What better way to start the new year with a video game review? Actually, no wait, there are much better ways to spend the holidays, but I'm going to do this. The game I'm going to be reviewing is called Swords and Soldiers HD, an indie console port for the PC (similar to Burn Zombie Burn). I purchased the game on sale for $2.50, and considering I put in about 9 hours into it since yesterday, I'd say I got my money's worth.
Lately in the gaming scene, we've been seeing a growing trend; although main stream games are still reigning supreme, small indie games, like casual games, are exploding in popularity. Whether it's farmville, Plants vs Zombies, or the new Angry Birds game for the ipod, it's becoming pretty clear that indie games are gaining a lot of momentum. A casual glance at my most recently reviewed games will probably tell you that much.
All of this, in my opinion, is due to the changing way in how we purchase games. Because we now download games, rather than purchase them from the store, indie developers can finally reach the mainstream niche gamer. A lot of indie games, on steam right now, are exposed to plenty of players. Their low productions costs (most of them don't really need publishers) contribute to their low-price. Low prices, of course, means that players are more willing to take a risk and buy a game that cost $10 than $60. And because they're made by small studios, most indie games are creative and fresh, as they can take the risk and afford to do so. Not all indie games are good of course, but the overwhelming majority of them at least try to be original.
Swords and Soldiers HD is an indie game developed by Ronimo Games. The game is actually a side-scrolling tower defense/strategy game featuring three different civilizations, the Vikings, the Chinese, and the Aztecs, and the player's job is to build up a giant mob to clobber over the @$hole next door's castle.
The game is featured in a 2D format similar to worms and altitude.
Swords and Soldiers takes an unusual approach to tower games; it's both tower defense and tower attack...all of it without the towers. The game starts off with two castles, your's and your opponents, and usually the objective is to simply bring your opponents castle down. The game features three civilizations, the Chinese, Aztecs, and the Vikings. The Chinese favor magic, the Aztecs poison, and the Vikings on raw physical prowess. The game is like a very simple RTS; you need to mine resources to build up an army, and then you send the army to the enemy base. Much of it is automated, such as resource gathering. You even have no control over how your troops move whatsoever; once they're produced they go on a bee-line to the enemy base, damn hell and high water until they die.
A bee-line to the busty blonde women of course *wink wink thrust thrust*
When you first begin the game, you're going to need to focus on resources. There are two resources in the game, gold and mana. Gold is acquired automatically when you produce workers. You can produce a maximum of ten workers, and they usually only congregate around two starting gold shafts (that never run out of gold) next to your castle to keep things simple. After you create 10 of these , you don't have to worry about them anymore unless they're attacked, and there's no real other way to acquire gold. The other resource is mana, which you need to obviously cast spells. Both players regenerate mana automatically with no mana limit, but depending on which civ you play as, mana rates can be acquired differently. The Chinese can create Buddha statues that give mana, the Aztecs can sacrifice their people for mana, and the Vikings can upgrade their mana regeneration rate. What do you do with that gold and mana? Well, for starters you use the gold to purchase troops, which will be the backbone of your army. Spending gold on the technology tree will unlock more units to work with, buildings, and spells.
Insert gong sound
However, despite the fact that the civilizations are unique, the strategy to beat the game is the same: flood the enemy with as much troops as humanly possible. There are no real "elite" troops that can take a castle by itself, and thus the central offensive strategy of the game is to create the right combination of troops and spells to attack an enemy. Creating all weakling units means that they're going to be hit hard by an AOE attack, and selecting only expensive units means that you're going to be swamped by pea shooters. An Aztec necromancer can create an army of skeletons, but a catapult will turn the army to dust. Spells are extremely important to the game, and managing mana is also very important. The Chinese, for example, has a spell that can make permanent copies of their troops, moving the cost of producing troops from gold to mana. A Viking berserker, with a healing spell, can pretty much kill 4-5 enemy melee units before he eventually dies. No matter which side you play as, in the end the team that can conjure up the most soldiers with the right combinations at an enemy gate wins.
The Aztec Zerg Rush
Aside from the gameplay, the game also deserves praise for its humor, campaign pacing, and simplicity. The game can be pretty hilarious, down to the silly campaign to the voicing of the troops you pick. Hell, it's the first game I've played that actually used the term chinaman without shame. Secondly, the campaign does a pretty good job of introducing the player to the gaming concept. After the campaigns are over, I've felt that I've more or less gotten a good grasp of all the features of the game (I usually don't understand the more complicated RTS games). And finally, the game is simplified. There are only about three levels of tech, troops automatically move on their own, and for the most part the game always keeps you busy, but it's never overly frenetic that you lose yourself. The game's simplicity makes it accessible, which is always a good thing.
Apparently the ancient Chinese Yin-and-Yang allows the Chinese to undergo mitosis.
Aside from the campaign, however, there's not much else to do with the game. There are about three challenge missions, and the skirmish mode, although flexible, doesn't really keep you interested after a few rounds. For example, you can change the prices of your items and enemy difficulty, but all maps are pretty much the same. The most they can differ by is length, and sometimes there are alternate switches players can activate switches to change a road or two, but it doesn't change that much in terms of strategy. Multiplayer is limited to only 1 v 1, but I have a feeling this would make a great co-op game. I've clocked in 10 hours into the game, though I feel the replay value may be somewhat limited.
But then again, who doesn't want the chance to play as the boulder from Indiana Jones?
The game's system requirements are:
OS: Windows 7/Vista/XP
Memory: 256 MB RAM
Graphics: 64 MB graphics card
Hard Drive: 300 MB
On high and on native resolutions, I get over a 100 FPS, which isn't important. What is important is how it plays on my netbook, and on low and on the netbook's native resolution, it runs perfectly, with no lag whatsoever. Even other indie games like Altitude and Iron Grip do lag, just not enough to really take away from gameplay. S & S runs like butter even with dozens of troops on screen. The game gets definite bonus points for that.
There aren't any noticeable bugs, and there are no mods or campaign editors included. I purchased the game for $2.50 on sale at steam, but it's regular price is $10. If you've got a netbook, it's probably worth the $10, but I'd just wait for it to go on sale. It's a great game, well worth the $10 price tag.
Like Altitude, Swords and Soldiers deserves praise for being a lunchbreak sized game that delivers, even on low-end systems, and with a nice pricetag. Gameplay is well paced, the game's swimming in personality, and the game is challenging. The only real offset is how sometimes the game can be repetitive in terms of strategy, but overall it's excellent.
- How about a coop mode?
- More maps, and a bit more complex terrain could really spice things up for the game.
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