Review: Thy Sword
Thy Sword, brought to you by GamePhase games, is a hack and slash adventure game, with slight platforming aspects, a definite throwback to the days of arcades and the SNES (when you die in easy or regular difficulties a fake token is inserted to allow you to try again, and the button layout actually shows a classic SNES controller).
Thy Sword opens with an epic poem setting up the story, the short version is that evil has smashed the legendary white crystal into five different colored crystals and it is your job to wield Thy Sword to defeat the monsters and recover the aforementioned crystals.
Graphically the game is quite retro with large pixel art sprites that lack the detail of some modern pixel art games (such as Dead Cells for instance), but with the larger pixel size the graphics feel like they could have been viable for a later SNES title and the even with the blocky look there is a surprising amount of detail, and if the game isn’t retro enough for your taste, you also have two other graphics options, you can set it to pixel grid, which makes the pixels stand out even more, and you can set it to CRT which gives you a forced overlay that really makes it feel like a classic SNES title more than it already did, this is really the ultimate way to play the game if you are looking for a true classic game experience.
Sound-wise, Thy Sword has some classic sounding sound effects and an appropriate albeit uninspired soundtrack with some heroic adventure tunes, and again retains that classic gaming sound with the Chip music created using the legendary SID (Commodore 64).
The gameplay in Thy Sword, like virtually every other aspect of the game is inspired by the classics of yesteryear, most notably Golden Axe, Moonstone, Barbarian and even a touch of Bubble Bobble, the basics of the game is to progress through rooms by killing all the monsters contained within them, there is no scrolling, each room is the same dimensions as the previous and contains a random assortment of platforms, boxes, barrels and enemies which will be different each time you play due to procedural generation, however due to the restrictive nature of the singular room setup each room will feel fairly similar to the previous and the next, this carries on between levels as well, with each level generally consisting of 5 rooms, the first 4 being fairly standard and the fifth being a night time variant in which the level is shrouded in darkness with light illuminating your character and the exit and occasional flashes of lightning showing you briefly the rest of the floor, and on certain levels the 5th floor will be a boss level, in which you fight one of the holders of the crystals that you can claim once you take them down.
At the outset of the game you can choose which character to play as, the first options are Barbarian and Valkyrie, apart from the sprite, the Barbarian starts with a stronger sword and an extra hit (6 health instead of 5) but as a trade off he has no starting bow, which means you may miss out on some collectable cash when the raven holding the chest key randomly appears (as if you get close enough to the bird to attempt a melee strike he will flee from the floor leaving the chest unable to be opened), while the Valkyrie starts with a bow, but has a weaker sword and no health upgrade, as you can purchase both the bow and the stronger sword in the villages between levels the Barbarian is probably the better choice for the inexperienced player.
As mentioned above, in between levels you get to visit a small village, there is a merchant you can buy improved equipment from, a cleric that sells potions and accessories, a traveller who will give you some more story and generally a hint to which level houses the next boss, and a gambler you can play blackjack against to try and win some more money, however the developers aren’t fools and they have placed a limit to how much you can win gambling (however you can lose it all if you’re not careful, but you also get an achievement for that so silver linings).
In keeping with the basic natures of their main inspirations, there are only a few things your characters can do, they can jump, normal sword attacks (short combo), block, ranged weapon (if they have one) and they have a special attack, the special attack is a spinning strike that decapitates or one hit kills most enemies, however it has a lengthy windup time and the spin covers a lot of distance which makes landing the hit quite hard (which is the trade-off for the increased power), landing the strike is pretty satisfying though especially when it results with separating an enemy from their head, however in just about any situation it is much safer and easier to use regular strikes, and against most bosses the attack is virtually useless, with openings hard to find and the damage being either equal to or weaker than the normal strike in terms of damage toward them.
Overall, Thy Sword is a fairly unambitious throwback to what many still consider a golden age of gaming, with purposefully retro graphics, sounds and gameplay, and even a SNES style length to the game, Thy Sword feels like a lost gem that could sit happily next to the series that inspired it, the only real modern conveniences which the game have are controller mapping so if you’re not happy with the classic SNES layout you can change it, and the save feature, being able to save and return to a boss if you need to take a break, which the SNES was unable to do, although if it were an actual SNES title they could have bypassed this limitation with a passcode as many of those titles did.
In coffee terms, Thy Sword is a classic black coffee, it’s been around just about forever and lacks the fancy modern flavours and syrups but there is a reason people got addicted to it in the first place, the younger generation who have grown up on larger drinks packed with all sorts of sugar might not appreciate it as much as an older gamer, but there was a reason black coffee was and is a staple, it just works.