Reviewed: October 5, 2010
Released: September 28, 2010
There's a definite lack of strategy games in the console space. Any titles in the genre, let alone major ones, are few and far between, and that's a major part of why Ronimo Games' Swords & Soldiers is so refreshing. Currently available on PSN as a re-release of last year's Wiiware title, Swords & Soldiers is a HD port with 3D TV support, remade controls, and redrawn graphics.|
Drawing inspiration from the tower defense genre and StarCraft, Swords & Soldiers is a side-scrolling real-time strategy title, pitting players against one another as the Vikings, Aztecs, and Chinese. Each side has their own unique array of units and spells, ranging from the Vikings' straight-forward attacks and spells, the Aztecs' focus on poison and turning the enemy's army against them, and the complexity and counters of the Chinese. Each side is easily to pick up and play, but tough to master, and each has a definite appeal with its own style of units and buildings in beautiful high-definition sprites.
Before diving into the multiplayer, the single-player mode is an excellent way to learn the game. Starting with the Vikings, moving on to the Aztecs and ending with the Chinese, each campaign introduces you to a faction, as well as their technology tree and the functions of their units. It comes in handy, especially since there's more depth in how units and spells interact than is immediately apparent, and taking each faction for a spin before you go online will give you a vastly improved chance once you know what you're doing.
That said, even without taking the time to learn the races, the game is extremely easy to pick up and play. You create your units and they start marching towards the enemy base immediately, much like the creeps in a tower defense game, with the exception that you choose what you want, and when you want it. You can change what lanes they approach the base by, and aid your soldiers with spells with spells, but aside from that, they fight on their own, reducing the amount of micromanagement you need to take care of and letting you focus on the big picture.
Multiplayer matches are quick and fun, and you can even queue for them while you're playing the campaigns or unlockable mini-games. It's practically the definition of a casual strategy game, and you can easily be in and out of a match in under ten minutes without rushing, making it perfect for a pick up and play fix.
For a maximalist like myself, who always wants a game to be as complex as possible, the assortment of units and spells per side can seem somewhat scant, with less than a dozen per faction, including their towers. However, the variety the factions provide in play style and the elegance of the mechanics, as well as the charm of the sprite graphics that provide a jolly, cartoonish atmosphere, make up for a lack of variety within the factions themselves. After all, if the worst I can say about a game is that I wish there was more in there, it shows that the foundation is quite solid.
For ten dollars, there's really no reason for a fan of real time strategy to pick this one up and experience the experiment in combining tower defense and real time strategy tropes, nor for anyone who's curious about strategy games to turn this one down. Between the campaigns, the two-player split screen that's becoming more and more rare, and online multiplayer, in addition to the unlockable mini-games, there's more than enough to keep any established or beginning strategy junkie coming back to Swords & Soldiers to get more than their money's worth.