Sword of Sodan
|Sword of Sodan|
Discovery Software (Amiga)|
Discovery Software (Amiga)|
Electronic Arts (Genesis)
|Designer(s)||Søren Grønbech, Torben B. Larsen|
|Platform(s)||Amiga, Sega Genesis, Macintosh, Apple IIGS*|
|Genre(s)||Hack and Slash|
Sword of Sodan is a hack and slash video game released for the Amiga game system in 1989 by Discovery Software. In 1993 it was also released for the Apple Macintosh System 7 by Bethesda Softworks, and Electronic Arts released a scaled-down port version for the Sega Genesis in 1990. A nearly finished port was written for the Apple IIGS in 1989, but not made public until 2018.
Set in a fictional medieval time, Lordan is the ruler of the northern kingdom. Zoras, an evil necromancer, is in his tower made of human bones, planning to make a second attempt to overthrow Lordan, after his first attempt was defeated by Sodan, the hero.
Zoras studied ancient parchments where he learned to experiment with long forgotten spells. His new knowledge enabled him to conjure all kinds of nightmarish creatures, which he sent marching towards Lordan's castle, leaving a path of death and destruction.
To protect his twin children, son Brodan and daughter Shardan, Lordan arranged for them to be taken from the castle across the Cthol mountains to the farthest corner of the land. After Lordan's defeat and death at Zoras' hands, his children were raised by an old, bitter man, who also trained them in the art of sword combat.
Before they start their journey to defeat Zoras, the old man hands over to them the sword of Sodan. Armed with the sword, they fight their way to castle Craggamoor and face the tyrannical Zoras. After they defeat Zoras, the people accept them as the true rulers and saviors of the land.
There are two playable characters: Brodan or his twin sister Shardan, whose gameplay characteristics are identical despite their physical differences. The character walks in a horizontally scrolled world from left to right, defeating enemies with their sword, wielded either standing or kneeling. Though the player is also equipped with a shield, it is merely for decoration. It was completely removed from the Sega Genesis version.
Before each level starts, a map appears, showing the player's progress through the land on their way to castle Craggamoor. Scrolls give additional information about the current location. Once the player enters the castle, the map is replaced by a gloomy picture of an outside view of the castle. Most of the levels consist of simply fighting enemies with the sword, but sometimes the player must avoid traps or solve puzzles.
The player starts with five lives, an energy meter and a hit strength level. A player's energy is reduced every time they are hit by enemies, but their hit strength can be increased by using potions. There are different types of potions. Some increase hit strength, some give an extra life, some provide short-term invincibility, while still others kill the current opponent immediately.
There are eleven different areas, five in the area surrounding the castle, and six within. The player starts at their own city gate, and progresses through the countryside towards the castle, passing through city streets, a forest and a graveyard. Once within the castle, the player wanders through catacomb-like levels, which lead to the wizard's tower at the end. The world is inhabited by 13 different enemies and a single supporting character, the ostrich-like creature called "the animal".
While the gameplay mechanic is very similar to the Amiga version, there are several differences. First, enemies attack from both directions, instead of the single direction in the Amiga game. Second, the player relies more regularly on potions, which are also dropped more frequently. Third, the areas have been reduced from eleven to eight, with some completely deleted (e.g. the forest), while others combined. Finally, there are only eight enemies, as opposed to the thirteen in the Amiga game, however, the enemies are spawned more frequently, and in different areas.
Sword of Sodan was created by three Danish engineers from Discovery Software in 1989. Two years later Innerprise Software created a scaled-down port of for the Sega Genesis system which differs in reduced graphics and sound quality, as well as notable changes in overall gameplay. The Genesis port was published by Electronic Arts. The game was again ported in 1993 by Bethesda Softworks for the Apple Macintosh System 7.
Unreleased port and sequel
A partially completed port for the Apple IIGS was advertised and shown at the CES Expo in 1989 by Visual Concepts, Ltd. Playable with a joystick, it was approximately 70% complete. Soon after, a three level self-playing demo was released and displayed in stores, virtually indistinguishable from the Amiga version in terms of graphics and animation fluidity. However, a conflict arose which forced Discovery Software to fire their Apple II developer, causing a delay while a replacement programmer could be found. Eventually, a new programmer was hired and development was set to be resumed but unforeseen circumstances would follow when Discovery Software went bankrupt in 1990. Despite these developments, appearing in magazines ads, and the game being included on vendor's price lists, the port was abruptly canceled and never released. Nearly 30 years later, on May 26, 2018, the unreleased Apple IIGS port was unearthed and made public, revealing an entirely playable and very polished version of the game. It was revealed all levels are present, however four are unfinished (missing enemy sprites) while the final boss stage has a sprite glitch. The Apple IIGS source code, required to complete programming of the game, has still yet to be found.
A sequel was developed but never released, however a single screenshot was shown in a magazine.
According to programmer Søren Grønbech's homepage, Sword of Sodan on the Amiga was at the top 10 selling charts for more than six months and selling about 55,000 copies. Due the violent nature of the game, it was indexed by the German BPjS/BPjM in 1989.
The original 1988 release for Amiga got mostly favorable reviews by the magazines, with praise for the graphics, which included large, detailed sprites, unusual for that time. However, the budget re-release in 1993 was met with negative reviews. For the Sega version, websites like I-Mockery.com or Somethingawful.com mocked the game for its bad graphics, annoying sound effects, frustrating controls and difficult gameplay.
Amiga 1989 reviews:
- "If you buy one Amiga action game this year, this has got be it." – 9/10
- "I was well pleased with Sword of Sodan. – 85%
- "If you're looking for a big game, they don't come any more impressive than this" – 83%
- "It's a shame then that the gameplay doesn't live up to the standards set by the aesthetics." – 62%
- Computer Gaming World gave the game a positive review, praising the game's graphics and sound but noting the game is relatively short.
Amiga 1993 reviews (budget re-release):
- "Pity, but the graphics have overtaken the gameplay." – 52%
- "Don't be swayed by the half-decent static screenshots, because Sword of Sodan is crap." – 34%
- "Great big fat and juicy graphics do not make a fun game." – 29%
Sega Genesis reviews:
- "Just walking around slashing things with your chopper is exceptionally monotonous after a couple of plays." – 57%
- "Even the first level requires mastery of the crappy controls, and the game is just too damn boring to warrant enough repeated attempts to get "good" at it." – 46% (somethingawful.com)
- "Visuals on the IIGS reach a boggling new high with Discovery Software's Sword of Sodan. It's another hack-and-slash action game but with hugh on-screen characters, remarkable graphic detail, and outstanding digitized sound effects."
- Summarized from the Amiga manual
- "What is the Apple IIGS? > Unreleased Games > Sword of Sodan". Whatisthe2gs.apple2.org.za. Retrieved 2013-07-28.
- "Virtual Apple 2 – Online disk archive – Sword of Sodan Demo". Virtualapple.org. Retrieved 2013-07-28.
- Computer + Video Games 90 Magazine (Apr 1989)
- "Sodan.dk". Sodan.dk. Retrieved 2013-07-28.
- AUI Vol 2 No 10 (Oct 1988)
- Computer + Video Games 90 (Apr 1989)
- CU Commodore User Amiga-64 (Mar 1989)
- The One for 16-bit Games 6 (Mar 1989)
- Rohrer, Kevin C. (May 1989), "Sodan Impact", Computer Gaming World, p. 23
- Amiga Format 47 (June 1993)
- The One Amiga 56 (May 1993)
- Amiga Power 27 (Jul 1993)
- Computer + Video Games 112 (Mar 1991)
- "Sword of Sodan". Somethingawful.com. 2008-06-11. Retrieved 2013-07-28.
- A+ Magazine (April 1989)
- 123 games with untapped franchise potential, GamesRadar US, April 30, 2009
- Katz, Arnie (April 1989). "Sword of Sodan". Amiga User. pp. 39–40. Retrieved 25 April 2015.