Zelda coined a lot of my adventure game experience over time. I started out playing Ocarina of Time on the N64 but I didn’t even finish it. Eventually, I ended up playing through Phantom Hourglass and Spirit Tracks with Spirit Tracks probably being one of my favourite titles in the franchise. Eventually, I played Zelda II: The Adventure of Link, A Link to the Past, Four Swords and Minish Cap. Out of those four games, Minish Cap is probably my favourite, but regardless of the title, I had a lot of fun playing the games. I even enjoyed Skyward Sword which a lot of people didn’t like. And just like how I enjoyed them, a bunch of other people liked the games, too, obviously, which is why the game inspired a bunch of Zelda-lites and other adventure games that try to follow into its steps – like the game I’m reviewing today, Skjoldur Story.
Developer: Snoozing Pixel LLC Publisher: Snoozing Pixel LLC Genre: Adventure, Puzzle, Pixel Graphics, Open World Release Date: April 30th, 2021 Reviewed on: PC Available on: PC Copy was sent by the developer.
Skjoldur Story could be best described as a Zelda-like game that only gives you a shield. You’re a Viking that crashes onto some sort of island group and as you enter a temple, you’re awarded a powerful shield… and nothing else. There is a basic tutorial telling you how to play the game. You can still bash an enemy’s skull with your shield but the main focus of the game lies around using the enemies’ strengths to your advantage and utilizing their elements to solve puzzles, beat enemies, or unlock shortcuts.
The controls are quite simple with a button to block and a button to attack. Holding one of the buttons enables you to absorb enemy attacks like slimeballs or boomerangs. Some deal damage while others (like tornadoes) can be used to traverse gaps and get to a different part of the map. I find this concept quite interesting and it kind of reminded me of the Kirby games. In one part, there is a big slime that spawns small slimes and if you beat it quickly, you absorb its power to create friendly slimes that shoot enemies for you, which is quite cool. At the same time, you’ll have to explore the map and figure out the layout or where exactly to find the loot that you require.
I found the blocking to be quite annoying, though, with some attacks getting through and the shield not behaving really like it would in other games. I mean, if an enemy hits your shield, I would expect it to stop in its path or to get knocked back. Instead, there are these spinning enemies that just continue and can hurt you when they touch you. At the same time, there are times where you block but it’s the wrong button and it looks like you’re blocking but attacks can still go through… or you want to absorb an attack but it’s not the sort of attack that can be blocked, which is frustrating or annoying even.
Pair that with the frustrating game difficulty and you’re in for a bad time. I think my main issue is that when you start the game up, you can select between “easy” and “normal”. Naturally, I’d go for “normal” but now you take full heart damage from all enemies when you’re only at three hearts total. Potions are rare as hell, compared to the hearts in Zelda games. At the same, you cannot change the difficulty anymore and you need to start a new save file to get a save file on easy, which sucks. It’s like a noob trap where you’d think that “normal” should be the intended difficulty but it’s labelled in the wrong way. I’d expect “easy” to have invincibility maybe while “normal” makes enemies deal half a heart of damage and “hard” would have the current “normal” setting, essentially. When you get very far ahead and die, you end up spawning in the middle of the map and have to make your way back to where you were which is annoying and frustrating. Pair that with achievements that may feel mocking for dying a bunch of times and… I got annoyed very fast. A quick fix for this would be to give you more heals or to label the difficulty differently. I’d also love it if you could change the difficulty along the way under accessibility or if you could skip the tutorial in the beginning part of the game. It’d be a great quality of life change.
I remember Zelda 2 to be quite punishing and hard but maybe that’s just my mind playing tricks to me. Calling Skjoldur Story a Zelda-lite makes you seem that it’s targeted at kids potentially or that it gives you nice puzzles and relatively easy combat that ramps up in difficulty over time… but instead, it’s a hard experience overall with nice puzzles. The puzzles feel good, don’t get me wrong, but it’s just frustrating when you don’t make any progress because enemies got you down to low health again.
And while the game is pretty and has nice music in it, it’s a bit annoying that it copies some of the sounds from the Zelda games. Picking up coins sounds like picking up rubies in the Zelda games. Being on low health gives you that super annoying alarm sound that the Zelda titles have… I probably wouldn’t have minded the sound similar to rubies all that much but adapting the most annoying feature of the Zelda franchise as well is just silly. At the same time, there is another annoying bit about the game: You may need certain upgrades as you go on like faster movement speed, an enhanced attack, more health, or others that can be acquired via shops. The prices, however, were very steep in my opinion, especially as money doesn’t always drop from enemies. Again, the Zelda games had more Ruby drops. This game doesn’t. The shop feature is very heavily inspired by Zelda… the money’s drop rate isn’t handled that well.
To sum it all up, I wanna say that I loved the puzzles in Skjoldur Story and that I like its premise. It’s a bummer that it isn’t executed well enough in my opinion. Taking inspiration is fine but creating an echo of an older game is bad design. The puzzles, again, are unique and interesting, but I would have loved to see interesting ideas throughout the game. The game itself is not bad… it’s just not well-made, which is a bummer. I’d give it another update or review if there are some tweaks to it. The developer that provided me with a key can message me anytime about it and I’ll check it out again in the future. For now though, no recommendation here.