The Lance: A game about a lance…

Well, that’s not entirely accurate. The game is also about a knight, or rather bloodline of knights trying to obtain said lance by defeating the king’s champion in a jousting competition in one of the most overused formats in the flash game world. Again. And again. And again. And that’s about it for Armor Games’ latest hit sitting on a comfortable 8.4 score. Why? Well after investing about 45 minutes into completing the game that remains a mystery to me too.

The game starts quite promisingly with a pretty professional looking start screen and gloomy ambient music to go with it. “The Lance: Legend of the Jouster”. Not so imaginative but hey, neither is “Angry Birds” and I don’t need to start on the epicness of that. Hit the start game button and you get to name your heroic knight that will compete in the king’s championships. Proving my own lack of imagination: Sir Dogbert enters the fray!

A brief intro cinematic sets the scene: more ambient music, a hooded man named as “The first of his bloodline” stands before a sign proclaiming the¬† king’s ‘bi-decadely joust tounament’ and the opportunity to win ‘THE LANCE’. Why a jouster would want to win a lance when he’s just won a jousting tournament with his own I’ll never know. Probably due to the ‘Massive Head Damage’ received in battle (more on this later). Get used to this cinematic because you’re going to be seeing a lot of it…

And it’s downhill from now on. You are thrown into your first match with a basic tutorial introducing you to the concept of the game: clicking and pointing. Followed by more clicking and pointing. And so on. The faster you click, the faster your horse goes so the more damage you do on contact. Then when you reach your oppenent the game goes all matrix slow-mo on you and you get to use a little diagram in the top left of the screen to point the mouse avoiding his shield (which follows your cursor) and his horse (which hitting results in boos from the crowd but little else) whilst aiming for either his head -resulting in ‘massive head damage’ – or body regions -resulting in equally ‘massive body damage’. Rinse and repeat about 50 times and that’s your game complete. You can’t even control your own shield in any way so half the time it’s just down to luck that the enemy hits it or misses completely.

The apparently innovative feature of the game is that whenever you lose a match you lose the tournament and so it is up to your ancestor to win ‘THE LANCE’ (confetti and all). And so we see our favourite cutscene every time we lose always saying not so dramatically “20 years later…” and “Father I will avenge you” in what appears to be Spanish. To add that exotic touch to the game despite everything else being in English. Perfect sense.

That being said you will only ever lose on your 5th match in a row against the champion unless you have never picked up a mouse in your life before. And it’s not even a case of improving your skill because by the 5th match you will be as skillful as you can ever be at a point and click game. It’s just a case of leveling up and improving your equipment through gold and experience won in battles. Sound familiar? I’m not surprised because it is one of the most over-used concepts in gaming. And yet they still can’t do it right…

First of all I should point out that I’m not even sure of the concept of levels in this game. From playing through the entire game, destroying my left mouse button in the process, your level seems to have little impact on your ability. When your opponent is a higher level they seem to be better at protecting with their sheild so I’m assuming this is what is done for you as well but having beaten the level 25 champion with a level 11 character it really does not seem to have a great effect. Worse still, in order to gain experience the developers thought it would be a bright idea to only gain experience through your equipment which after a while becomes ‘mastered’ and no longer able to acquire experience, forcing you to buy new kit if you want to pointlessly increase your level further. I’m not entirely sure how you can ‘master’ the use of a helmet, I always thought once you’d learnt which way round it went you’d pretty much gained all the skills required to wear one…

Speaking of equipment it too is a bit of a mystery. You can upgrade your helmet, body and shield to make them more durable. And you can upgrade your horse and lance to do more damage. So far so good. But items are also given different weights with higher weights appearing to cost more. I would think this means that you can do more damage but then why not just increase the level of the weapon / horse? And the horse itself has very little effect in gameplay. Having upgraded my horse from the most basic to a more middling one it had practically no effect on speed travelled at and hence damage done. Go figure. With the amount of gold spent on upgrading it I could have just bought ‘THE LANCE’ and left the champion to age another 20 years (by my calculations he was at least 150 years old by the time I completed the game… no wonder I won).

So that’s “The Lance” for you. If I can give any praise to it it would be for it’s music which seems highly fitting for the medieval setting, lutes and all. It is free so if you have 45 minutes to kill and there aren’t any freshly painted walls nearby then you could do worse than give it a go (here). Just make sure you have a durable left mouse button cause you’re going to be mashing it. A lot.

Rating: F

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