Review by: J.M. Vargas
"KIRK CAMERON'S FINEST ROLE EVER!"
Crystal Dynamics divided some of its first-generation 3DO titles into exclusive deals when the time came for the PSX/Saturn conversions: the PSX got an enhanced version of the shooter "Total Eclipse", and the Saturn got a Saturn-exclusive sequel ("Solar Eclipse") and the title we'll discuss today, the action/strategy game "The Horde". The oldest 3DO title ever ported to Saturn, at its time of release (May of 1995) this game symbolized the then-hot meeting of Hollywood and Silicon Valley with expensive FMV segments featuring major talent: Kirk Cameron playing Chauncey (your alter ego) and Michael Gregory as the High Chancellor that, grateful for being saved from certain death by Chauncey, grants the young man an allotment of land for him to manage. That's a step up for Chauncey, who was raised by cows and stumbled into this relation with the High Chancellor more or less by accident.
Most of the game is played in a 3/4 perspective similar to that of "Captain Quazar" and "Sonic 3D Blast". Called the Shimto Plains, Chauncey needs to encourage the development of the region's agricultural resources of the kingdom's five different regions. He must also impose his Chancellor-given mandate over the communities living in those regions in order to encourage the immigration of more villagers who will work the fields (which will mean more revenues in taxes for the King's coffers). Problem? Chauncey must also protect the region from viscous red carnivore beasts called Hordes (which look like your typical RPG monster) that like to eat people, field crops and cattle (the most valuable resource). So, how does this agricultural resource management simulator for the Saturn compare to the similarly-themed SNES game "Harvest Moon", just recently released?
GRAPHICS / VISUALS: C-
Considering the game didn't have "WOW" factor back in the 1995 days of Jaguar and 3DO, the Saturn version just doesn't look that hot. The 3/4" perspective has gotten a well-deserved reputation for being tough an accurate control, and this game is no exception. When Chauncey is moving around slaying Hordes, the screen's choppy scrolling is just as bad as it was on 3DO. The sprites and terrain look a lot like an alpha version of the "Captain Quazar" engine, with the highlight being the pile of squashed meat that the Hordes become once they're on Chauncey's bad side. Cartoony carnage galore!
The hammy FMV sequences, which are well acted and hilarious all the way through, have received a slight upgrade from the rainbow-like look of the 3DO original. Better frame-rate, more colors, and equally-cramped letterboxing. No game is worth buying or seeing just for FMV segments, but "The Horde" and "Off-World Interceptor Extreme" (both from Crystal Dynamics) are Saturn titles worthy of an exception.
MUSIC / SOUND EFFECTS: B
Medieval tunes with a sleepy beat that fits the period-piece perfectly, and would be quite enjoyable if the music itself weren't such a cliche' from all the TV and movie pieces dealing with the time period (any film set in a medieval era); the music sounds like the one in Crystal's "Pandemonium" on Prozac and warm milk...sleepy!
Sound effects, on the other hand, are beautiful and fit the tasks at hand: the audio sample of Chauncey's sword clashing against another object is reminiscent of that heard in another Crystal D. game, "Legacy of Kain", and the belching of the Hordes as they devour cattle and people deserve special mention for their clarity and off-the-wall goofiness. Since most of the time you'll be doing tasks that require minimum audio (agricultural task management), the audio heard through the game is just above serviceable.
GAMEPLAY / FUN FACTOR: D+
Fans of "Dragon Force" or "Command & Conquer" with time on their hands and very little money on their pocket could have a decent amount of fun with the wacky antics taking place in the Shimto Plains. Chauncey starts with very little money and life on the health bar, and only by successfully developing the fields and fending off the attacks of the Horde will he be able to get the human and financial resources to plan and strategize his way to the King's court. The five regions are different enough that the strategy for one may not suit another. The mountain region is filled with water resources that make it more attractive for immigrants seeking to move and start cultivating right away, which means Chauncey can spend more money on the defense of the region. On the other hand, the desert region needs a lot of water that must be acquired either by making ponds, lakes and/or water canals between plantations; hard work that may not yield enough resources to encourage development and massive immigration to take place. Other variables to consider: season-to-season changes in the weather of each individual region (it might be snowing in one and raining on another), the hiring of armed Knights to protect villagers from Horde attacks, the scarce and expensive cost of meat (the most valuable resource), etc.
Although all of the above are nice points that sell the game to those inclined to accept resource management games, some of us just can't get into this type of genre and thus no amount of features can turn us on. If you like this type of game, "The Horde" relies on its gameplay to provide some fun and excitement that the rudimentary visuals just can't convey. Those of us who crave our gaming thrills elsewhere will let the game be judged by itself.
For $15 or a weekend, "The Horde" is a fine but dated simulator that has a narrow appeal to a particular type of gamer that can't get enough of quality titles like "Command & Conquer". Is it really as lackluster and underwhelming a 3DO port as this review makes it seem? Let me put it this way: how many other Saturn gamers have posted reviews of "The Horde" on this site? Exactly!