Real Time Strategy games and consoles generally don’t mix well. A handful of buttons and a couple of analog sticks just don’t emulate the feel of a keyboard and mouse when it comes to the RTS genre. There’s just too much going on all at once. Too many troops to micro-manage, to many resources to mine, too many enemy bases to destroy, and too many dimensions (three) to move through.
But what if you simplified that formula and put it on the Wii? What if there were only a handful of troops that managed themselves, one resource to mine, never more than a few bases to destroy, and everything was given to you from a 2-d sidescrolling perspective? And the pointer could be used exactly as a mouse pointer. Would it work?
Ronimo Games, the team behind the original gameplay concept that became what we know as de Blob, proves that it works, and it works extremely well.
The gameplay concept behind Swords & Soldiers is to make the game as simple and fun as possible while requiring decent amounts of strategic coordination and skill to overcome various challenges, giving the game a very pick up and play feel that also presents a feeling of accomplishment when the player completes each task at hand.
There are three campaigns for the player to conquer; Viking, Aztec, and Chinese. When you first start a new game the only available campaign will be the Viking, which, after completion, will unlock the Aztec campaign, which, of course, unlocks the Chinese conquest after completion.
All campaigns are played on the same overworld map against the same opposing races, but each has its own unique story and progression through the overworld map with several points of battle along the way. The objective for most battles is to destroy the enemy’s base, but in some challenges you’ll find yourself having to survive for a certain amount of time, or you’ll be required to destroy multiple objectives.
A good example of each variation can be found in the Viking campaign. There is one instance in where you are tasked with destroying a mind-controlling Chile pepper before you can progress through to destroy the Aztec base. Shortly after that fight you find yourself fending off the Chinese until your barbecue sauce, which just so happens to attract hordes of huge-breasted, gold-digging babes, is completed so you can throw a barbecue meat party.
Did I mention the game has a great sense of humor?
Going along greatly with the game’s comedic attitude is the colorful cartoony visual presentation and an art style that adds tons of personality to every character through your quest, whichever one it is. Accompanying the fun art style is a stellar orchestral soundtrack which gives the game an epic feel in a lighthearted manner as well as bits of comedic voice-acting throughout. All sound effects fit perfectly. The only gripe I had is that the Chinese rockets make no sound during impact.
Perhaps the biggest innovation with Swords & Soldiers is the side-scrolling 2-d perspective. This is a far cry from the top-down view RTS games are traditionally played in and proves to be a refreshing new take on the genre that works surprisingly well.
Turning the playing field on its side does have some drawbacks, though. Troops tend to scrunch together during particularly heated battles, making it difficult to cast spells on the right unit. It also makes it hard to monitor your troops’ health making it a struggle to tell tell who is winning a skirmish. Aside from this, the new perspective also detracts a little from the available depth, making the overall experience far more shallow than, say, Command & Conquer or Warcraft III.
Another aspect that detracts from the overall gameplay depth is that you don’t control units. Once they are summoned they constantly move towards the enemy base, attacking whichever enemies stand between them and their goal automatically. The only thing you have direct control over is the casting of spells.
But while this does present a more shallow RTS experience, it also presents a far more hectic and fun experience that is also very accessible. Keep in mind that when I say shallow I don’t mean a it’s boring or bad in any way, there just isn’t the great amounts of depth found in PC RTS games.
Outside of the three major single player campaigns is the ability to go head-to-head with a friend or play a single-player skirmish. The multiplayer is a hectic and light-heartedly competitive experience that provides for plenty of trash talk between buds, and the multiplayer skirmishes are really great for practicing against other races to master their combat styles if you are having trouble in the campaign. Also adding to entertainment value is the inclusion of 25 unique Achievements which provide incentive for replay experiences.
Unfortunately there is no online component to speak of, which is a real shame because online play would be excellent for this game’s multiplayer matchups. Online tracking of your achievements or leaderboards would’ve been a fantastic addition to the game, but without it there is very little reason to accomplish all achievements other than just for the personal satisfaction.
Ronimo Games has a definite win on their hands with Swords & Soldiers, their first ever console game. It’s an extremely innovative title that will likely see tons of clones from other, less-inspired developers. It’s a very enjoyable and satisfying experience that will keep your attention for as long as the campaigns last and then some thanks to the hectic and fun multiplayer skirmishes. Definitely worth the $10 admission fee.
- 2-D perspective works almost flawlessly
- Outstanding personality achieved through cartoony art style
- Great orchestral soundtrack
- Multiplayer is a blast
- Troops can get cramped, making spell-casting difficult
- No online component whatsoever
- Campaigns are all relatively short
Score: 8.7/10 (Great)
Gameplay: 9.5/10 (An absolute blast with a great balance between accessible and challenging)
Graphics: 8.75/10 (Colorful visuals present lots of personality, 2-D perspective works surprisingly well)
Audio: 8.5/10 (Orchestral score is great, some actions don’t have sound effects)
Entertainment Value: 8.0/10 (The absence of online hurts, but the game is so much fun you won’t care)
Take a look at their official website to learn more.