A woe­ful er­rand through pix­els and music.

PC GAMER (UK) - - CONTENTS - By Phil Sav­age

Eerie adventure Sword & Sworcery EP.

Sword&SworceryEP wants you to lose your­self in its world. At its most ef­fec­tive, it cre­ates an un­earthly at­mos­phere that lodges it­self in your sub­con­scious to the point that, years later, you might catch your­self re­mem­ber­ing its gloomy land­scapes, or haunt­ing music. I’ve thought about it a lot in the five years since I first played it. On that ba­sis, it re­mains an af­fect­ing and mys­te­ri­ous suc­cess.

I’d love noth­ing more than to praise the mood of what is es­sen­tially a col­lab­o­ra­tive art piece mas­querad­ing as an adventure game – and I’m go­ing to spend plenty of para­graphs do­ing so. But, re­play­ing it now, I can’t help but no­tice how ill-fit­ting the game can feel on PC. Su­per­broth­ers: Sword & Sworcery EP was orig­i­nally made for iOS, and it shows.

In­stead of click­ing, you’re in­structed to ‘tip tap’ on the screen. In­stead of drag­ging, you’re asked to ‘tap and hold’. But it’s not just the verbs that feel out of place. Much of Sword&Sworcery’s puz­zles rely on the tac­tile con­nec­tion be­tween the world, its music and your fin­gers. The plea­sure is in play­ing with the en­vi­ron­ment, and, while that does come across in its big­gest, most spec­tac­u­lar mo­ments, many of the more sub­tle in­ter­ac­tions feel rote when per­formed with a cur­sor.

Many iOS games do carry their spark over to PC, but Sword& Sworcery is more ex­per­i­men­tal, and so some el­e­ments are lost in trans­la­tion. This is, after all, a game that lasts for around three hours, but that will take you a full lu­nar cy­cle to play. It’s weird and in­die – in the truest, most Beck sense of the word.

It opens with the Archetype, a rep­re­sen­ta­tive of Su­per­broth­ers, and the Dante of this world. The Archetype in­tro­duces each chap­ter, break­ing the fourth wall to frame the story proper. More gen­er­ally, the Archetype is a state­ment of in­tent with re­gards to Sword&Sworcery’s style and mood. Once briefed on what’s to come, you take con­trol of the Scythian – a war­rior who has trav­elled to the Cau­ca­sus Moun­tains to com­plete her woe­ful er­rand.

I wanna rock

The most notable things about Sword &Sworcery are how it looks, how it feels and how it sounds, and later, as the woe­ful er­rand ap­proaches its con­clu­sion, how these el­e­ments in­ter­twine to cre­ate some­thing ar­rest­ing. The en­vi­ron­ments are si­mul­ta­ne­ously de­tailed and sparse – strange, eerie and beau­ti­ful, and rem­i­nis­cent of ’80s Amiga plat­former AnotherWorld. This is no co­in­ci­dence. Back in 2010, a year be­fore Sword&Sworcery’s iOS re­lease, Su­per­broth­ers’ sole mem­ber, Craig Adams, wrote a man­i­festo for the site Bo­ing, Bo­ing.

Called Less Talk, More Rock, the man­i­festo is, in part, a state­ment of in­tent with re­gards to what Sword& Sworcery would be. Its ‘hall of fame’ is a list of games that ad­here to Adams’s phi­los­o­phy, and so likely in­flu­enced Sword&Sworcery in some way. It’s a var­ied se­lec­tion, con­tain­ing ev­ery­thing from An­other World and De­mon’sSouls, to Rez and Mo­tor storm: Pa­cific Rift.

The ‘Less Talk’ refers in part to the cre­ative process. “Maybe you get lost in all that talk – all that in­tel­lec­tu­al­is­ing, all that‘ what if ?’,” Adams writes, “all those num­bers and sales pro­jec­tions or what-haveyou, all that self-doubt – and you lose your way.” But ‘Less Talk’ also ap­plies to the writ­ing within games. Adams goes on to praise Zelda’s sparse, di­a­logue – such as the iconic: “It’s dan­ger­ous to go alone. Take this.”

“When there’s just a lit­tle bit of talk like this it has a pe­cu­liar, haunt­ing, po­etic ef­fect,” he writes. “It tick­les the in­tel­lect just enough for it to stir, but not enough to ir­ri­tate it.”

This phi­los­o­phy is found through­out Sword&Sworcery. Ev­ery seg­ment of di­a­logue comes in at un­der 140 char­ac­ters. As the Archetype ex­plains, “Our re­search in­di­cates that so­cial sup­port net­works will play a sig­nif­i­cant pos­i­tive role in the out­come of Sword &SworceryEP.” I dis­agree. The game’s so­cial in­te­gra­tion made slightly more sense in 2012, be­fore Twit­ter was a garbage fire of hot takes, but even then not a lot.

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