Hoard is one of those genre-defying games that are hard to categorize. It's a bit of a twin-stick shooter … but not really. It's a bit of a strategy game … but not really. It's not a racing sim or a sports game, though, how about we just say that? One thing that's for certain is that you get to play a dragon in the game, and there are far too few games in which you get to be the dragon. You see, the game's title refers to your hoard, as in a big pile of treasure on which to take a comfy nap, and it's your job to make it as big a hoard as possible in the given time.
The game is played on maps that look a lot like they actually belong to an old school RTS game. On these maps are farms, keeps, castles, cities, and all of the usual types of places you'd expect to find in a Medieval fantasy game. Your view of these maps, er, kingdoms is appropriately from a dragon's eye's perspective, or at least a dragon of the flying variety. As the poor souls that inhabit these kingdoms try to go about cultivating crops, growing their towns, and greasing the wheels of commerce, there you are, roasting them to a crisp and helping yourself to the fruits of their labor. That's where the twin-stick shooter aspect of the game comes in – left stick controls your dragon in flight and the right stick your fire breath. However, while you are basically in a state of constant shooting in those types of games, in Hoard you've got to be smart about when you fire your fire. Your fire breath can only be fired in short bursts and once exhausted you'll need to let it recharge. The recharge rate is not so slow that you'll find yourself rarely using it, but it will have you being judicious about when you do.
The basic goal of Hoard, increasing your hoard, is accomplished by torching all of the various towns, structures, and merchant wagons on the map and then grabbing the gold that's left behind. There's more than just burning and pillaging in the game, though. First of all, towns produce archers and castles send out knights, and they don't take too kindly to dragons. There are also wizard's towers that fire energy bolts at passing dragons, but also house tantalizing valuable gems within. There may be another dragon, either AI or player-controlled, to contend with, both as competition for loot and as a rival that won't hesitate to send you down in flames to get its talons on any treasure you're carrying. Also, it's not all about burning things to a crisp – frighten a town into submission and it will send you tribute or kidnap a princess and you'll be paid a handsome ransom if you can keep the knights errant at bay for long enough. Lastly, you'll need to keep an eye on your hoard lest a bold and enterprising thief abscond with a part of it.
The strategy element comes into play in the form of the game's time limit and dragon upgrades. Do you go for high risk, high reward plunder targets or take a workman's approach and try to haul in a long stream of small treasure grabs? If your dragon dies you immediately drop any treasure that you're carrying and face a long trip back to your hoard followed by a delay as your health builds its way back up. On the other hand, if you fail a couple of times, but then manage to bring a large town under your control, the revenue stream could more than make up for the lost time. The upgrades you earn as you make your way through the game also need to be chosen to match your strategy – do you go for longer-lasting fire breath and greater defense or a faster dragon with a higher carrying capacity?
The game comes with a number of maps, designed for both solo and head-to-head play, and a large number of in-game achievements to shoot for, albeit a large proportion of them are simply of the kill x number of that and burn y number of that. Maps are essentially replayable both because they never really play the same way twice and you can always try to beat your previous best loot total on a map. There are a couple of game variants, one of which has you competing with another dragon to be the first to kidnap 15 princesses while being besieged by powered-up knights and another challenges you to try and stay alive as long as possible. Neither of these variants is as enjoyable as the main mode, and you're left wishing that a little more effort was put into providing game variants or missions with different goals beyond simply amassing as much treasure as possible. Still, while Hoard doesn't provide a very deep experience, it is an enjoyable one. It's not the kind of game that will provide you with entertainment for countless hours on end, but it's a nice little diversion now and then … and how many games let you be the dragon anyway?
Final Rating: 82%. Add it to your hoard of PSN games.