights. As towns and villages get bigger, you'll eventually see these royal carriages traveling around from place to place. Destroy it and a princess is revealed, who you can take back to your lair and use as ransom. A timer appears next to the princess icon, indicating how long you need to stand guard before the villagers give in and pay to your demands. During her captivity, knights will come and try to rescue the princess (and kill you, as well). If they succeed, they will level up from "knight" to "hero", making them tougher to kill and stronger with attacks. In addition to this, you have to deal with other dragons who will attempt to steal your princess and put her in their lair, thus getting the ransom money for themselves.

Strategy is a big part of the game, as there is so much going on that it's impossible to leave your lair without some sort of gameplan. For instance, the crops and windmills bring product to the villages via carts. You can destroy the crops or carts and get some gold out of it, or you can simply make the village fear you, who will in turn bring you even more gold as a piece offering. However, doing so requires that you protect these things from enemies, which can be dangerous. Throw in some evil wizard towers that level up the longer they go undestroyed, wandering giants who destroy everything in their path, and an on-the-fly leveling up system that increases your abilities, and you've got yourself a recipe for some frantic fun.

There are a few different game modes to choose from. The main mode sees you trying to hoard as much gold as you can before the timer runs out. Another sees players attempting to be the first to grab and keep a pre-determined amount of princesses. The last two modes are a form of team hoard, and an endurance mode where the only health comes in the form of princesses; once you lose your energy, you're out. Each mode was a complete blast to play, though the basic hoard mode provides the most fun in my opinion.

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Even with all the praise for Hoard, there is still much to be desired. There isn't any real variety with the look and feel of each map, and the map count itself is pretty low. Also, the interface uses mostly unlabeled bars and meters, so those who play without going through all the tutorials will probably feel lost and frustrated. Overall, the visuals aren't terrible, but are definitely not great, either. Typically, top-down games look plain and it's unfortunate that Hoard falls directly into that stereotype.

An annoying design choice is that once you've reached your gold carrying limit and have successfully gone back to your lair, you must wait for your gold meter to drain out before you can go and get more. This would have been much better if the gold just emptied out all at once, instead of forcing the player to wait around for an unnamed red bar to deplete. The game also employs power ups like fireballs and ice breath, though they usually aren't worth the trouble of venturing out to enemy territory to find them.

Even with its faults, Hoard is an addictive game that can lead to hours of lost time. Four player games get crazy pretty fast, and there is so much to do that you likely won't get bored fast. It's a great example of taking a simple concept and expanding on it to the point where players can use multiple strategies to achieve the same end goal. If you aren't afraid of tutorials and want something new to become addicted to, then I wholeheartedly recommend Hoard.

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Overall Score:

80 out of 100

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