Swords & Soldiers (PS3) Review

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Swords & Soldiers Publisher: Ronimo Games
Developer: Ronimo Games

Platforms: PlayStation 3 and Wii
Reviewed on PlayStation 3

The Vikings have set sail, searching the globe for the components of the perfect barbeque sauce. On the way, they run afoul of other world powers, including the Aztecs' aspiration to growing prized peppers and the Chinese need for entertaining toys. Ronimo Games promises that this simplified strategy game presents "the most incorrect version of world history to date!"

Kyle Ackerman

Swords & Soldiers is something of a marvel. The game collapses the real-time strategy genre into a single dimension and negligible controls. By doing so, it really zeros in on the fun essence of these kinds of games while removing all the dross that the genre has collected over the years, like a skilled surgeon removing necrotic tissue.

On launching the game, it first struck me as more of a cartoonish platformer than a real-time strategy game. Everything takes place on a line, with the two, opposing forces maintaining bases on either side of the line. Occasionally, the line splits into two paths, but that does more to add replayability to the campaigns than complexity. I was able to create a few basic types of troops for the three playable sides, and control a few simple magic spells, giving me surprisingly deep control over a manageable battlefield. Troops started at my base and just marched toward the enemy. Spells could heal my own troops, damage enemies, sacrifice allies for magical power, or speed my forces to the front.

Despite its simplicity, Swords & Soldiers requires considerable focus and constant activity. There are three campaigns, starting with the barbecue-seeking Vikings, then the pepper-potentate Aztecs, and finally, the Chinese, led by a toy-obsessed ruler. Whether the characters are comical and shallow or borderline offensive depends on the viewer, but the game is seriously amusing.

The Viking campaign doesn't reward subtlety – it's a great introduction to the game. As the Viking commander, I was able to bully my way to victory (and barbeque) through brute force and hordes of troops. The next campaign, the Aztecs, contained more puzzle-oriented levels and required slight subtlety. I had a little trouble with the late Aztec missions, because they require carefully timing boulders and sacrificing troops to power spells – if I didn't win quickly, things tended to develop into an extended stalemate. I found the Chinese campaign to be the most entertaining to play, so I was only disappointed that I had to complete the other two campaigns first to play as the Chinese. Playing through the campaign modes unlocks simple challenges that are short arcade-like games using the units and spells of Swords & Soldiers. There's two-player head-to-head action if you have two remotes and can play with a split-screen.

Swords & Soldiers isn't completely unique as a linear real-time strategy game, but it's a lighthearted take on the kind of game that I haven't seen in a very long time. It's a type of more casual strategy that should have survived, and that Ronimo Games has done a brilliant job executing.

The game was released on the Wii last year, and despite nearly identical play, the controls are very different. The Wii version, compared to the PlayStation 3 version, is like comparing using a mouse for control to manipulating the action solely using keyboard shortcuts. Honestly, the PlayStation 3 version is a little easier and faster to control, once you adapt to the simple scheme. The Wii version is slightly more intuitive (just point with the remote), but doesn't respond quite as quickly. Also, on the PlayStation 3, Swords & Soldiers supports 3D displays. I was only able to test the red/blue 3D option, but it's an entertaining diversion. It's also a little ironic that one of the early games to support 3D is a fundamentally 2D game. It's another quirky plus for an entertaining strategy game with far more depth than first impressions reveal.

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This page contains a single entry by Editor published on October 4, 2010 5:41 PM.

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