Lornsword is a rare thing, an RTS with local split-screen co-op and battles that you control with a gamepad. It’s a game about building bases to generate warriors, who then form an orderly queue and march towards the enemy base to fight and die one after the other until sheer force of numbers overwhelms the foe. Tower Five has made something strange but quite satisfying—it sits somewhere between Age of Empires and Lemmings.
You play as a commander, who behaves as a sort of mouse cursor. You can hold Y to summon buildings and purchase upgrades by standing on attached glyphs. Once you’ve got a steady stream of skirmishers, archers and mages pouring onto the battlefield you can hold the right trigger to borrow some of them as a personal escort and run around solving problems. Enemies menacing a farm? Grab a dozen lads and dash over there. If you’re really stuck you can summon spirits temporarily to zap enemies with fire magic, or tear down buildings with stone golem attacks.
Once your base is up and running your job is primarily to curate your neverending creep wave. I’ve found that you can use your power to commandeer a small squad to turn your queue of warriors into a big lump that stands more chance of overwhelming enemy guard towers. I grab some guys from the back of the queue and motor them up to the front where I release them so they can plod to their collective doom with some company.
I feel more like a battle taxi than a commander, but it is quite good fun. It’s always appealing to see hordes of tiny pretend people smash into each other even if there isn’t much tactical nuance to the fight. You can jump in and slash some enemies with your sword, but it isn’t advisable, there’s always something more useful you can be doing with your time.
I’m a few missions into the campaign, and can see myself continuing during lunch breaks to see how big battles can get. There are some problems, though. I wish there was a way to speed up time to skip past the part where I know there’s no way the enemy can win, but it will take a while for my forces to grind through each building one by one.
Directing your forces is clunky too. When you construct a building it links up with the nearest chain of waypoints, and every soldier who spawns there will follow that chain. Once the enemy base at the end of the chain is rubble, I can’t find a way to redirect those troops to a different route, short of tearing down the building and setting up another one near a different waypoint. It’s a chore.
It’s an unusual take on real-time strategy, though. The pad controls work, and the game cleverly uses glyphs to replace UI elements that would normally require a mouse. Lornsword is in Early Access now, and is worth a look if you're interested in the idea of a niche hybrid game that toys with the RTS formula.