SWOOOORDS : The Simple Joy of Stabbing

Minimalist in everything but its title, Kenny Backus’s new, free downloadable game hearkens back to the less complicated days of old-school gameplay. The locally based designer talks to Cult about the concepts behind his game and his upcoming projects.

Kenny Backus likes to keep his games simple.

As such, the 27-year-old Plateau resident’s latest free browser and downloadable game, SWOOOORDS, is as lean a hack ‘n’ slash game as you’ll find (besides three extraneous letters). There’s no explicit story, and the graphics are nothing to write home about, but if you’re looking for a never-ending number of levels (called depths) that provide a tough but fair challenge, and a combat system that rewards aggressive players unafraid to take on hordes of foes at once, then SWOOOORDS might be for you.

“Other than the combat system, it’s pretty bare-bones,” the North Carolina native says. “I take a minimalist approach to game design, where I don’t like things that are pointless or not well-defined uncomfortably sitting around.” As a nameless dungeon dweller, players dip into further depths of the game’s lair, which feature a different layout every time. You can only take a few hits before dying, and once you’re dead you have to start again from the beginning, although it is possible to regain hit points by chaining enough attacks or counters together (which charges the on-screen wrath skull).

The game can be played either single-player or by four players locally (although Backus is working on an online multiplayer) and is challenging right from the get-go, although with a fighting system that’s easy to learn, along with the promise of flashier swords as you progress (the current record is eight depths by one player), SWOOOORDS is designed to encourage repeat plays. Each depth only takes about a few minutes to finish, so dying and returning to the first depth shouldn’t be a source of frustration.

“[Repeat value] is something that’s really important to me, just because I don’t really like games where you play it, and once you’ve done everything, you never play it again,” he says.

SWOOOORDS is very much just about the gameplay, and that’s all it tries to do. It’s all about being okay with the fact that this is just a game that’s about stabbing people in the face, and that’s all there is. There doesn’t need to be a story about good and evil, and it’s not a huge priority for me to provide more rewards — getting deeper should be its own reward.”

Backus admits SWOOOORDS is somewhat of a combat prototype for a larger project in the works, an open world RPG called Urverden. “A bit like Skyrim,” he says. “Not in terms of scope or graphical quality, but in the sense of having a big world you run around in and bump into things to do. I’m getting inspiration from old-school games; these days in RPGs you run around and collect loot, and that seems a bit contrived to me — I get bored of killing five rats over and over. I’m trying to think of ways to have more open-ended things, like an event going on, but the game won’t tell you how to stop it.”


Play SWOOOORDS on Unity here, and download it here.

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