It’s been eight years since I originally played Swords & Soldiers, the side-scrolling strategy game by Dutch developers Ronimo Games. Originally the team, then named Banana Games, created a freeware game called de Blob. THQ bought the rights to de Blob and this money went into creating Ronimo and the team’s original title, Sword & Soldiers. Following this came Awesomenauts and then Swords & Soldiers 2.
Swords & Soldiers 2, originally released in 2015 was a Wii U Exclusive. Shwaramageddon is the re-release of the original version on formats just a little more successful than the Wii U. That’s right, the Ouya. Or, more accurately, the PC and PlayStation 4. A Nintendo Switch version is due to be released “later”.
Now it’s been released on a format with a living-breathing audience, the question is simple: Is it worth playing?
I suppose that depends a lot on what you like. Swords & Soldiers is a side-scrolling real-time strategy game. It’s the nature of side-scrolling that means a lot of elements from strategy games are distilled into the most basic of forms. With very few exceptions, you don’t get to direct the movement of your troops. You’re very limited in how you even progress an attack, your soldiers move from left to right with opposition soldiers, shockingly, moving right to left.
Once they meet, they automatically attack. Again, you have very little influence on how this plays out. At least in terms of controlling the actual units. The few exceptions are effectively elite tier units of which you can only place out one at a time. Even then, you don’t actually control them beyond changing their state. For example, one huge unit you control will move forward until you toggle the command for him to hunker behind his shield. Once in that position, any ally that comes to him will be flung forward. It effectively acts as a way to bypass an enemy defensive line or a gap in terrain.
Where you can really influence a battle is through the use of spells and other special attacks. These can range from spells where you strike an enemy with a lightning bolt, multiply one of your own units or heal a unit. Of course, you’re going to find some fairly fantastical spells too, such as one that rolls up any of your units it comes in contact with, rolls towards the enemy and lets you swarm those the soldiers come into contact with. It’s these, as well as what are effectively ultimate spells, that can turn the tide of battle but also offer some engagement.
These fights all take place across thirty levels in the campaign, each with a completion objective as well as two bonus objectives for you to test yourself against. These can be the primary reason for you to come back for more because custom matches against the AI offer limited replay value. There are also a few mini-games, but again, they only offer a limited value to keep you coming back for more. The one complaint I do have is a fluctuating difficulty, with random spikes and troughs from level to level.
Fortunately, the time you spend with the campaign is made even more enjoyable thanks to dialogue that is genuinely funny, with a quirky story which has you chasing around for what is effectively Aladdin’s Lamp. As you play through you’ll get to try out a variety of units that are made available to the three factions: Vikings, Demons and Persians. Each of these factions also has some unique units that let you mix up the battle that bit more.
The real quality comes with playing against another person online on multiplayer-specific maps that can help mix up tactics, even if only a little. The problem then is finding somebody to fight with as it’s not the most active game, which is a shame. In a heightened battle, it can be pretty tense as you watch your soldiers marching towards the enemy, while you focus on picking up what few drops there are with your Donkeys, Imps or Viking Women – whatever your collector may be – to keep your gold and mana levels up.
Another selling point for the game is just how charming the audio and visuals are. The voice acting, particularly for Brokenbeard, is fantastically overdone. Other sound effects from soldiers in battle to magic and more all add to the game and draw you in. It’s all backed by a strong soundtrack that, while not exactly world-beating, suits the game perfectly.
Alongside the audio is top-notch visual aesthetics. Everything is attractive and colourful which helps draw you in instantly. Even better is the fact that all of the units, spells and more are well animated, adding to the comedic effect of the game. It looks great on the PC but most of all, I’m genuinely enthusiastic for when it’s released on the Switch.
It’s a game that’s perfectly suited for that console, already having been released on the Wii U, controls will already be optimised, but most of all you have the fantastic quality that the Switch offers.
Swords & Soldiers 2 is an easily accessible and enjoyable RTS title, particularly good for those who aren’t normally interested in the genre. It’s far from intensive and is a genuinely charming game. This charm comes from the strong, colourful art style and the genuinely amusing dialogue and cutscenes.
The primary issue with the game is that, despite how fun it is, the replay value is limited due to a lack of truly active user base. I will say though, for the price, Sword & Soldiers 2 is value for money for the time you’ll spend in the campaign, particularly trying to complete all the objectives, and the time you’ll spend in custom games and the minigames found within.
PC version reviewed. Copy provided by the publisher.
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