Swordship is a fast and furious “dodge'em up” arcade action game where you avoid enemies, steal supplies, and chase high scores!
- Title: Swordship
- Release Date: December 5, 2022
- Price: $19.99
- Suggested Audience Age: Rated E for Everyone by the ESRB
- Availability: Switch, Steam, Xbox, PlayStation
- Recommended for fans of: Vertical Shooters, Arcade Action, and Kevin Costner's gills
Geek to Geek Media was provided with a review copy of this title.
I have a vague memory at some point of seeing an indie game where you played as a car with a big knife duct tapped to the top of it. That game has nothing to do with this one except that the title “Swordship” makes me think of a ship wielding a sword.
While Swordship doesn't actually feature any swords, it does have a lot of ships. This is a bit of a twist on the classic vertical shooter, which has you taking out enemies with your wits as you steal supplies from the ruling order in a flooded post-apocalypse.
What Does “Dodge'em Up” Mean?
Swordship is a lot like a standard shmup, except that it's different in every single way. You play as a boat that is cruising across the ocean, going from the top of the screen toward the bottom. Think Spy Hunter, but flipped upside down and on water. As you race across the waves, a variety of enemies will pop up to attack you, and any single hit will destroy you.
In most circumstances, you’ll have three or four enemies on the screen. Without any offensive capabilities, your ship has to survive by avoiding enemy attacks and tricking them into destroying each other. Different enemies have different predictable attacks, so flow in this game comes from internalizing the rhythm of enemy attacks.
At first, being unable to attack enemies felt really weird. Once I got the hang of it, tricking an enemy into shooting another while lining up mortars from a third to hit the first and then diving underwater to escape just in time felt amazing.
Upgrades and Progression
Ultimately, Swordship isn’t actually about destroying your enemies, even if the process of doing that feels great. Instead, your actual goal on each level is to wait for a yellow line to show up on the screen indicating where a shipment of supplies will pop up that you can steal. Snagging a certain number of these supplies is how you complete a level, so the enemies are all basically distractions you have to manage in order to get the goods.
At the end of each level, you can choose how many of the supplies you gathered to keep as extra lives and upgrades to your boat, and how many to “donate” for extra points. Points you earn during a run feed into a progression system, which unlocks more abilities that can show up in future runs.
The progression system has a rogue-lite feel, but it is hard to think of Swordship as a rogue-lite game. Between its fast-paced action, stylish visuals, and the similarity to so many shmups, this feels like a modern interpretation of a classic arcade game brought home.
It is neat to unlock new stuff as you progress, but I’d recommend this game to high-score chasers way more than to fans of Hades or the like. It’s fun and flashy, but not super substantive.