Looking at Strength of the Sword 3 objectively, it’s a beautifully impressive achievement. Made by Ivent Games, by a team of just two people, it achieves a great sense of fun and urgency not found in quite a number of triple A titles. It is ripe with great ideas and promise, but does, however, fall a little short of its full potential.
As stated by the developers, the story doesn’t matter in this game. It is merely a means by which you have some justification as to why you are beating down baddies in each stage And hence, is rendered charmingly simple. Evil monsters and creatures are attacking the kingdom where this all takes place, and it is up to you as a golem sent from the heavens to defeat the oncoming hordes and save the day.
Despite it’s name, this is actually the first game in its series, as Ivent wished to design games in such a way that the trilogy is wrapped up in the first title, and they’re not stuck on the same project. As such, the game treats itself like this and immediately throws you into the fray, as though you are well equipped and well rehearsed with the ropes by now. It is a little jarring, to say the least, and offers up a steep learning curve from the get go.
The difficultly is certainly an element that both works for and against the title. As promised by the devs, they delivered a tough as nails game, with a clever AI that adapts to your fighting style and changes theirs accordingly, which keeps you on your toes and dead on the ground throughout the rather short, but sweet, 3 hours of play time. At times, it’s gruelingly difficult and downright cheap, but never so much so that you want to give up. It offers up a wonderful sense of satisfaction when you finally best a tough foe, usually rewarded by a new sword or shield and leaves you with that taste of, “just one more time,” for every death screen you face. There’s a near perfect balance of nail biting challenge and triumph through perfection of your skills.
However, one issue I felt plagued the gameplay, which oddly amps up the difficulty somewhat would be the controls. They feel clunky and confused, such as mapping the dash button and the dodge button to R2, causing many unnecessary frustrations throughout. There are also plenty of times the buttons would seemingly not work, with combos never coming to fruition, despite the input being entered, and coupled with plenty of camera bugs practically fighting against you, it makes for some infuriating instances. While this is a nuance that is much more prevalent in the beginning than the latter half of the game, it certainly dampens the experience, losing a bit of its edge in the process.
In spite of these headaches, Strength of The Sword 3 is incredibly fun. It has the DNA of a Hack N’ slash, but the mechanics of a fighter. You’re given a variety of combos to annihilate your foes, with some devastating special moves, plenty of secondary weapons such as throwing knives and bombs, weapons of different weights, attack and defence. In each stage you’re pit against up to 3 endearingly cartoony, but fiercely designed creatures, inside simple yet fun little arenas. Speed is vital in these encounters, and your Golem fortunately moves at a pace appropriate to the immediate reactions required.
As previously mentioned, this is a difficult game, but coming to grips with its controls can allow for some spectacular moments, as you decimate the oncoming horde, with cutely crafted cut-scenes, much in the vain of Game of Thrones, explaining the simple premise. While the sound design is a little lack luster, the art direction is pleasantly fantasy themed, with backdrops and characters all fitting the aesthetic, and being as simple in their execution as the game’s story telling.
Strength of The Sword 3 is a mixed bag of thrills. It’s appeal as both a fighter and hack n’ slash is tantalising, and is quite unique and a wholly enjoyable ride throughout, that demands both strategy and finesse in your skills. Unfortunately, the control and camera issues hold it back from being a truly mind blowing title, and some will find the mind numbing difficulty off putting. Although, those willing to pull through any dilemmas, and looking for a challenge, it’s short but sweet few hours of gameplay, and small price tag of €5, this is well worth adding to your collection.