Swordship (Xbox One) Review

Swordship takes the standard shooter gameplay and literally flips it to create a unique experience.

Most shooters have you flying some type of plane either from left to right, or vertically, using one or two buttons to shoot with the goal of hitting a high score or making it to the end of the stage. Swordship does almost the exact opposite of this tried-and-true formula. Instead of flying up the screen, you travel downward.  Instead of button mashing an attack button, you do not attack at all. Instead of just trying to reach the end of the stage, you want to try and transport packages. I’ll admit, this sounds a little weird but found the overall experience to be a refreshing and creative take on the shooter genre.

The main gimmick comes from the lack of an offensive ability. Since you cannot shoot, the player can instead use the firepower of enemies against themselves. Using yourself as bait, a turret will take aim at the player’s ship. Then, placing another enemy in the line of fire and moving out of the way at the last second will cause the enemy firepower to destroy each other. Some turrets shoot with machine gun fire, others lob bombs, and some have massive cannon blasts. Either way, using the firepower of enemies is the way to make scores swell and clear a path.

Besides the unique “using defense as offense” attack ability, the other major difference comes from the package system.  Foretold with a brief yellow light, players can pick up random packages that fly through the screen. If collected, they can then be deposited moments later by standing within dedicated marker icons. However, it takes a few seconds to make this deposit so the player is left vulnerable. If successful, the player is given the option to increase score or use that package as a buff.  This is a randomly generated roguelite title after all so death means starting over from scratch. 

If you have been following my work over the last few years, you’ll know that I have come to dread rogue titles because it is entirely overused in seemingly all games these days. I want to say that Swordship is one of those games that is worth playing in a sea of competition, but the same rogue problems still exist in this anti-shooter. The problem with being randomly generated, stage design and enemy placement can often be unfair. In this example, the package system can appear directly in the line of fire of an enemy, giving the player no chance at collecting it. Further, since the enemies doesn’t immediately attack, there is no way to clear a path in time to collect the one thing that makes you more powerful and makes the score increase. It can be unfair and frustrating with no fault to the player. Eventually permanent buffs can be unlocked but they are minor and takes a lot of time to grind.

Swordship is undoubtedly unique, one that is worth a look if you are a fan of the genre and want to play a shooter in a different way. Just be aware the slower paced of “move here, wait for the gun to take aim at you, then move out of the way” becomes tedious after a few runs and the randomness can generate unfair placement. Still, I didn’t mind playing in short bursts which is a lot more than I can say about the other dozen rogue titles that were released on the eShop this week.

SCORE: 5.5/10

Not As Good As: Vampire Survivors

Play It Instead: Sophstar

Don’t Forget About: After Wave: Downfall

By: Zachary Gasiorowski, Editor in Chief

Twitter: @ZackGaz

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