Publisher: Ronimo Games
Developer: Ronimo Games
System requirements: Windows 7/Vista/XP; 1GHz CPU; 256 MB RAM; 64 MB graphics card; 300 MB drive space
Genre: Strategy Tower Defense
ESRB rating: Everyone 10+
Release date: Available now
“Did we really need another game of the X genre?” A lot of reviewers seem to ask that question. Usually it’s a rhetorical one, and the implied answer is no. Personally, I like to give explanations that are a little more open. So, if someone was to ask me whether we needed another tower defense game, I would say that we absolutely do not…unless the game is fun to play, pretty, humorous, and not set in World War II. Speaking of such games, I was lucky enough to score a copy of Swords & Soldiers for PC, which I played from start to finish and am now ready to pass judgment and share my cynical pronouncements with anyone who will listen, which should be everyone.
Swords & Soldiers is a 2D side-scroller, which takes place in a world where Vikings wage war over a barbecue, Aztecs grow giant vegetables for a contest, and the Chinese are ruled by a child emperor who cares for nothing but toys. All of these complex relationships and motivations lead you on a journey across the finest moments of these civilizations, a path wrought in glory and triumph as well as the very depths of human tragedy and despair. Basically, you build soldiers and they go forward and hit things. The going forward part is done on a single path in most cases, although at times it forks, only to re-converge moments later.
Unlike many other tower defense games that focus on building towers to defend against the hordes of incoming creeps, S&S takes a somewhat novel approach. You are primarily building the “creeps” themselves, as well as an occasional tower here and there. Another distinguishing mechanic is the kind of resource gathering that you would normally find in games like Starcraft 2, and not in those like Defense Grid: The Awakening. Each of the three races has a worker unit, which courses back and forth between the gold mines and the castle. Naturally they need to be protected, because if your economy dies you die with it.
With the gold that your workers provide, you can build an army. Each race has a number of units with different abilities, as well as a selection of spells that you can cast, provided you have enough mana. Towers exist, too, but they can only be placed at specific locations, and they take on a supporting role rather than existing as your main weapon. The Viking tower, for example, is built empty and has to be manned by an axe-thrower, while the Chinese tower is not strictly speaking a tower, but rather a mana generator that cannot attack. The Aztec tower is the only one that simply tries to fry all approaching units.
The game is pretty, in a tongue-in cheek cartoony sense. The stereotypes of each group are intended to be funny, yet non-offensive. Although the animations are somewhat schematic, they are, nevertheless, very fitting, and convey exactly the right message. Verbal humor, much like that of the art style, is simple but not crude, which is why it works so well. In my professional opinion, any game that has an Aztec necromancer go by the name of Poisonbottle, is by definition ahead of its competitors. So far as negatives go, the controls were developed with consoles in mind, and it shows.
Despite the obvious fact that the PC version was more of an afterthought than anything else, my enjoyment of the game was not ruined. I’d like some changes to the controls, sure, but whether they ever come or not I can honestly say that I had a lot of fun with this cute, humorous, and often challenging game. Being an indie title it is very reasonably priced, and I don’t have to think twice about recommending it. Whether you play on PC or consoles, whether you are a casual or a hardcore gamer, Swords & Soldiers, much like Plants vs. Zombies, is a game that everyone will love.