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10 Minute Barbarian (PC) artwork

10 Minute Barbarian (PC) review

"Ten minutes or less to save the world."

The premise behind 10 Minute Barbarian is disarmingly simple: itís the Apocalypse. Yeah, I know... That old chestnut. Given the state of the world, you are afforded X amount of days to raise yourself an army grand enough to fend off the unwanted attentions of dragon hordes and the odd collection of hellspawn. As the game's title suggests, your efforts are confined to 10-minute or so campaigns. Those are split across limited scenarios. In theory, this setup means that you should be able to see the whole game in only an hour or two. But as I'm writing this review, Iíve already racked up some three six eight hours of play.

As noted, most levels require only around 10 minutes of play, at which point you'll see your run capped in either defeat or victory. It all becomes a time sink, however, once you realize you could have done a bit better than your last attempt and that knowledge drives you to try again. It's devious -- the missions are bite-sized, so you don't feel like you're spending much time at all when you try once more for a full-star rating. And because those stages are to a certain extent randomly generated, it also doesn't feel like you're simply repeating the same tasks over and over. Just plugging away at a couple of levels will take you half an hour in your mind, but has the potential to devour your evening.

10 Minute Barbarian (PC) image

The game is structured like a highly condensed hybrid of Heroes of Might & Magic and Total War. You begin on a small corner of a map and the rest is shrouded in a fog of war. You have no army, and possess the life expectancy of a chronically depressed lemming. You improve your odds by exploring the map. Coming across friendly towns means that you can recruit whatever militia they might have stationed in the vicinity, which adds to your own forces. You may be afforded a small rabble of pitchfork-wielding peasants (who'll not last long under any duress) or perhaps a platoon of sturdier knights or convenient archers. Not all towns are friendly, though, and some will require conquering before they are ready to join your quest to save the world. Such unfriendly locations are surrounded by a red-shaded no-man's land that, should you decide to trespass, will cost you a member of your army per day.

A day lasts one turn. Youíre provided a respectable time pool with which to explore the map and recruit troops before demons burst from portal points and start setting the world alight. But thereís no guarantee youíll even get that far. To raise a mighty army, you need to take calculated risks and tackle some of the bigger and badder hostile headquarters on the map. By assaulting these successfully, it then becomes entirely possible to beat a dragon and convert it to your side, which is a massive plus for any army. The dragon could sit contently behind your lines, belching fireballs into the enemy ranks and only setting the occasional ally on fire in the process. Storming their strongholds is a foolís errand for the under prepared, though. Even a fully equipped army should expect heavy casualties.

Some strongholds donít house troops. They instead serve as treasure stashes that reward you with a heap of gold. You can also find various riches littered around the map, because wealthy people are wont to leave their fortunes lying in the middle of a forest. Despite this, gold is often a scarce resource that has to be used wisely. It can be spent to raise the maximum population of your troops (thus allowing you to bring more infantry into battle), or to bring in extra dragons for large sums. Such purchases are often game changers, but they need to be levied responsibly. Some levels have uncommon perks, like the ability to power up your dragons, or the inclusion of a level-specific ally.

10 Minute Barbarian (PC) image

Once such level lets you purchase Ents. These are slow-moving, powerful tree monsters that soak up damage like a sponge, but creep towards the front line in a manner that suggests they really donít care if they ever arrive. That forest level is perhaps my favourite out of the nine missions available. It advertises the fact that itís inhabited mainly by untrained rabbles who you can recruit in huge number. Then you can complete the level via swarm attacks, with ease. However, employing those basic troops as the bulk of your attack will force you to lose much of your army. Itíll will win you the war, while also plummeting your performance statistics so low that you are awarded a measly one- or two-star rating when all is said and done. To be a successful Barbarian warlord, you must limit the amount of cannon fodder you recruit, using them to win early battles but shunning them in later forays in favour of knights, archers and cavalry. The latter are in short supply, however, which forces you to take on a number of high-risk battles if you desire to be hailed a tactical genius.

Few stages require that level of plotting. Once you settle on your preferred tactics, you can usually just roll with it through all nine campaigns. Thereís a Hard difficulty setting if you want the experience to demand more of you, and even a hidden six-star rating that can be tricky to acquire (I have it, of course), but the campaign's brevity is what does the most to keep a player coming back to slay invading demons and put the boot into those pesky necromancers. In theory, the game is the ideal way to kill a quarter-hour of dead time. Just be wary: it has a habit of eating up significantly more of your life than that.


EmP's avatar
Staff review by Gary Hartley (January 27, 2016)

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overdrive posted January 27, 2016:

Good review of what seems a neat little game. One minor technicality: I think you mean "Heroes of Might & Magic" and not "Might & Magic", as "Heroes" was the strategy series, while basic "Might" was a really tough first-person-view dungeon-diving RPG series. Or at least it started out really the time they got to IV-V (the Xeen games), the level of difficulty was almost doable for mortals.
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EmP posted January 27, 2016:

Bah - I've only ever played the third in any depth, so looked it up on youtube to make sure I was quoting the right game. The video showed the game I remembered, but I seem to have missed the 'Heroes of' bit at the start. Edit made.

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