By Josh Speer / November 6th, 2018
I like to give every game a fair shake if possible. So I was willing to be patient with a tactics game I didn’t know much about, called Exorder by Fat Dog Games and Solid9 Studio. After all, I generally love the genre, enjoying series such as Advance Wars, Fire Emblem and Final Fantasy Tactics. So when I saw this game had colorful and cartoony graphics, I figured I’d give it a shot.
The game begins with a bit of an animated sequence to set the tone. The king has died, and since he has two heirs, they will face off against each other in epic battle to determine who rules the kingdom. I assumed this would be the beginning of a lengthy contest between the two, but I couldn’t have been more mistaken. Instead, once the intro ends, you go into battle playing the female heir, Beyla, and fighting against her dandy of a brother, Tristan. Here you learn the basics of moving your unit and attacking, though the directions were a bit vague. Thankfully, I was able to figure it out by looking at the UI, and was able to make short work of Tristan’s units. Once I did, I was unceremoniously crowned the queen, and that’s where things started to go wrong. It marked the jumping off point between a reasonable game and one that is totally unforgiving.
Quite simply, other than the introductory battle, I was unable to beat the first stage of Exorder. And before you start saying “git gud” or suggesting I turn down the difficulty, let me remind you I’ve played tons of tactical RPGs, and beaten most of those I own. Hell, I beat all of the modern Fire Emblem games on Hard at least once, so it’s not that I’m not trying hard enough. And regarding turning down the difficulty, that’s sadly not an option. But lest some of you are still unconvinced, I’ll give some context to paint a clearer picture.
The first stage starts by introducing some of the other mechanics. Unlike some of the tactical RPGs I mentioned earlier, in this game your units don’t level up. Additionally, in that stage none of the units present had any special abilities, other than the heavily armored Architect, which can push any unit a few spaces away from it in a single line. Besides that unit, every other unit can only move and attack. There’s not a Defend option, and pretty much each unit has a built in counter attack, including your enemies. Additionally, the only way to heal is to leave a unit on a captured Fort, House or Castle. It’s especially important you capture Forts, since otherwise they will spawn more enemies practically every turn. Houses are just there for healing, and the Castle is the only way to produce more units, using money acquired every turn from your captured territories, or from defeating foes in battle.
On this particular map, the Castle is located pretty much in the middle of the map, adjacent to a narrow passage the enemy has blocked by ballistae. There are several ballistae on the map, but that is the one that prevents you from accomplishing the goal of killing the enemy commander, who dances around mockingly just out of reach. If you recklessly get into ballista range, most of your units will be instantly killed by one shot. If you instead choose to put your main character Beyla in harms way, you’ll face a different problem. If Beyla dies, you immediately lose the stage. So even though she can take a couple shots from the ballistae with her armor, it’s not wise to let her be your meat shield. I wish it was as simple as producing an army of grunts, but as I said, they don’t do much good either, since they die with one shot. This means that the only option is to go the long way around the ballista and try and take it out, but there’s another problem. Behind the ballista and way out of attack range is an enemy Fort, which is constantly spawning Sweeper units to man the ballista. So if you don’t get there fast, you’ll face a wall of enemies protected by nigh impregnable long distance machines. And best of all? You can’t destroy the ballistae, only the foes manning them, and the AI prioritizes taking control of them as soon as possible.
If you decide to take the long route, keep in mind that once you start getting close, enemy units will launch a surprise attack from some bushes and spawn archers to keep you hemmed in. The closest I got to winning was when I sent Beyla and an Architect around the corner, murdered the surprise archers and got her right next to the ballista, but by the time I was ready to launch an all out assault, she got caught in a crossfire between both ballistae and was killed. I didn’t let that stop me, and tried a few other times to prevail, but ultimately gave up after about an hour and change of frustration. After that I decided to try my luck with a Challenge stage, and faced worse issues.
Visually speaking, there’s nothing wrong with Exorder. It’s cartoony and colorful, and mostly visually appealing. There’s even voice acting for the game, though that’s pretty lackluster. Unfortunately, that outer shell masks a deeply broken game that only the most hardcore of fans would enjoy. I don’t mind some challenge, but I feel good games gradually ease you into more and more difficult situations. Playing Exorder was like running into a brick wall from the get go. When you add the fact the UI is not that intuitive, it just makes for a mess. I had hoped to find an enjoyable new tactical RPG on Switch, but as it stands now, this game needs serious fixing before I can recommend it to anyone. I do hope Fat Dog Games takes this criticism as it’s intended, which is to help them make this game better. Until they do, it’s best to avoid this one.
ExorderFat Dog GamesPCRPGSolid9 StudioSwitchTactical