Real time strategy games have never really taken off on home consoles, even with big names such as Civilization and Red Alert. Though there are a small group of people who would disagree, most gamers will tell you that the speed and precision needed for an in-depth RTS cannot be achieved by a standard console controller.
Enter Ronimo’s Swords & Soldiers, a casual strategy game which peels back some of the traditional RTS elements to deliver a game which controls wonderfully, although it is a little lacklustre in other departments.
Swords & Soldiers offers several different modes of play, both on- and offline. The single player campaign consists of thirty levels and is sufficient in teaching players the ropes, also acquainting them with the game’s three factions.
The Vikings of the North live for two things, and two things only: battle and barbecues. In their hordes they search the Earth for rare ingredients to satiate their palates. Meanwhile, the Aztecs are competing against each other in a giant vegetable-growing competition; their chapter of the story mainly consists of green fingers and bloody palms. Lastly, the child emperor of the Chinese army is scouring the lands in search of news toys for his collection.
The humour is definitely goofy, though well executed and suiting the cartoon theme of the game perfectly. Outside of the campaign mode is a standard quick-play option, as well as online ranked matches. A tangent of three mini games can also be unlocked, each with their own separate leader-boards.
As mentioned before, Swords & Soldiers has shed several of the key RTS elements in order to streamline its gameplay. There can only ever be two armies in the same match and the objective is always the same; destroy the enemy base.
Which faction you have selected will dictate which development tree you are given. Vikings are better armoured than the other two, though they lack a gallery of offensive spells. Aztecs are quite the opposite, offering a chaotic charter of spells including poison clouds and necromancy, however their units are the most vulnerable. The Chinese enjoy a balance of both offence and defence as well as a couple of specialised units, though they require heavy funding in order to keep them maintained.
Players have to harvest gold and mana to develop and produce soldiers as well as abilities. Gold is simply gathered by workers and carried from the mines back to the central base, whereas mana builds up organically over time, aided by the Aztec’s sacrifice ability and Chinese Buddha statues.
Once a unit is created it will immediately begin to march rightwards and wont stop until it engages in battle, after which it will continue moving in the direction of the enemy base. At first it will prove fun, though after a few hours of play, you will recognise that a single method can be used repeatedly to ensure victory: max out the number of workers, build sentries, and then spam the “unit create” commands.
Spells add a much-needed tactical element to the game and in some cases they can turn the tide of battle, though some are much more powerful than others.
Swords & Soldiers sports a unique cartoon aesthetic which will feel a little offbeat at first, but suits the tone set by the game’s slapstick humour. Animation is crisp, colours are bold, and never once did I discover a trip in the frame-rate or any other related bugs.
One potential hiccup is the lack of spoken dialogue which could have been used to empower some of the puerile punchlines. The soundtrack serves its purpose to build tension but is largely forgettable, as are the sound effects. However, for a PlayStation Network title, at its proposed price, the presentational values are near enough bang on.
- Crisp, cartoon visuals
- Self-aware humour
- Precise use of the PlayStation Move
- Easy to learn, easy to master
- Online matches and leaderboards
- Unbalanced factions
- 1-2 Players only
- Repetitive missions
In conclusion, Swords & Soldiers is definitely worth giving a try. Though the campaign may only take a few hours to beat, there’s plenty of content resting within the multiplayer component. Casual RTS fans will appreciate the no-nonsense gameplay, and Move control scheme (which is much more comfortable and efficient than a DS3), though there is also something here for the more hardcore fans of the genre.