Having seen Zack Snyder’s 300, a film that contains more gym-pumped, fake-tanned flesh than an Essex nightclub and should, let’s face it, have been called Big Strong Boys With Swords, it’s natural to want to know more about Hoplite warriors.
A citizen army of free soldiers who bought their own armour and marched, fought and even camped in a tight-knit formation known as a phalanx, the Hoplites were among the first recognisable soldiers, and their history is indeed fascinating. You will learn none of it from playing Hoplite, but you should still play it, because it's fun.
let there be hoplite
The one historical fact that makes it into Hoplite is that you, the titular Greek, carry both a sword and a spear. Real Hoplites didn’t actually throw their spears - in real life, throwing one’s weapon away mid-battle is a fantastically bad idea - but you can throw yours. You can throw it about three squares.
Hoplite is basically a board game. You advance a square (a hexagon, actually) at a time across 16 boards, each of which represents one level of an increasingly hostile dungeon. On your way you encounter several different types of enemy, each of whom can attack across a particular pattern of squares, just like chess pieces. This sounds dull, but it isn’t. Seriously, Hoplite is excellent fun.
Yes, there are more exciting games out there. Lots of them. Hoplite is slow, and strategic, and most of what’s on screen is brown. It actually has a mode you can switch on to make the graphics worse. But the simple mechanics of its combat are very well thought out: tap on an archer or a magician and you’ll see the squares you can’t land on without getting shot or fireballed, and it takes real planning, sometimes a few moves ahead, to take out the demon soldiers without being hit by ranged attacks. After clearing out each level you can refresh your health or choose a power-up from the altar, extending your skills of Leaping (jumping a couple of squares) and Bashing (pushing foes or bombs away from you).
As the number of foes increases, Hoplite becomes a harder, more interesting puzzle, until you reach the fabled Level 16, capture the Golden Fleece and realise you’ve missed an important meeting because you were playing Hoplite on the toilet. The action stops there, unless you want to pay for an extended version, but the free version will see you through a week’s worth of commutes. Bear in mind that this game was built in a week (developer Magma Fortress built it for the 7-Day Roguelike Challenge, a contest to build old-school dungeon games in one week), and it's actually pretty impressive.
HERE'S ANOTHER FREE GAME!: Smash Hit
AND ANOTHER ONE!!: Beneath a Steel Sky
AND YET ANOTHER!!!: WolfQuest 2.5