Swords & Soldiers Review
Posted by Nathan Michalik
Don your Sword and ready the Soldiers
A port taken from the the popular WiiWare title and recreated with HD graphics and a new game mode, Swords & Soldiers recently received a free patch to support PlayStation Move. In a tower defence style of gameplay, gamers control troops and advance them forward while trying to both take the opponents base and defend their own and even though it seems similar to other popular games, there are many differences that make this game stand out.
The first noticeable variance compared to other real time strategy games is that instead of the popular top-down view, Swords & Soldiers uses a side camera view that allows you to really get a sense of progression as your loyal soldiers march their way towards the enemy’s base. The soundtrack to this game is well composed and will even change depending on the player’s situation; when you find that your base is under attack, the music will get faster to increase tension and give the gamer a sense of urgency.
The depth of character types is particularly impressive with the implementation of three difference tribes with their own quirks. As army commander, you can choose between Vikings, Aztecs or Chinese, with different tactics required for each. When controlling the Vikings, you’ll notice they're slower with more health and stronger attacks, while the Aztecs have quicker troops with less health but more range. Character types vary from members who block attacks to others who can even raise dead troopers allowing them to fight again.
All three tribes contain a single unit whose primary goal is to collect gold to buy more troops or purchase and upgrade spells. Balancing the amount of gold spent on spells and troops will be difficult at times and can be a sole factor to victory or defeat.
But of course, what would a tower defence game be without towers? As leader of your powerful tribe, you can build towers on certain plots of land in order to give your tribe the upper hand against your opponent. Each tribe’s tower has its own effects too: the Vikings' tower houses an axe thrower, while the Aztecs can deal massive damage to a single target.
For individuals not familiar with tower defence style games, Sword & Soldiers will slowly advance in complexity allowing players to learn and understand what each troop member is used for and when to best invest hard earned gold in them.
A feature set that truly makes Swords & Soldiers stand out is the ability to cast spells while your army fights. Using automatically regenerating mana, players can instantly cast spells that range from healing spells to powerful attacks and buffs to cast on troops. This creates another aspect of strategy while vanquishing your foes because each spell requires different amounts of mana. Since each troop will automatically advance, similar games can start to make you feel detached from their army, but here the ability to cast various spells really pulls you in and immerses them in their own army.
A new and exciting change added to the PSN version is the ability to play online multiplayer games with matchmaking. Playing online against friends is smooth and the matchmaking feature works well, with match styles varying greatly due to the differences in each tribe, so you’ll need to know how to best combat each tribe as well as the best method to control you own. Destroying the other leader’s base and watching them panic leads to great satisfaction and will give this game a huge boost in gameplay hours complete with online leaderboards, and there's also a split-screen mode for two people to battle locally.
Online matches are often extremely intense as two players struggle to hold off each other’s monstrous army and with two equally skilled players, matches can last for hours as a marathon of death and destruction reigns over the middle of the map in a massive power struggle.
An interesting new concept is the ability to find an online match while playing other game modes. Instead of waiting in a lobby for another person to join your room, you can continue to play single-player games until a combatant is found. Once an opponent is selected, the single-player game is paused until the online match is over; after that, players can resume the single-player match exactly where they left off.
To brush up on your troop-leading skills, you can also choose to play against AI-controlled players with various difficulty levels on Skirmish Mode. This allows for you to learn how to properly fight with and against each of the three troops without the stress of learning to play against real players.
Other than campaign and multiplayer, there is a challenge mode for the advanced players, each with its own specific requirements and goals for the individual to accomplish, such as clearing a stage using nothing but spells and a single unit. These challenges are often difficult but very rewarding to complete and completing them all will take some serious amount of play time. Other challenges include a survivor mode where you compete against wave after wave of enemies for as long as possible before you are eventually over run.
Using PlayStation Move, you are simply able to point and click on each command icon to build troops and towers or select spells. Once the spell is select, you can simply point the cursor at the friend or foe to select them and cast. This saves plenty of time when battles quickly become more and more intense, meaning you don't have to scroll through each member of your army or enemies to select a target before castings. By pushing either the X or O buttons, you can quickly navigate the battlefield by scrolling left or right respectively.
Whilst Move is completely optional in this title it's highly recommended as it becomes much easier to control your troops and cast spells with the Move rather than using a standard DualShock controller especially when the game picks up and battles increase in complexity. Even when the Move is out of view from the camera, the amount of control over the cursor is amazing, letting you select attacks with ease.
Swords & Soldiers is also an extremely humorous game, and playing through each of the three stories is addictive and filled to the brim with interesting storylines, plot twists and bizarre characters like a mind-controlling chili pepper. Even in a vastly populated genre, Ronimo Games has created an innovative and exciting tower defense game that is extremely entertaining and will lead to many hours of satisfying game play.