Can you swipe your orc to glory?
Genre: Simulation, Strategy,
Developer: James K. Isaac
Publisher: James K. Isaac
Release date: 17 Mar, 2020
Card swipers are an interesting sub-genre. You really don’t do much more than answer a series of either/or questions, yet despite their seeming simplicity, games like Reign has really managed to carve out a niche for themselves. A niche that Green: An Orc’s Life wants to be a part of.
Green: An Orc’s Life is a simple game. The game presents a situation for you, and then you pick between two choices. Depending on what choice you went for, some stats will change. And then you just keep doing this, until one of your stats gets so low that the character you’re playing dies. Once your character dies, the game starts over.
Story & Setting
In Green: An orc’s Life you play as an orc, in a fantasy setting. Your life starts as a baby, working your way up the ranks in orc society, and through cunning, strength and a bit of luck, you’ll hopefully be able to expand beyond that.
The setting in Green should be familiar to anyone who’s read fantasy or played RPGs, as it borrows heavily from Tolkien, as well as Forgotten Realms and Warhammer. The typical fantasy elements are here, like orcs, elves, dwarves, halflings and so on, and they work exactly as you would expect. The dwarves like to live underground, halflings like good food, and humans have a big empire. And in the middle of all this, you have the orcs, who enjoy fighting and respect strength more than anything else.
As is typical for card swipers, it’s not the setting itself that’s the important part, but the stories that end up being told through your actions. In one game you might be able to form a huge orcish empire, where orcish boar riders terrorize anyone who does not bow to your will, in another game your tribe of orcs might be subjugated by a band of Cyclopes, and you spend the game trying to resist their control. And sometimes a just end up dying early on, having accomplished absolutely nothing.
Graphics & Sound
To say that Green: An Orc’s Life is a great looking game would be a very obvious, and blatant, lie. Through the game, you’ll stare at the same basic screen, consisting of a static background image of a few orcs, with some ugly UI elements on top of it, covering most of the art. These UI elements look like parchment or wood, with white text, and white bars, or tiny icons. The only part that changes is a single large card, which has some artwork and text on it. The art on these cards ranges from good enough, to quite bad. Some art has very thick and messy looking lines, other art is weirdly cropped, and yet some other look stretched or squashed. It’s also not uncommon for the image on these cards to bob back & forth, which does not help the overall impression.
There’s also a bit of a readability issue with some of the cards. Having text on top of an image can make it harder to read than it should be, and sometimes the text gets cut off. When you select an action for a card, some text will be displayed at the top of it, and sometimes parts of the first line of text will not be visible. For people with bad eyesight, the white text on the light parchment might also be harder to read than it should be.
The game has music, which neither sounds good nor bad. It’s there, and without it, the game would likely feel empty, but it won’t really impress anyone. The sound effects though are a bit annoying. You get what’s supposed to sound like orc noise when you make choices, and these sound clips go on for a bit too long.
In Green you’re presented with a series of choices, and at any time you’re given a choice, you can choose between one out of two different options. Depending on your choice, different stats may go up or down, and sometimes your success (or lack thereof) will depend on certain stats. The game won’t tell the exact outcome of your actions, but it’s usually not too hard to figure out roughly what will happen, and what stats are important.
Green: An Orc’s Life is very open about being inspired by Reigns, another card swiper where you make a series of either/or choices, but where reigns has 4 parameters you need to worry about, that represents different aspects of your nation, Green has a 10, four of which represents your tribe, and six that represents your characters. You still need to keep an eye on your tribe’s values, but when it comes to deciding what actions you can perform successfully, your character stats are usually the deciding factor. And if certain stats get too low, your character will die.
To help you along the way you also have an inventory with single-use items. These will raise some stats when you use them, and they also persist between characters, so deciding if you want to use them with your current character, or save them for your next character is a choice you’ll have to make. The bonuses these give are usually quite minor, but they can at times be the differences between success and defeat.
Comparisons between Green and Reigns are inevitable. In fact, the developers openly say that this is similar to reigns. Green lacks the clean art style of reigns, and often comes off as being a bit messy, and hard to read. This is made worse by unnecessary animations, poor contrast between text & background and text being cut off.
Green does have a big leg up on Reigns in one area though, and that’s with the stories it tells. The possible events feel quite varied, and you often have past decisions come back and haunt you. In one of my games, I early on ran into a group of cyclopes and tried to attack them, only to fail, and they kept returning through the game. The game ended when my character as old and wounded, and a cyclops was able to best him and take control of my orcish empire. In another game, I turned my orcish empire into a naval power, discovering islands inhabited by orcs that had been cut off from the world for a long time, and incorporating them into the empire. It was at times like these that the game was at its best. After a while, events did start to repeat though, but they still felt like there was less repetition than in Reigns.
Green: An Orc’s Life is a tough game to recommend to everyone. It’s rough and at times really ugly. But fans of card swipers, like Reigns, who want something with a different theme will likely enjoy how it builds its narratives, and for them, those rough edges might not be such a big deal. But for those who are not already fans of the genre, the initial impression Green gives off might be enough to make them not want to explore the genre further.