On the Wednesday Weigh-in, Hoard


This is a little game I've been playing lately.

In short, you play a dragon who burns down towns, captures princesses, and tries to collect the biggest hoard possible. When I saw my nephew playing it, I was immediately drawn to 'oh lord, dragons!' which is not something that is often done well, or successfully in games. But dragons with their flaming breath and huge hoards and destroy, burn, pillage mentality is too cool to pass up. So 14 dollars later I was playing.

The Elements: Even though it doesn't appear to be the case at first glance, Hoard is a two-stick shooter in the vein of Geometry Wars and Everyday Shooter. It has three modes (Treasure, Princess Rescue, and Survival). Your dragon is upgradeable during play.

The Crux: Each of the three modes is functionally a different type of game. In Treasure, you compete either alone or against other dragons to acquire the most treasure. In Princess Rescue, you compete against other dragons to capture the most princesses. And in Survival you attempt to survive as long as possible.

Basic gameplay consists of flying around a map, burning down towns, carts, and mills and collecting the gold left behind. You can only carry so much gold before you have to cart it back to your hoard. Your breath is of limited duration before it has to recharge. If you capture a princess and carry her back to your hoard, you can ransom her if you can keep her safe from knights. The longer you go without losing your health or having your hoard stolen from, the higher your gold multiplier becomes.

Your Dragon has a health bar and is upgradeable in 4 different ways. When your hoard reaches certain threshold sizes, you receive the ability to upgrade your dragon.You can have more armor making you take less damage, stronger and longer fire breath, the ability to carry more gold and unload it faster, or increase your airspeed.

The Countenance: The game lacks a 'campaign mode'. This was the first thing I noticed when I sat down to actually play it on my own PlayStation. I was a bit disappointed at the lack of a over-reaching structure, so I settled in and began to play.
The first thing the structure reminded me of was a racing game. There are various tracks (maps) and on each track you are shooting for the fastest time (score). After I played a few levels, and became aware of the leader-boards, my compulsive tendencies kicked in and I lost the next 'too many' hours of my life.
The traditional racing structure of a selection of tracks works very well with the opposite side of the genera wheel. I still greatly prefer to have a larger structure to provide some guidance, like a campaign mode or unlockables. This was quickly overlooked once I started to play.
Another interesting thing about game play, is that what you choose to burn modifies the flow of the game. If you destroy a town, then the gold carts it sends out have less gold, slowing down the game. But it also produces fewer archers, making the map a safer place to be. A tavern will produce thieves (destroy!), and a market increases the gold value of the carts. Larger castles produce stronger knights, but also more valuable princesses.
You are limited to 10 minutes on most levels, so this provides a fascinating push-pull dynamic on the tactics and upgrade strategy you use.

The Escapist Genre Wheel
The Genre: Each of the different game modes falls into a slightly different genrer.
Treasure Mode is squarely in the ActionStrategyConflict mode. The focus of the game is on the action, and yet the interrelationship between how you approach the levels and the other dragons is clearly a strategic choice. Although there is simulation of the medieval town occurring, your control over that is the strategic content due to the choices you make as the dragon, instead of the exploration of a game like majesty or the sims.
Princess Rescue is more directly competitive. It moves up the wheel, much closer to the ActionConflict section, while maintaining it's ActionStrategyConflict status.
Survival is pure shooter, placing it square in the ActionConflict portion of the wheel. This mode very much feels just like any other two-stick shooter, though with a very limited firing distance.

The Detritus: There are nice little touches all throughout the game: Knights who win fights against dragons level up, princesses scream, AI dragons have different personalities.
I absolutely love the vegas style slot noises. I have to say that's a large part of why I enjoy this game so much, the dingdingding of the slot wheels spinning. Makes me want to run right out to the casino (just for the nickle slots - not much of a gambler.)
I have some personal hints and tips. Upgrading the amount you can carry also upgrades the speed in which you are able to drop your gold off at the hoard.
To get a high score, focus on 2 things. Making towns fear you so that they pay fealty and do not lose your score multiplier. The towns have a fear integer equal to the amount of damage you do to them. So once a town is yours, when you notice it's at full health if you do a flyby and damage it some again, it makes it more resilient to being taken over by other dragons.
Always destroy taverns. Thieves will kill your score multiplier. (Taverns produce more thieves).
It has co-op. I haven't played that version yet, but co-op two-stick shooters are always cool.


The Final Counsel: Man, not only is this a good game, it's all tied up in awesome subject matter. It's clearly a downloadable title, due to the rough edges, but it's cheaper than a 3-D movie ticket, and a lot more fun. I highly recommend playing on a system that has two-sticks.

I find it particularly interesting how it might model a dragon surviving in an actual traditional medieval society. The environment advances faster than the dragon can destroy it. And while a lone knight or archer is no great obstacle, en masse, they can be quite challenging. It is easy to see how an ancient and powerful dragon could find it safer just to hole up in the mountains and avoid the reach of man.

It is available on PlayStation Network, on the PlayStation Portable, and PC/Mac.

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