My first question to you is do you remember the previous Strength of the Sword games? No? Don’t worry, you won’t as they were never actually made. Strength of the Sword 3 is the first in the series from the two-man team at indie house Ivent Games that has hacked and slashed its way onto the PlayStation Network. This numerical dissonance is indicative of the confidence of the work on show here and thankfully this is confidence that is well earned as Ivent have produced a lovely little oddity. Strength of the Sword 3 can be best described as an arena-based third-person Knight’em up, which while not the most eloquent of descriptions it contains everything you need to know about the game.
There is no real story in play here, there is a lovely clockwork animation sequence that begins the game and is echoed on completion of arenas that apes the Game of Thrones introduction sequence. The basic premise is that evil-doers have invaded the kingdom and you are entrusted with defeating those forces. With such a small development team you can forgive the lack of story but thankfully the quirky art style carries the proceedings along with a great sense of charm.
Each level will see you engage with a selection of enemies in various bouts before facing off against the final boss, and this is the only rhythm that Strength of the Sword 3 plays to. It is clear however that Ivent Games had a very clear set of gameplay mechanics that they were proud of and it was those that they wanted to showcase and for a large part they succeed. Beneath the clockwork charm of Strength of the Sword 3’s art direction is one difficult game, it verges on the rock hard end of the spectrum. Enemies will try and hurt you with extreme prejudice and only reflexes and attack pattern observation will save you.
This is where Strength of the Sword 3 simply just works well, no matter the enemy and no matter how many times you get beaten into a pulp you will learn something that will help you when you restart. Every enemy has a weakness, somewhere amidst their attack is a weak spot that you can exploit but it is up to your skill and reflexes to deliver that fatal blow. You have standard slash and stab moves that can be combined together either on the ground or in the air. The special moves you possess cost you ‘mana’, of which you have a limited amount in a gauge but you can charge this up mid-battle leaving you vulnerable to attack. You will also unlock new items to help in battle as you progress through the XP system, items such as health packs and grenades will often make the difference when your sword and shield are taking a beating.
You are also able to select your loadout as you unlock more primary weapons, each sword and shield has their own speed and damage ratings while also affecting the movement of your character. The best loadout for success will depend greatly on the sets of enemies that you will face and unless you are blessed by the gods you will never win fights on your first effort, so there is always a revision of tactics happening. The control of your Knight deserves a special mention as you will feel nimble and in control whether you and launching an air attack or simply sidestepping a charging foe. You will never feel that the controls have cheated you out of a victory as they are lightning quick in terms of response time, however the camera can become a little suspect once you get too close to the walls of the arenas.
And that is very much the entirety of Strength of the Sword 3, although there is also a challenge mode that will see you face off against increasingly difficult enemy sets in a very enclosed arena to fill out the game. Should you perform beyond the ability of a normal human being you may complete this in somewhere between two to three hours which is not a lot of gameplay time for a £6.99 purchase, but that is very much an issue that will boil down to your personal feeling on value. What you do get for that money is a solid arena battle game that is more difficult than you may first expect, with controls that are slick, a fighting system that is fair and where success is only limited by your ability.
This landed on us as a little bit of a curiosity but it has genuinely surprised us with the quality of the content on show, and once again we must reiterate that this is the work of just two people. If you like your games challenging but fair then you could do worse than to check this. With quality such as this on show we hope that once again the guys at Ivent buck the sequential numbering trend and release Strength of the Sword 2. This is a studio to keep an eye on. Colour us impressed.