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Hoard (PlayStation 3) artwork

Hoard (PlayStation 3) review

"The setup is simplicity itself. The player controls a dragon, and spends ten minutes collecting as much gold as possible from the play area."

Hoard is an incredible game: elegant, addictive, challenging, and humorous. Altogether delightful.

The setup is simplicity itself. The player controls a dragon, and spends ten minutes collecting as much gold as possible from the play area. The player does so by breathing fire on structures (buildings, farms, carts, and so forth) as they appear and carrying the spoils to his hoard, or home base. Other dragons try to collect gold as well, in most play modes, and whoever has the most at the end of a match wins.

It's easy to understand, but there are some serious complications. For one, as the player gains wealth he also gains experience, which can be used to buy upgrades. The player can upgrade his breath weapon, speed, defense, or gold carrying ability. Against a computer controlled opponent, these considerations are not very serious. Against a skilled human foe, leveling decisions made within the first three minutes of gameplay can decide a match. If a dragon is too slow, or his defense too low, another player can swoop in and attack. Once a dragon takes enough damage, he will automatically return to his hoard to heal. This wastes precious time and resets the all-important gold multiplier, which increases every thirty seconds up to maximum of three times. Outpace a player enough, throw off his ability to level along with you, and you'll soon dominate the contest. Get too cocky, attack a dragon that has the capability to fend you off, and you'll be hurting instead.

Leveling is far from the only strategic concern. In any match involving multiple dragons, the towns can be made loyal after suffering repeated attacks that do not destroy a town center. A loyal town will send tribute carts full of gold directly to a player's hoard. Towns spawn archers, and archers can damage dragons to whom they are not loyal. If a player gains tribute status with a town, every other player (up to four can play at a time) has to measure the cost of destroying that town or damaging it enough to change its loyalty versus focusing on easier targets. Similarly, castles spawn and create princesses which the player can take back to his hoard. After about ten seconds, the player receives a large ransom for her. Castles also spawn knights, however, and every knight on the map will be out for blood as soon as your dragon touches a princess.

Think you've got it figured out? Next come the wizard towers, which offer huge rewards in the form of valuable gems, but require strategy to take down without risking your dragon's health. Giants, deadly and difficult to kill, spawn on certain maps and wreak havoc, destroying whatever structures get in their way. If a giant is heading towards your town, you had better carefully consider whether it's worth it or not to defend it and risk your dragon (and bonus multiplier.) And by “carefully consider,” I mean "make a split-second decision."

This is the beauty of Hoard: your first few games against the AI will seem like checkers. Your later matches against human opponents will seem like speed chess.

Hoard also benefits from excellent presentation. Synthesized horns evoke a medieval period in the soundtrack, but remain light and fun. Bright, colorful maps filled with simple but representative graphics never confuse the player. In a stroke of absolute brilliance, every match begins with the tiles that make up each map dropping into place as if they are the pieces of an impossible, wonderful board game. When you play with the right friends, it can feel like just that.

Even when playing alone, Hoard maintains its charm. The game has a large number of maps, many with goals set for the player to challenge himself. The enemy dragon AI, while not great, at least makes achieving these high goals difficult. Additional game modes challenge players to survive in maps with no home base in which to heal, or to ignore all other concerns and race to capture a certain number of princesses.

Hoard is the most fun I've had with a video game on the PS3, and is a game I return to often. Sometimes I come back for a quick ten-minute round with a friend, or a single player session spanning hours in which I try to break a record. I haven't been disappointed yet.

Germ's avatar
Staff review by Jeremy Davis (January 18, 2015)

Jeremy plays video games, sometimes.

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