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Swords & Soldiers - WiiWare Review

Game Info: Swords & Soldiers
WiiWare | Ronimo Games | 1 Player | 1-2 Player versus | Out Now | 1000 Wii Points (£7 / $10 Online)
Controller compatability: Wii Remote
Review by Murat

One genre that the Wii is lacking on so far is the real-time strategy genre. With only a few RTS titles compared to the large number of action, adventure and party games that are currently on the system, it feels as though real strategy games have been cast aside. But now, that’s all about to change with Swords & Soldiers, the first 2D side-scrolling real-time strategy on the Wii. Swords & Soldiers may be a side-scrolling game, but it serves its purpose well with it’s imaginative presentation and intuitive gameplay. However, does this game prove to be a solid approach towards the real-time strategy genre on the Wii, or should it remain in the shadows?

    There isn’t much to reflect upon regarding it’s visual appearance, since it boasts a great cartoony and colourful presentation throughout the menus and in-game play. The game is very imaginative amongst it’s locations, units, spells and even stories. The environments are nicely designed that change from faction to faction and location to location. As you progress through the campaign mode you will come across various battlefields that include a dry desert theme and sunny, icy, cloudy, and even foggy weather conditions. Did I forget to mention the game also switches between both day and night?

    When you start the game, the main menu will allow you to choose one of three factions to play as. The playable factions include the Vikings, Aztec and the Chinese, all of which add a different flavour to the game. While your castle and gold mines are located to the left, the enemy is located to the right covered with a dark fog that doesn’t allow you to see a single thing. This makes it rather difficult for players to guess how far the enemy is taking over the battlefield with its towers and approaching units. Nonetheless, this provides a good challenge to hardcore real-time strategy fans. The hidden land can be uncovered and protected if units are constantly summoned, and towers are built in the construction spots.

Although exploring and occupying most of the battlefield before the enemy sounded like a great idea at first, I found myself coming to a halt in unit production since I pretty much wasted all my resources. Luckily, I soon figured out that workers could be summoned to replenish gold from the gold mines, which could be used to utilize a wide variety of lethal units, devastating spells, powerful towers and other various items which will go fourth in helping you in your victory. As well as gold playing a very important part in the game, as well as blue mana, which allows you to perform more powerful spells, depending on the amount of mana you have. Mana is automatically replenished one block at a time; however, each faction has their own methods of gathering mana much more efficiently. Spells will also differ amongst the three factions, which broadens the field of gameplay even further. What you find in the Vikings you won’t find in the Aztec or Chinese, and vice versa. At the start though, only Vikings are playable, whilst the Aztec and Chinese are left as unlockables. However, players are free to skip the missions and forward themselves to the next faction at will.

    The game enlightens players with three different stories for each faction, and 10 missions equally spread, totalling 30 missions in the campaign mode, each presented on different parts of a world map. The stories are hilariously presented to suit more of a casual field while balancing the hardcore aspects. They touch mainly on barbequed food, the obsessed need to expand a toy collection and growing horrifyingly gigantic vegetables in time for an annual vegetable competition, amongst other themes.

    Whilst progressing through the campaign, it wasn’t long before I noticed how all the stories of the three factions began linking to one another. Although I felt like I’ve done the missions before, playing as the other faction gave me a different type of satisfaction since the selectable units and spells differed. Some missions will provide you with the objective of reaching the other side of the battlefield with a limited number of soldiers whilst the next mission may give you the objective of destroying the enemy castle. Of course, this is just two of many challenges within the campaign mode which is a entertaining wholly entertaining experiences that's presented nicely for players to grasp the hang of immediately. As you progress, tutorials are also featured as the game introduces players to newer spells and units.

    The basic gameplay mechanics in Swords & Soldiers are fantastic and work flawlessly on the Wii Remote. Believe it or not, the only button you’ll ever need is the A button; it’s that simple. With this single button, you can cast spells and summon units by clicking the appropriate icons as well as navigate through the main menu and select upgrades and units and use spells on selected units. The B button can be used to scroll from left to right on the battlefield, but you can also do that easily with the Wii Remote by pointing the arrow towards the far right or far left of the screen, or with the left and right buttons on the D-pad.

As well as it’s fairly lengthy campaign mode which should keep you occupied for hours, I was delighted to see a multiplayer and skirmish mode, as well as an achievement system. The two game modes are always great to pass the time alone or with friends and family as it extends the replay value by a margin. The multiplayer mode in particular is absolutely fantastic and should be tried out as soon as you get your hands on the game. One of the best features of this mode is that it offers completely customizable scenarios, such as the freedom of selecting a map and it's size, your starting mana, gold, workers and even a handicap. At the end of each game, you are also given some feedback letting you know the amount of units, workers, spells, gold, kills and towers you’ve built, summoned and gathered. Comparing these against you’re friends is always interesting and adds a different level of fun, and even if you don't have a friend, the statistics are also available at the end of a single player map as well.

    The multiplayer mode can be extremely entertaining but could also get really repetitive between friends, fast. If it isn't really your thing, the skirmish mode is always there to go head-to-head against the AI without worrying about aims or goals, and includes all the customization modes given in the standard multiplayer battles. After giving the multiplayer and skirmish modes a chance, I strongly suggest trying out the achievements system as well, which is another extraordinary aspect of the game. Achievements vary, giving players both easy and hard challenges, from completing the Viking, Aztec and Chinese campaigns to more tricky objectives such as defeating the enemy under a specific time and winning with a single unit, amongst many others. You’d think that was it, right? Well, you’d be mistaken. The game also features a robust challenge mode which offers some really addictive mini games where your main objective is to aim for the highest score in the table. I won't go into specifics here, but the mode is great fun, especially if you have more than one player registered.

    With almost all the aspects of the game being a solid approach thus far, the background music is also a key point to cover. The game features a few catchy tunes which give you that emperor feeling players yearn for, but whilst the overall variety isn’t that big, it delivers to a satisfying standard. Voice acting has also been included in the game, but in smaller portions as units shout out small phrases when summoned. The leaders for each faction would also cheer on the player as you rule over your enemy, or warn you if you’re in danger, which also makes for a nice addition.

    Swords & Soldiers is by far one of the most exciting WiiWare games I've played, however, I do have a few small complaints about the gameplay and some presentation aspects. While playing the game, I noticed from the start that I had absolutely no control over my units and even my workers. Once I summoned units they charge onto the battlefield and that’s that. It would’ve been a great feature to be able to stop and retreat soldiers instead of sending them one after another. The sudden summoning of soldiers in one go may also result in losing units in large crowds or using the spells on the wrong enemies which could get a little annoying.

    Another complaint I have is that the multiplayer modes have no time limit (making it seem endless, no matter how many units you’ve sacrificed and how many spells you’ve used), meaning battles could rage on for hours and hours, making it rather repetitive. The game does speed up after a while, but that still isn’t enough. One more minor niggle was that only the challenge mode features leader-boards. Whilst it's good to have the feature implemented, there are no online leader-boards or online features to emphasize this entertainment further. An online leader-board to submit scores and compare with other players around the world would’ve been a really nice feature to take hold of.

    Nevertheless, if you’re looking for an exciting real-time strategy game that has it’s fair share of hilarious and serious moments, Swords & Soldiers will most definitely deliver above all expectations. For a game that’s only worth 1000 points, it still manages to feel like you’ve purchased a full blown real-time strategy game from your local game store, since you will spend countless hours playing through, either alone or with friends and family. If, however, you are expecting a hardcore real-time strategy that allows you to command and move units at your own freewill with online modes, the game doesn’t quite feature the buzz you'll be hoping for, but it’s definitely worth trying out the experience that the game has to offer, for all fans of the real-time strategy genre.

27/30 - Excellent
Gameplay 9 - Great, with brilliantly developed modes to put your skills to the test | Presentation 9 - Nice music and voice work, with a fantastic art style
Enjoyment 5 - Easy to learn, with plenty of features that'll keep you smiling | Other - 4 Lots of things to keep you occupied, despite lack of online features