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Scrounge Lizards: Hoard Impressions

Arcade dragon management game Hoard has been lurking on Steam for the better part of a week. Maybe you've seen it. Maybe you imagine that it's been looking at you, the words "Buy me" riding its smoky breath like surfers balanced on a wave of deadly lava. For the sake of your sanity I've therefore played Hoard, so as to tell you if it's worth buying. And it... it...

...probably isn't.

But the concept behind Hoard is a powerful one. Each player, AI or otherwise, controls a dragon eager to fill their hoard with gold. Just about anything in the game - houses, crop fields, carts, knights - can be roasted with your fiery breath, leaving behind a tidy pile of gold coins (and bringing all-new meaning to the term "breath mint"). At its simplest, Hoard is a game of chasing down valuable targets, burning them, snatching the loot, and then when you can't carry any more, flying home to drop it all off with a satisfying tinkling noise.

The excellent twist is that the world is, to some extent, organic, and if left alone will grow in various ways.

Leave a village alone for long enough and it'll become a town, and start producing archers to defend itself. No good. But as the town grows, it increases its value and will be worth more if you roast it. Good! But best of all, if you carefully burn all the buildings around the town centre then you can make the town "fear" you, meaning their archers won't attack you (though they'll attack your opponents) and the town will continually send carts full of upkeep straight to your hoard. Amazing. Right up to the point that an opponent swoops in and torches the town centre, returning the settlement and all its archers to a neutral state. No good.

This is when Hoard's at its most interesting- pitching the players as combative gardeners, trying to prune and grow the areas around their hoard why laying waste to the investments of their opponents. There's an absolutely fascinating game here... but Hoard isn't really it.

That whole town development thing I described up there? That's pretty much as deep as Hoard gets. The game's other mechanics are much simpler. If you spot a princess, you can take her back home until a timer ticks down so you receive a wad of ransom money. If you see a wizard's tower, you can knock it down to retrieve a valuable, ungodly heavy gem from inside it. If you see a giant, you can try and burn him to death, a process comparable to trying to set a chair on fire with a match. If you see a thief, once again it's up to you to burn him before he gets to your hoard- although thieves spawn more frequently out of towns with taverns, so there is a bit of weeding to be done there, and I approve. But I suspect you get the gist that this is not a complex game.

Which is a shame, as it's an idea that makes me want to break out the pencils and graph paper and expand it into something rich and complex. As it stands, Hoard is simply a somewhat solid arcade game, almost certainly good for a few hours of fun (suiting the price of £6.29) but probably not a great deal more. The game does at least feature a co-op mode, although no team multiplayer, which strikes me as where the fun would be. Crazy.

Any other games you'd like RPS to take a closer look at, readers? News days don't come much slower than this.

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