Developed By: Solid9 Studio
Published By: Fat Dog Games
Release Date: 10.16.18
Polish developers Solid9 Studio teams up with Fat Dog Games to bring you Exorder for the Nintendo Switch. Exorder is a turn-based strategy game, which is generally right up my alley. There are a few hiccups and inconsistent controls that make the game a little hard to get into, however. Generally, though, Exorder is a solidly built and perfectly serviceable casual strategy game.
Exorder has a relatively short campaign, featuring 12 missions designed to familiarize players with the game. There’s a fairly light story that accompanies the proceedings, but it’s not especially engaging. The king of Cerulean has died, and his two children, Beyla and Tristan, must duel it out to see who gets to ascend to the throne. Everyone assumes Tristan will win the crown, but Beyla is the player’s avatar, so things don’t really work out for the prince the way he thought they would. A neighboring country recruits him to lead their army, a weird decision considering he just freakin’ lost the biggest fight of his life, but whatever. At the same time, mysterious border raids provoke the other nation that borders Cerulean into attacking, and Beyla must deal with the fallout.
Like I said, it’s a pretty basic setup and there’s not much there to hook fans of deep stories and political intrigue. Beyla and Tristan are bland and uninteresting, and they’re the only characters that even get names, so it’s not like there’s a good cast to capture your imagination and make up for the fairly cookie-cutter plot. Like I said, the story mode is mostly a tutorial for the multiplayer or challenge modes, so I don’t suppose it was ever intended to carry the game. Still, I would have preferred something a little deeper from the story. Maybe a character arc, or even a character with a personality would have spiced things up a little.
On The Grid
Exorder is a turn-based strategy game, which is almost universally synonymous with a grid-based strategy game. You move your units around the grid to get them into position to attack enemy units or defend strategic points. Pretty simple. There are a number of different units to recruit from different types of buildings. For instance, you can recruit swordsmen and archers from castles, or different types of monster mercenaries from taverns. Certain units have special abilities; for instance, guards can capture buildings. You pay for units with gold, which can be accumulated by defeating enemies or occupying houses. Houses generate gold every turn, and the longer you hold a house, the more it pays.
There are three different modes to play. Story mode, like I said, is mostly a tutorial. Each level introduces a new unit or two, and the level is designed to highlight the new units’ abilities. There is a challenge mode with multiple challenges that offer a greater degree of difficulty than story mode. Finally, there is a multiplayer mode which I generally had the most fun playing. The single-player modes often boiled down to recruiting a ton of units and rushing the bad guys. While some units’ special abilities add depth to the strategy, outside of a few situations in the campaign specifically crafted to highlight those abilities, they seldom offer a better option than brute force. Playing other people on a level playing field is a much more satisfying tactical experience.
Cerulean, We Have A Problem
Despite having some fun playing the multiplayer mode, Exorder has some problems that prevent me from giving it a whole-hearted recommendation. First is the lackluster story, which I’ve already been over. Second, which I’ve also mentioned, is that there isn’t much strategy necessary in the single-player campaign. There are some control issues that I encountered while playing as well. First, navigating tiles during a move is often inaccurate or overly sensitive. I can’t tell you how many times I thought I was selecting one tile to move to, and the cursor bounced to another tile when I didn’t think I was hitting the thumbstick. The option to undo a move would be welcome. The game has touch controls as well, which allow you to command your units with the touchscreen. Everything works… mostly. If you’re not zoomed all the way out, the touch controls are so inconsistent as to be useless. Zooming out gets you to a top-down angle, and using any other angle of view the touch controls are inaccurate and oftentimes touches don’t even appear to be registered.
While the graphics aren’t bad, necessarily, Exorder doesn’t look phenomenal either. The graphics are a little pixelated, which I could forgive if the game had a cooler aesthetic overall. Everything just screams “generic medieval fantasy,” with very little originality in terms of character design. I could forgive the graphics not being all that sharp if there was something more interesting going on with the design, but both things being subpar at the same time is kind of a deal breaker. I don’t want to make it sound like the game looks terrible, it just doesn’t do anything impressive.
The game’s audio is similarly uninspiring. The music is perfectly acceptable, mostly an orchestral arrangement which does a decent job of building some tension during battles. There is some voice acting, as well. Beyla narrates the prologues and epilogues of each mission, which is fine, but it’s just reading exposition. It doesn’t really feature a range of emotions, and her performances just boil down to explaining the story in a grave tone. So, again, there’s nothing glaringly wrong with Exorder’s audiovisual style, it just doesn’t do anything special.
Exorder has no motion controls. As I mentioned before, it does make inconsistent use of the Switch’s touchscreen, but most of the time a controller is preferable. I didn’t think it looked appreciably better on a TV than it did on the Switch’s screen, so that’s a wash too. So I guess it just comes down to personal preference; I generally prefer playing my Switch undocked, so that’s the way I played it for the most part.
TL;DR: A competently designed strategy game that just doesn’t have any special hook to make the game experience stand out.