I’ve waded into a lot of independent games recently, I find, and there’s such an eclectic mix in this that I really never know what to expect, and that’s a beautiful thing. Sure, it’s often a crap shoot and you end up losing out sometimes, but every now and again you get something that’s fun, original, and simply wouldn’t ever get put together by any big-name studio. By and large, Hexage’s Reaper: Tale of a Pale Swordsman falls into this category for me. A delightful action game with RPG elements backing it up, Reaper has a lot to offer, all glued together with a consistent graphic appeal and some pretty well-built gameplay.
As I mentioned, Reaper: Tale of a Pale Swordsman is primarily an action game, with combat scenes taking place in side-scrolling segments that pit you, as the mysterious pale swordsman, against all manner of enemies. Set on a fantasy continent populated by magic-wielding masked tribes and invading imperial forces bent on conquest, the game includes a pretty wide variety of settings and enemies to choose from. Tribal foes might be supported by magic-wielding ancestral ghosts or rune-covered stones, while the empire’s fearsome machines include helicopters, tanks, and drones. Putting aside the pretty obvious overtones of European-colonized Africa, you get a chance to work for either side of the war at your own discretion, or even for both if you’re so inclined as to sell your sword to anyone with gold (like I was).
The combat in Reaper is pretty straightforward, but has one of the more interesting basic mechanics I’ve encountered in this kind of game. In the image above, a row of skulls adorn the top of the screen; these represent ‘Rage’, which makes the majority of your attacks more powerful at the cost of one Rage per strike. That’s a pretty basic mechanic, you may be thinking, but how does one build up this Rage? By the use of auto-attacks — that is, our intrepid little, uh, “hero” will attack anyone or anything that’s within range all by himself. This means you’re doing a lot of getting in close to attack and build up rage, and storing up for powerful attacks against tougher targets or those that are difficult to take on in close quarters. I absolutely loved this, and it put an interesting bend on my typical strategies, since your controlled attacks are all noticeable weaker if you don’t work for the Rage to fuel them.
Story-wise, there’s not a whole lot of depth to Reaper: Tale of a Pale Swordsman, but if you’re inclined to read through, it’s there. The RPG elements are barebones, offering one skill per level and a varied assortment of equipment from a couple of vendors. The plot is pretty loose and easy, but ultimately the joy of playing comes from the action sequences. These aren’t perfect, mind you, but at a meager $4.99 via Steam, there’s more than enough content here to justify a purchase if you’re into this kind of thing. It may not be life-altering, but it’s fun, and there’s more than a couple of hours of play packed into this delightful, understated gem.
[+Clean, consistent graphics] [+Innovative combat system] [+Great value for the amount of content] [-Weak sound design] [-Story and RPG elements are very basic]