Swords & Soldiers HD Review (PC)
You have to commend Ronimo Games for attempting to design an RTS game specifically for consoles rather than try their hardest to cram the PC RTS design onto a console and gamepad. It works for consoles but the limited design hurts the game, now that it’s on a platform where RTS games flourish.
Hotkeys, micromanaging, and shortcuts to specific unit groups are not things you need to worry about in this game. It works for consoles where there might be a lack of necessary buttons, but here it feels like an underutilization of the PC and its numerous keys.
Like all RTS games, gathering resources is necessary to create buildings and recruit units. Ronimo Games simplified the process down to just gathering gold and mana. Mana is used to do faction-specific special attacks and gold is used for everything else. Gold deposits are endless, so there’s no need to worry about gathering units going too far from the base. This was a wise decision because the game gives you very little control of your units.
The game is set in a 2D plane where you occasionally change the path your units take, similar to changing tracks on a train. Building units immediately sets them in motion on an on-rail path to the opposite side of the map. This makes sense because of the limited space on screen, but limits the ability to create a strategy, which makes the genre so fun. Since you can’t control your units, it’s impossible to send a group of units to attack in synchronization. You’ll have to rely heavily on rush tactics to successfully defeat the enemy faction. While it’s a fine strategy, eventually battles become a test of which side had more gold and mana before the sending of units started. Fluctuations between who’s winning or losing is rare, because once one side is overwhelmed they’re most likely going to have their base destroyed since they used all their resources trying to fend off the flood of enemy units. This can make battles extremely short or excruciatingly long, depending on how well prepared both sides are.
The game has three specific factions, each with their own qualities and campaign. The Vikings have the strongest units and the most diverse spell-set, the Chinese has more unique units but lack a heavy-hitter, and the Aztec have the weakest units but can easily overwhelm opponents since units are quick to create. The factions each have their pros and cons and you’ll definitely get a somewhat different playing style between the three.
The game has a decently long campaign spanning between the three factions, and even on the normal settings you can lose if you’re not careful. There are occasionally some difficulty spikes that may seem unfair, but through losing and memorization you’ll eventually get through them. You’ll unlock challenges through the campaign that will ask you to do specific actions. The online multiplayer is seamless; you’ll be able to play the campaign while waiting for an opponent to play online, then you’ll jump almost immediately into the match once you’ve found the opponent. If you disconnect you’ll jump back exactly to where you left off in the single player.
The 2D look is really amazing, and being in HD definitely improves the look of the game when compared to the Wii version’s SD graphics. The game is lighthearted, and while the story isn’t deep, it’s cute and amusing.
The limited design of this console to PC port when compared to other PC RTS games makes it a very difficult sell. It’s not really the game’s fault, but rather the platform it’s on. Up against other PC RTS games, Swords & Soldiers might not stack up but it’s a great game for RTS beginners, and the cheap price makes it one of the better games in the price range.