So you’re sitting at home, wishing upon a star. “Oh star”, you say, “I long for a casual, inoffensive, colourfully animated, turn-based-strategy game”. Well, chances are that star isn’t going to answer you any time soon. But you may want to direct your question to Solid9 Studio, as they aim to have it answered already with their latest title, Exorder.
Exorder was released in March on PC, and then followed up with a Nintendo Switch release on October 16th. Bought at full price, the game will set you back a shade over a tenner, on both platforms, in the currency of the gods (Euro).
Exorder begins with the standard story/character introduction. The King has died, and his daughter, Beyla(You), has ascended to the throne. Her ascension is, in fact, the combat tutorial. Princess Beyla wins the throne by defeating her brother, Tristan, in a trial of combat. The story won’t grip you, nor will the characters. But then, that’s exactly how it’s intended. Everything about Exorder is made to feel light-hearted. From the cartoony presentation to the simple combat system, Exorder is designed not to be taken seriously.
The story takes us through 12 different missions. Each mission takes place in a different area of the world map and presents its own unique challenge. The unit types are introduced gradually over the campaign, but barely break double digits all told. There are your standard frontline units, ranged units, and shield units or “tanks”. There is some magic, presented especially by the illusionist unit. A specialist who can clone one of your existing units. The clone may then be used as a normal unit, albeit with only a single hit-point of health. The little depth in the strategy comes from unit positioning and determining which enemy to wail on first.
Each mission plays out as a “control point” type scenario. There are houses, castles, and taverns on the map that the player can control. Houses generate income, castles are for buying new units, and taverns allow mercenary units to be recruited. Therefore, taking the enemies buildings for your self-denies them income and units, while gaining the same for yourself. All very straight forward and easy to pick up.
Out of Order
Exorder fails were it should be strongest. A self proclaimed casual strategy game should be easy for newbies to pick up and have fun. However, too often, frustration dominated my playtime, rather than fun. Missions range from walk-through-easy to bang-head-on-wall hard. The AI randomly gets “Ambush” spawns, whereby every turn enemy units appear on the players flanks. This didn’t necessarily force me to “Rage-Quit”, so much as “Cant-be-bothered-Quit”. A light-hearted, fun, and casual, turn based strategy should really aim not to make the player feel cheated. Compounded to this are the ever-frustrating “escort” type missions. I can’t ever recall enjoying an escort mission in a game, and if I never play one again, it will be too soon!
The main campaign can be dealt with in a few hours for a strategy veteran, or, maybe, up to 10 or 12 for a beginner. Once that’s dealt with, Exorder also offers up a Skirmish mode. This can be online, against human opponents, or offline, versus AI. There are 8 skirmish maps, though the world rarely changes dramatically. It’s all green and forested, featuring the occasional river. With the main campaign not worth visiting after a single playthrough, I would have expected a little more depth from the skirmishes. Playing on PC I found it impossible to get an online game, so unless you and a friend are planning to play against each other, you may also expect to struggle.
Exorder can be quite nice to play. The animation is charming, with enemies exploding satisfyingly into coins upon death. What little strategic depth there is comes from unit placement, target selection, and acquiring resources. The campaign, which may seem lengthy, is artificially so; stretched out by a cheating AI system, and not worth revisiting after one play through. I’d find it difficult to recommend at its current cost. Not when most of the Heroes of Might & Magic series are available for less, or the hugely fun Templar Battleforce.
Solid9 have a decent, but unspectacular, entry in the turn-based strategy genre with Exorder. It’s cute, simple style may well suit it better on Nintendo Switch than PC, which is crowded with great strategies. Sadly, being too simple for the strategy fans, and too difficult for the beginners, will leave it floating around the outside of the dancefloor, waiting awkwardly for a partner. GamEir.