Depending on how you view it, Dad by the Sword is either a very niche game or a broadly appealing title.
Rocketcat Games’ Kepa Auwae prefers to keep an optimistic perspective.
“Lots of people are dads, lots of people like dads,” he said. “Dad’s are funny. I’ve got a dad, my dad’s funny.”
Dad by the Sword drops players in the jean shorts of “your dad” as he makes his way through a dungeon, using a claymore to slice up “anti-dads.” His ultimate goal is to get to the bottom of the dungeon.
“There is an infinity nut there,” Auwae said. “It’s a dad artifact that is an endless source of salted snacks.”
“It’s good character motivation.”
The premise might lead you to believe that this is simple, easy-to-play game. But it draws its name from the Treyarch’s 1998 punishingly hard action adventure game Die by the Sword.
In that game, players were given the option of taking direct control of the character’s sword arm with mouse or joystick movements. While the direct control allowed for more subtle moves, it also made successfully attacking and defending much harder.
Dad by the Sword features the same first-person perspective and one-to-one mouse controls.
“No one else has done really accurate sword controls lately,” Auwae said. “It’s like we got into Dark Messiah of Might and Magic sword controls and we never left.
“Skyrim is Dark Messiah of Might and Magic controls except a little worse. Dying Light is Dark Messiah of Might and Magic except you need to unlock different perks, they even have the Dark Messiah kick.”
And why combine a dad-driven plot with Die by the Sword controls?
“The designer of the game, Chip Whiteman, I think he has a thing for dads or something,” Auwae said. “That’s the best I can tell you.”
Including Whiteman, there are seven currently working on the game.
If my short time with the game is anything to go on, Dad by the Sword has the controls for Die by the Sword down pat. You can’t just hold down the mouse button and swipe with the mouse to attack. You have to factor in the backswing and time the move to make sure you get a powerful swing. When it lands on an armored enemy it can damage or break away pieces of the defense. When it lands on unprotected flesh things get bloody. Swinging too often will quickly wear out your sword, which goes flaccid, the point hanging limply by your wrist.
The endurance concern mixed with the need for precise controls to do any damage makes for fun combat. I found myself pushing forward with an attack and then quickly retreating to reconfigure my next attack. The clangs of steel on steel were occasionally punctuated by a lucky hit, lopping head, arm, leg from body.
The game features eight creature types, each just as off-kilter as the premise and objects.
They include worm wizards, shorts-men and dancing hot dogs. Some of those dancing hot dogs appear to have unicorn horns.
“There are hot dogs in the game and the hot dogs have sick dance moves,” Auwae said. “All of the enemies are random so when some of the enemies get different parts it gives them new moves. You can get a hot dog with wings and the hot dogs with wings can fly a little bit.”
Each of the enemy types have three color variations to connote their degree of difficulty. The enemies all have randomly generated armor, either light or heavy.
“You can tell both by sight,” Auwae said. “The heavy is plate armor and the light is slatted wood.”
Each color increase in an enemy brings with it a 50 percent to 100 percent increase in health and armor toughness.
“For the blue guys, a light armor takes one hit to break and heavy armor takes three,” he said. “Or you could just look for skin areas. If they have no helmet on you can slice their head clean off. If they don’t have arm armor you can slice their arm off. Or you can chop off a leg.”
The game is procedurally generated and has no save points.
“If you die, you go all of the way back to the beginning, we don’t have checkpoints like Spelunky does,” Auwae said. “Another difference is that the first area of a map is always the same and the last is always the same but the middle three are always randomized so you’re not stuck playing the same level over and over again.”
The game will also include dad accessories which can be activated with the right mouse button.
“It’s kind of like the items in the Binding of Issac, the space bar items,” he said. “You kill enemies to raise your item energy and when you have item energy you can use it. So it’s things like bowling balls. You can throw a bowling ball to trip people up.
“There’s a gun. Dad’s like guns. It’s a revolver with six shots. There’s a lawnmower and you can be like in that one Peter Jackson movie [Dead Alive] and chop everyone up.”
The game is due out on Linux, Mac and Windows later this year for $20.