Swords and Soldiers Review: de Blob’s Creators Make An RTS
Every now and then a WiiWare game comes out and catches people off-guard, because really, who’s expecting something good from that platform? (Certainly not Nintendo, who neglected to mention anything about it at this year’s E3 press conference, and barely even showcased it at their booth.) However, after making your way through a lot of the shovelware that has found its way to Nintendo’s downloadable service, there are some gems, the latest of which is Romino Games’ “Swords and Soldiers.”
Developed by the same team that brought the world “de Blob,” “Swords and Soldiers” is unlike anything else that’s available on the Wii – it’s an accessible (it’s a good word here) real-time strategy game that takes out all the complexity of the genre, but leaves in all the fun. Throughout the course of the game you play as three different factions all with goals they need to accomplish (most of which involve food) and you have a wealth of units, attacks, and spells to help you accomplish them. It’s a familiar genre for gamers that have been around for a while, but since it is usually fairly complex, has scared away many potential newcomers over the years; “Swords and Soldiers” will do a good job of bringing them back.
RTS games usually become too confusing to comprehend, and too frustrating to attempt, especially when it comes to resource management. Unlike games that provide you with unlimited ammo, or numerous extra lives, RTS games, “Swords and Soldiers” in this case, give you complete control of how many barbarians, necromancers, or giant boulders you have on the playing field at one time, with the amount of gold and mana that you hold being the only restrictions. As long as you have enough workers mining gold, and a high mana recharge rate, you should be good to go for most of the game. That’s not to say this game isn’t challenging, it is, but it cuts out the complexity of trying too hard to figure out what is going on, making it easy to understand. Romino have even included the RTS staple tech trees for upgrading units and spells, but they’re so basic that most players should pick up on how to play almost instantly.
Each of the game’s factions are creatively unique offering their own soldiers, spells, special attacks, and overall goals. You start off the campaign playing as the Vikings who go up against other Viking invaders, as well as the Chinese and Aztecs. Once you complete the first leg of the campaign, you move on to doing the essentially the same thing controlling the Aztec, and then the Chinese. While it seems like it could get a little redundant each of the thirty level offers different challenges, and, more importantly, different humor.
An RTS game may be the last place you would look to find some laughs in a video game, but “Swords and Soldiers” does a great job of keeping the jokes coming. They may not be the most intellectually appealing quips, but when giant battles take place over BBQ, there’s a little something to laugh at there. It’s one aspect of the game that could have gone horribly wrong, but it actually worked out pretty well.
In fact, there aren’t too many aspects of the game that went wrong. The artstyle is well done; cartoony, but in a good way, and it comes complete with 60’s Batman-esque spin wipes. Even the controls are simple and easy to use with the Wiimote’s version of point and click being the main component. For all the simplicity that the controls offer, their only problem is that precision pointing is perpetually difficult using a Wiimote.
“Swords and Soldiers” also sports a variety of different modes, the highlight of which is its multiplayer: two factions going head-to-head on the same screen is as hectic as it is fun. It’s always more appealing to go up against a human brain than it is to play the computer over and over, and it extends the replayability of the game, meaning you’ll hopefully be coming back for more after you’ve completed the campaign. There’s also a challenge mode that tweaks aspects of the gameplay, and forces you to try to complete the levels with handicaps.
Overall, “Swords and Soldiers” is a pleasant surprise that all Wii owners should really check out. Don’t let the fact that it’s 2D, or an RTS hold you back from trying something new. The game packs a lot of gameplay, humor, and challenge into a tiny, affordable package, and the only problem I found with the game is that I’m not playing it right now. Seriously, don’t write this game off as WiiWare shovelware, give it a chance, and you’ll be happier than an Aztec chief with his giant chili pepper.
“Swords and Soldiers” is a WiiWare game developed and published by Romino Games on June 8, 2009.