The long-standing war between pirates and ninjas has been well documented across the annals of internet history, but maybe it’s time for us to shed some light on the lesser known battle brewing between the Vikings, Aztecs, and Chinese. Swords & Soldiers hopes to bring this conflict to the forefront… or at the very least, give us some WiiWare that is actually worth buying. Can a creative, aesthetically pleasing two-dimensional side-scrolling real-time strategy game succeed where so many ill-conceived lamewad titles have failed? Well, of course it can.
Going into Swords & Soldiers, I wasn’t quite sure how a 2D scrolling RTS would actually work, but Ronimo Games has certainly pulled it off. By avoiding the over-complexity of most strategy titles, this game knocks out the fat so that only the core fun remains. The game controls entirely by Wii pointer controls and boils down to only two resources: Gold and Mana. Gold is gathered by your worker units and used to create additional troops, build towers, and purchase more classes and spells. Mana automatically replenishes over time and is used to cast your magic. Other than that, the only other thing you need to know to get started is that your troops will constantly move forward until they’ve reached enemy units – there’s no direct control of the characters and you won’t be barking (or Pata-Pata-ing) commands. You can, however, influence the tide of war through the magical powers at your disposal.
The game itself does an excellent job of introducing you to the basics and then ramping up the difficulty and variety of units and spells at your disposal. Each of the three campaigns consists of ten levels, and while the earlier levels can be forced through with a passing thought on unit selection, you'll eventually run into strong resistance to your haphazard spamming of troops. At this point, you'll start to actually appreciate the level of depth and begin planning out strategies on whether to take the top or bottom path, whether you need more ranged or more melee fighters, and whether you'd be better served casting smaller spells or saving up that mana for a weapon of mass destruction. It's a rather fast-paced affair where most stages can be conquered somewhere between five to seven minutes. So if you are caught in an epic forty-five minute tug-of-war, it's safe to say your plan of action needs some re-thinking as you are most definitely doing it wrong. Remember, the war for the "Freakishly Large Pepper" goes to the quick and the clever.
As for the three factions in Swords & Soldiers, they are all charming and unique which results in great diversity throughout the three storylines. You'll first play as the Vikings - a band of hearty souls in search of the ultimate barbecue. The Vikings rely primarily on their brute strength, sending berzerking ax wielders across the colorful landscapes in a cloud of rage and calling forth the powers of Thor to send down lightning and blizzard attacks. Next in the progression are the Aztecs who are tasked with defending their prized produce from the rampaging Vikings and happen to be my favorite group to command. The Aztecs specialize in poison-based attacks and the ancient art of necromancy. In addition to unleashing hordes of skeletons, they can also advance to rolling out a huge Indiana Jones style boulder that crushes everything in its path (including your own troops if you aren't careful). Lastly are the Chinese. They don't really have a say in the pepper fight, but are caught up in it due to their young emperor’s search for new toys. To pursue these ends, the Chinese send forth rocket warriors and Ninja monkeys and can also rain down fire arrows and call forth a flame-breathing dragon. I'm not sure how balanced these factions are in split-screen multiplayer, but I can say that I had a blast playing with each in single player.
If you haven’t already noticed from the screenshots, Swords & Soldiers employs a cartoon art-style that pays homage to games like Castle Crashers. It’s unquestionably one of the best looking WiiWare games to date and the characters and backdrops really pop off the screen. In addition to the campaign modes, there are three challenge modes that are quick diversions, multiple in-game achievements, and split-screen local multiplayer. Sadly, there is no online multiplayer, which is one of the few negatives I can take away from this game. Well, that and the forgettable naming of Swords & Soldiers. Was “Hey You!: Actual WiiWare Game Worth Buying Over Here!!” taken? Other than that, I really can’t find additional faults, although veteran strategists might be looking for a game that offers more of a challenge.
Freakishly small list of negatives aside, Ronimo should be commended for creating such a humorous and well thought out strategy entry on WiiWare. The game contains plenty of depth and charm with a great mixture of unit types and mission objectives that made me constantly want to play just one more level. I whole-heartedly recommend Swords & Soldiers and suggest all of those that have even the slightest interest to confidently send forth your $10 into the fray.
Outstanding | Very Good | Fair | Poor | Awful
Recommended Buy Price: $10.00
Current MSRP: $10.00
”Swords & Soldiers” was provided for review by Ronimo Games. The three campaigns were played to completion over the course of five and a half hours with an overall completion percentage of 81% (I only got a handful of the Achievements). The multi-player mode was not tested for this review.