Date: 01-11-2011 17:01
Author: Jesse Dietderich

PDC profile: Jesse

If you thought the PSN was lacking of 2D real-time strategy games, I'd say you were correct. Luckily, the folks at Ronimo Games were kind enough to port their award winning Swords & Soldiers game for an HD experience on the PlayStation 3.

Know your Enemies!
I would say the Swords are the lesser stars of this game compared to the Soldiers the game has to offer. Whether you are playing as the Vikings trying to get the best BBQ sauce for your meats, the Aztecs who love their veggies, or the Chinese that strive to find an artifact, the over the top story line and zany dialog will delight you. Similar to other strategy games, you don't have access to all of the sides from the start. The first campaign that you need to complete is the Viking's story. As you play through you slowly gain access to the Viking's arsenal while squaring off against the other two sides, as well as a rival viking clan. Most of the early stages act as a tutorial for the game's mechanics, but don't worry because the difficulty quickly ramps up. Finishing the Viking's campaign unlocks the Aztecs, and then by completing the Aztecs unlocks the Chinese.

Know the Mechanics!
Starting out and playing through the stages with any of the "races" really doesn't feel consistent because the difficulty doesn't seem to get harder with each level. Instead you will randomly come across a stage that feels extremely challenging that it might take a few tries, yet the very next level you can pass without breaking a sweat. The length of each stage is fairly random too, with some of the later stages being shorter than the some of the tutorial stages. I think that the satisfaction that I should have felt when completing stages was lessened by the inconsistencies.

Also there is a problem with the way I'm use to playing RTS games and how Swords & Soldiers handles it. I'm use to being able to make groups of units and then control where they go. This title, however, takes away control and automates nearly everything. I can make one unit type at a time and as soon as they pop out they will start marching from the left of the screen to the right of the screen. You have no way of slowing them down or speeding them up. Even the units that you build to mine the gold (that you use to purchase upgrades and build more units), cycle back and forth automatically from mines near your base. However, on certain stages you are given the ability to direct whether your marching troops take the high road or the low road, by pointing an arrow sign towards the path of your choosing. This usually ends up becoming more of an annoyance than a blessing of control, and I found it even more irritating when you see your enemy being able to do stuff that you couldn't possibly do, because of the limitations of how you can build your troops, such as sending 5 of the same unit type at the same time. There is only one way to enhance your charge once you are to the point that you are sending every troop you can build as quickly as possible, and that is by assisting with casting spells. However, you have to use spells sparingly, because you can easily deplete your mana reserve that is used to cast the spells. I found it a challenge to balance the usage of gold to build more troops and of mana to supplement the lack of troops I was making.

Know the Rest!
Well, I think I've harped on my issues enough. Let me now give this game praise where praise is due. The graphics are solid, even with the animation not going beyond animated sprites. The music and sound effects didn't bother me, nor did they impress me enough to say any more about them. There are local split-screen and online multiplayer modes, which I unfortunately didn't get around to playing. The developer went above and beyond allowing people to play this game in 3D on either a 3D TV or a non-3D TV. If you don't have a 3D TV then you just need to have a pair of the following combinations of colored glasses: Green/Magenta, Red/Green, Red/Cyan, or Red/Blue. I am saddened that I didn't have a pair of colored glasses handy to try out the 3D viewing mode. I was fortunate enough to have a PS Move on hand to test out the support the game had for Sony's new motion control. I avoided using through the whole Vikings campaign because I felt that it wouldn't be as accurate as my Dual Shock 3 controller. I was pleasantly mistaken as I started the Aztec campaign and found that after just a few minutes of adjusting, it became second nature using the Move. In the end, I feel as if I preferred using the Move as it seemed more accurate when it came to casting spells that targeted specific units on the screen.

Know my Final Thoughts!
When I selected this game to review, I was very excited about how the game was described and all the features it has. I quickly changed my mind after playing it for awhile, because I found out that it isn't a game with as much depth as I was expecting. I'm sure the single player campaign could very well get you ready for some multiplayer gaming but that wasn't even something I was interested in. In a brief problem I had with getting the game to update, I found myself on the game's official forums, and I saw that the developers put a great deal of effort into tweaking balance issues and other bugs. I also witnessed people that made it a point to come up with formulas that reminded me of long ago when I'd be playing old school RTS games on the PC. I have already been a part of that and didn't really care to return. So I think this title will feel lacking for those who like to play single player campaigns or classic RTS games. However, for those who want to play a unique title which can entertain you with hours of multiplayer matches, you could do a lot worse than this title. I feel that Swords & Soldiers is a solid game, yet just not the game for me.

Developed by Ronimo Games, Swords & Soldiers is a PSN title for that PS3 that is available in the North American and European PlayStation Stores. I played this title for nearly 3 hours, completely all three single player campaigns.

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