Fantasy of the Sord is a classically styled adventure game and a finalist in our 6th Casual Gameplay Design Competition. In answer to the call of the competition, Klint Honeychurch has taken the theme of "exploration" and given us a sweet little nugget that harkens back to the early days of console gaming; a time when a flurry of pixels was as well-designed as the high-polygon count, 3D models of today.
The story behind Fantasy of the Sord is a simple and familiar one: the gods have selected you as their champion to rid the land of an evil that has come over it. No questionable motives or complex character development, just good versus evil. Begin your quest by selecting a character, the choice of which is inconsequential and purely for aesthetics. Use the [arrow] keys for movement, [X] to use your equipped weapon, [Z] to cast the selected spell, and [S] for the in-game menu. The menu is where you can select your weapon, select the spell you want to use, or save the game's progress.
Traversing the world is achieved in a standard platform style. You'll have to negotiate ladders, jumps, moving platforms and other hazards that will hinder your progress through the game. You will face creepy-crawlies such as spiders in the trees, bats, and big bugs. Luckily, a couple of swipes with your weapon, and they're history.
A variety of weapons are sprinkled throughout the land that you will find. Some that will deal great damage and recover slowly, others that are quick to use but deal only a small amount of damage. Learn to know which is the right tool for the job at hand. Spells are much more elusive, though, becoming available only after defeating one of the boss creatures in the game. Some spells will allow you to heal from damage and even teleport from one part of the screen to another. These spells are a nice addition to the game, and you will have to learn to use them well if you are to be able to collect all the different weapons in the game.
Analysis: Those who might turn their noses up at the retro appearance of the game will miss out on an extremely enjoyable adventure that embraces the theme of "explore" with all its might. The design affords the player some freedom of choice where to explore, and yet does a good job to nudge in the direction necessary to complete goals. Fantasy of the Sord so perfectly emulates classic adventure games in both graphics and gameplay that it will feel nostalgic to anyone familiar with them. This game could have fit in very well with other adventure games on the consoles of the 80s.
The creatures follow predictable paths, there is no complex AI hiding underneath the surface. Spiders move down out of the trees when you hit a certain point on the screen. Bats slowly come down to your level and follow you. Bugs simply scurry back and forth along their platforms. Everything you find is true to its classical heritage and serves to create the illusion of a true retro-fantasy displaced in time.
Aside from a couple of grammar issues, the only real criticism I have is the choice to hide the relative strength of each weapon from the player. With such a large number of available weapons, some visual indication of the characteristics of each weapon is needed, even if it was apparent only after the weapon was collected. While some of the fun may be to try different weapons out on the various denizens of the world around you, some sort of damage scale would have been nice.
For an excellent exploration experience and a flash back to a simpler time, look no further than Fantasy of the Sord. The retro-styling, excellent game design, and spot-on controls really make this game shine bright.