Imagine an old-fashioned arcade shooter turned on its head: what you get is Swordship.
Set in a world ruined by global warming, Swordship presents a vision of humanity that is fractured. The rich, living in megacities, trade valuable goods via shipping containers every day, while the poor are left to survive on burned lands. And then there are those who moved to live underwater: with their ultra-fast boats they’re now taking a stand, stealing containers to deliver to those in need.
And so of course, you’re in control of one of these boats, attempting to steal cargo from right under the rich’s noses. But it’s not going to be easy. Numerous defences have been employed to protect the cargo, from bomb-spewing drones to proximity mines. Without any armaments of your own, your only hope is to skilfully avoid the attacks of these defences while going about your container-stealing endeavours.
Swordship very much plays like an arcade shooter with your ability to shoot removed. With the screen scrolling downwards at pace, you need to move your ship to avoid enemy attacks. Even better, you can use your advanced manoeuvrability to make your enemies attack each other. Stay near an enemy until a drone begins to target you with its bombs, for example, and there’s a good chance it will be destroyed in the blast.
Ultimately though, your aim in each stage is to try to collect, and deposit, a number of containers. Succeed, and at the end of a stage you can choose to donate those containers to those in need, boosting your score, or keep them for yourself, giving you extra lives and access to numerous upgrades. Ergo, you can still proceed even if you fail to grab any containers in a stage, but you might find your efforts more arduous.
You’ll probably want every advantage you can get in Swordship, as it’s crushingly difficult. Just one hit and it’s game over unless you’ve been able to accrue some extra lives, and once you’re out it’s back to the beginning you go. Things do get somewhat easier in the long run, however, thanks to a range of upgrades and other ship variants that can be unlocked via attaining a high score.
Variant ships offer quirks such as being able to unleash an electrifying field that stuns enemies for a short time. Upgrades, on the other hand, need to be obtained via containers, but offer a range of benefits such as making it easier to pick up and drop off cargo. It’s just a shame that there are no upgrades that give you more of a fighting chance from the outset, like additional extra lives or improved ship capabilities.
Ultimately though, it’s the repetitiveness of Swordship that hurts it the most. While there are a few environments to work though, they’re not all that visually interesting. And starting at the first stage again and again can become tiresome. On top of that, Swordship can often feel unfair at times: don’t be surprised if death comes out of the blue because you simply couldn’t see an enemy attack in the inevitable madness.
Still, if you love arcade-styled games that challenge your skills and draw you in time and time again in order to set a new high-score, Swordship is very much worth playing. It’s a simple concept but one that’s been executed rather well. And it is somewhat fun outwitting your enemies and making them destroy each other as you vie to collect valuable cargo.