Occasionally there comes a game that sounds like the next big hit on paper but crumples into a steaming heap when in practice. Enter Toy Soldiers: War Chest, a game that pits the likes of the Care Bears against the armies of Castle Grey Skull in this tower defense escapade that takes a fundamentally brilliant concept and crushes it into a ball of disappointment and microtransactions.
Toy Soldiers isn't new to this concept – in fact, War Chest is the third entry in this franchise which features the manipulation of toy armies in both the First World War and the Cold War. The formula even remains largely unchanged with the goal being to defend your base against oncoming waves of enemies using units of your own. Foes come in three varieties: Infantry, Armoured, and Aerial, with your turret units specialising in damaging each type respectively. These can be upgraded for extra firepower.
Making sure you place the right spread of designated turrets for the oncoming class of enemy is essentially the strategy of War Chest in a lacklustre nutshell. Being able to control the turrets individually adds a novel twist but can become rather mindless and haphazard swiftly, the only salvation coming from the meter it charges. This enables access to hero units or even the ability to call in a handy air strike, which certainly adds a degree of variety to the situation – but it isn't an imperative strategic move and is more of a bonus side effect.
The campaign experience is long and drawn out but that's arguably more bang for your buck – even if the bang is more like a fart. It's visually unappealing, too, struggling to actually feel like a PS4 title at any point due to choppy graphics. Furthermore, it's eerily silent thanks to the overall omission of any real soundtrack.
The single player experience is bolstered by two-player local co-op – a dying breed in this day and age – and four player online matches. It gives you another way to play, but proves only to show more of the cracks as games drag on in stalemate, often until someone gets bored and throws in the towel.
The appealing aspect of War Chest, in comparison to its previous – and more mature looking – instalments is undoubtedly the ability to command some eccentric and largely side-lined licenses in battle. Unfortunately, the base version of the game only ships with four non-descript armies; if you want anything licensed you'll have to cough up some hard-earned cash. He-Man, G.I. Joe, Cobra, and even Assassin's Creed II of all titles are available in the PlayStation Store for a cool £3.99/$4.99 a pop – or all four for £11.99/$14.99. It's nothing new this type of marketing, but it certainly leaves a bitter taste when the main selling points are blocked behind a pay wall.
Alternatively, you can pick up the Hall of Fame edition for over double the cost of the base game to have all of the aforementioned included, but the sobering fact here is that they're simply not worth it. Although it's pretty swish to command Ezio and co, their differences are predominantly cosmetic except the hero units and their abilities; the three basic units still all do the same things just with a different lick of paint.
You're not out of the money woods yet either, as Ubisoft has thrown in some microtransactions for good measure. Thankfully these aren't of the pay wall variety and can be earned in-game via random loot, meaning that they're there more just to tempt you along a 'pay to unlock' path rather than sweating through the grind. Microtransactions – and anything else online for that matter – also have to go through the forever enduring yet endlessly despised Uplay function.
So close, yet so far. Toy Soldiers: War Chest is an anti-climatic bundle of stale tactics, drawn-out missions, and taped-on microtransactions. It's a wonderful idea in theory that's just not developed enough or presented appealingly. The game is different, odd, colourful, and often funny, but it feels like step backwards from its predecessors in more ways than one. And sadly playing as Battle Cat just doesn't seem to fix it.