Publisher: Ratalaika Games S.L.
Genre: Action & Adventure, Platformer, Hack ‘n’ Slash
Platform: Xbox One
Age Rating: PEGI 12
Release Date: 13/05/2020
A code was provided for review purposes.
I am far more accustomed to playing games where my character is equipped with a gun than a sword, so it’s fair to say that Thy Sword is not the typical type of game that I choose. So, was it good to get out of my comfort zone, or did I find myself longing to get back to more familiar ground?
At the beginning, you have a choice of two characters; either The Barbarian (male) who fights with a broadsword or The Valkyrie (female) who is equipped with a short sword and a longbow. I chose to play as The Valkyrie. Your goal is to recover the five pieces of the magic white crystal, which have been spread across twelve different lands. Once done you must face off against the Dark Overlord in the final battle. You must fight your way across all of the lands to find the five hidden pieces. Each piece is defended by a boss that you must defeat in order to claim it.
The Valkyrie starts with five life bars, while the Barbarian starts with six. You can replenish life bars with the potion of healing. These can be obtained by killing certain enemies during the levels or by buying it from the Cleric (more on this a little later). The difficulty setting you choose at the beginning affects how many lives you have.
Ready to be the Hero?
You can choose to play as an ‘Apprentice’, an ‘Adventurer’ or a ‘Hero’. If you die playing on ‘Apprentice’, you go back to the beginning of the area you are playing in, infinitely. As an ‘Adventurer’, you also go back to the beginning of the area whilst you have enough continues (you start with three). If you want to be a ‘Hero’ you have one life; that’s it.
If you have a lot of time on your hands or have some hack ‘n’ slash experience under your belt, go for ‘Adventurer’ or ‘Hero’. However, if you’re a beginner in this genre or looking for a more relaxed play-through (where you can be assured that you’ll either make progress or at least not lose any ground each time you play) I’d start on ‘Apprentice’.
There is a good mixture of challenge throughout the game. The normal levels are relatively straightforward compared to the bosses, but there is a good mixture of enemy types to add a little variety to the challenge of the standard levels.
The tutorial is really good for people like me who don’t usually play this type of game. It takes you through all of the moves in a realistic setting. However, once I got into combat I forgot half my capabilities and until I got into the habit of using all the moves in my arsenal I wasn’t having too much fun. The game became a lot easier and far more enjoyable once I started using the full range of attacks and blocks for my character. It’s definitely a game that utilises all of the controls.
Never the Same Twice
When you die and have to restart an area, the level is never the same as the last time you started it (except for bosses). I really like this aspect of Thy Sword because it meant that I didn’t feel bored with the game. It can be frustrating to get to the end of the area and have to go back to the beginning because you die, but it takes the edge off when starting again means facing something at least a little different to the last time.
Sometimes these differences are quite extreme; for example, once, a character appeared in a cage. Sadly I didn’t manage to rescue them in time. Every so often there’s a character that runs across the bottom of the screen who sheds coins every time you strike him; these little touches keep you guessing.
If you feel like changing things around yourself, you can alter the look of the level from the standard view to ‘pixel grid’ or ‘CRT emulation’ in the pause menu. Each option has its own merits – the pixel option makes it seem like there’s more detail and the CRT option is pure nostalgia. I chose to stick with the original blocky effect throughout most of the game.
When you complete each land, you can do business with a series of people. The first of these is the Gamblers who allow you to bet the coins you have won in each level on a game of 21 Horsemen. I lost far more money than I won gambling on the cards and in the end, I wished I’d skipped this part sooner and saved my hard-won coins to spend on power-ups.
Next, you meet the Ranger who seems to have some wisdom to offer when you complete each area. If I’m honest it didn’t seem that useful – or perhaps I am not wise enough to understand his message! Once, I had the option to pay another hero to join me on my quest but unfortunately, I didn’t have enough coins saved up to pay his fee.
The last two people in the village you can do business with are the Cleric and the Merchant. The Cleric sells power-ups of a magical nature (potions, amulets etc.) and the Merchant sells weapons and ability upgrades.
You can play Thy Sword in two different two-player modes; either in co-op story mode or in a versus tournament mode where you fight against each other in a level-like arena. In co-op mode you can still do damage to your teammate, as we found out when my partner decapitated me by accident – well, he says he hit the wrong button, but… Despite my campaign being cut short, I think that this is one aspect of the game that I’ll revisit because it was fun having an ally to fight with (until I was brutally murdered that is – not sore about this at all, nope).
A Change of Pace
Since I don’t go for this type of game very often, playing Thy Sword was very much a learning curve for me. I think any frustrations I had in the beginning were down to me adjusting to the weapons available in this genre. Once I’d got the hang of things, I started to look forward to the new enemies I would encounter with each area and the challenge they would bring.
Before playing Thy Sword, I wouldn’t have given most hack ‘n’ slash platformers much consideration. I might have had a quick go on one at a friend’s house or on a demo, but I doubt that I would have considered buying one. However (to my surprise) I have enjoyed Thy Sword to the extent that I will be on the lookout for other similar games in the future. I doubt it’ll ever be my favourite genre, but Thy Sword has certainly made an impact on my impression of this type of game.
I think that Thy Sword is a well put together game with a comfy, retro feel about it. It doesn’t pretend to be anything other than what it is. The format and story-line are relatively predictable but that adds to the nostalgia element of the game. For those hardcore retro gamers out there, there’s a little treat in the credits that explains why the music and sound effects sound so, well, authentically 8-bit.
When it comes to the price tag, I’m torn. On the one hand, I think it’s a bit hefty for a game where the plot is fairly standard/nothing out of the ordinary and a lot of the levels have a similar format. On the other hand, you do get a fair amount of playing time out of the game – especially if you play on ‘Adventurer’/’Hero’ – and there are one and two-player game modes to enjoy.
Overall, Thy Sword was definitely a good choice of game to find out if I could gel with the hack ‘n’ slash style of play. So, whether this is your favourite genre or you’re looking to try it out for the first time, why not take Thy Sword for a whirl as your next sword-filled adventure?
Rapid Reviews Rating
You can buy Thy Sword for the Xbox One from the Microsoft Store.
You can find and read our reviews on OpenCritic.