Swag and Sorcery Review
The prospect of Swag and Sorcery was a promising one. Despite mixed reviews, I rather enjoyed the last game I played from Lazy Bear. Graveyard Keeper may have been a Stardew Valley knock off but it stayed engaging through its macabre sense of fun. Swag and Sorcery is…not fun. It is an unmitigated disaster.
In the marketing material, Swag looks to be pretty fun. It combines plenty of PC game genres-lite RPG, town management, a little bit of crafting and loot collecting. But in practice, it is none of those things. You begin with a cutscene introducing you to the setting. This is a fantasy kingdom, but one full of “meta” “jokes.” It’s like Shrek by way of Deadpool but not as funny as either. There is like, a king and he wants…I think an outfit? And there is a talking cat. Oh and an evil vizier/adviser who we know is evil because everyone says so, but his only evil acts is his intolerance of the other characters. I related the most to him.
Then you arrive in town. You are told to build your first building. You do so by clicking on the predesignated spot and it appears. There are plenty of other buildings already built. I kept waiting for customization options to appear, but they never did. Some buildings are predetermined and prebuilt, the rest are just predetermined. You have no choice in the matter.
Is it all a Joke?
When you are ready to send your first soldier on a quest, you drag him to the stables. This is when I started to suspect that Swag and Sorcery is just an elaborate troll. You are treated to the image of a computer mouse with a big red-x through it. Don’t worry, the game tells you, this part is a hands-off experience. Unlike the rest of the game? Your little guy walks from the left side of the screen to the right. Sometimes he sees a monster, and they exchange blows until one of them is dead. Sometimes he encounters a resource and picks at it until it is obtained. There is no interaction, excepting the option to retreat prematurely. All is left up to the RNG.
When you have enough resources you can craft weapons and items. Turn wood into planks and ore into ingots, combine those to make a recipe. But what’s this after the resource requirement? Why is there a clock with a 6 on it? One of the resources is…time?
What the hell? What the actual hell? Like a cell phone game trying to sell you energy through microtransactions, Swag and Sorcery includes the “feature” of watching meters fill up. It is explicit about how much time you will waste watching them. It is almost mocking you, reminding you of the time you are wasting not playing this not game. The emptiness of the experience is so vast, so abyssal, it almost takes on existential meaning. There’s no point in playing this game, but it is strangely engaging. The goals are so clear. Maybe there’s no reason to play any game. Maybe nothing has a point.
Is This But a Nightmare?
Then I go and load up one of my latest favorites and remind myself that nihilism isn’t the answer. Games can be lots of things. They don’t need to be like this. Hell, I went back to Graveyard Keeper and still found it weirdly compelling. It’s not me that’s broken. It’s this game, if you can even call it that.
For Swag and Sorcery barely qualifies as a game. I don’t know what it is, an elaborate practical joke, shovelware cash grab, or experiment gone wrong. I urge gamers to stay away from it, don’t go down the same dark hole I did. And I implore its developers, all developers really, to learn from these mistakes. This is the exact lack of interaction that makes games bad. This is the recipe for failure, and in the future, it should be used as a road map of precisely what not to do in game design.
*** PC code provided by the publisher ***
- The graphics could be construed as charming
- A brief moment of hope before
- How little game is in this game
- Lack of player interaction
- Humorless humor
- Most everything really