The Average Gamer
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Swords and Soldiers Review (iOS)

Previously featured in our 11 of the Best Wii Ware Games post, Swords and Soldiers is an action-strategy game now out on iOS with a fun approach and an interesting play model. The story for Swords and Soldiers is based upon armies and food. The first set of levels sees you leading barbeque-loving Vikings on a global quest for the ultimate sauce to accompany their meat. Then you help Aztecs defend their “Holy Pepper”, concluding with Chinese characters building explosive toys.

Each stage is composed of multiple levels of varying objectives: destroy the enemy base, defend your base, or collect a certain amount of resources from the environment. In order to achieve these goals, your aim is to optimise your expense of resources between gold collectors and attack units, and moderate your use of the steadily-acquired mana resource for the purpose of casting spells.

Level layout consists of a wide, scrollable map. Your characters are generated at your base on the left hand edge, and move across the map to the right which is gradually revealed until you reach the enemy base on the far right. You can scroll backwards and forwards, and one of the key aspects of the game is balancing your attention between collecting resources near your base, and managing your attacking units by replenishing them with healing spells and helping with occasional attack spells too.

The game provides an excellent getting started level at the first stage. The walkthrough is simple to understand, and provides lots of guidance on how to get going with the game. However, the game quickly ramps up in complexity and difficulty, so four or five levels in you will really have to start paying attention rather than the idle play that would have got you through the first few stages.

The game employs an upgrades system whereby you start with a single unit type available and gradually progress through available items, which increase in price. With the start of each level you are required to re-purchase and wait for available upgrades before they can be used, adding another dynamic to what is in essence a basic 2-resource strategy system with a few twists.

If you’re into strategy and like your games with a fun twist, this will probably suit you very well. However, the occasionally over-the-top approach will mean this isn’t for the hard-core strategists. Unfortunately its levels are somewhat repetitive after a while; despite small variances as levels pass – such as a new, larger enemy or an enemy mass-effect weapon – the game core remains similar and I found myself repeating the same actions over and over, level by level.

Some balancing is required, though, as throughout the game some magic spells felt that they could be more effective or provide better value for their associated costs. The conversational cutscreens could have required fewer interactions to operate, requiring a tap on the screen for every interaction that is exchanged to proceed, however they did a reasonably good job of establishing characters and getting me immersed in the game.

However, if this game does tickle your penchant for fun and strategy, it is deadly serious at locking you in for marathons of taking down monster after monster and boss tower after boss tower. The sheer number of variations possible when playing is excellent, as is the Skirmish mode. Complete game customisability makes it an absolute dream for anyone who wants to keep coming back for some more.

On more than one occasion, I experienced the “hooked” effect of this game and suddenly an entire train journey and half my battery had disappeared in a ninja monkey-fuelled strategy binge (they really are in the game). The sheer number of options for combining attacks and magic is mind-blowing and difficult to master to get the results you need every time. While initially I felt the game to be a bit similar from level to level, eventually the tactical nature and time-critical nature of some item purchases really got me thinking about how to play it.

Once I got through an initial crash which required a restart of the iPad before the game would load properly, the overall quality of the production is excellent. Animations are well done, detailed and add a layer of visual depth that is well appreciated. Sounds are equally well produced and are key to making the game work from an engagement perspective – sometimes it is so difficult to keep track of everything happening on and off screen that the audio clues are welcome.

So, the verdict? This is an engaging and fun game, due in part to the complexities of the animation and interaction but also because the gameplay can range from casually simple to fiendishly difficult, requiring a lot of concentration to make sure that all of your resources come together to bring down the enemy and deliver the ultimate BBQ sauce.

Swords and Soldiers is available now on iOS, as well as PC, Wii Ware and PSN. More details on the official Swords and Soldiers site.

This is a guest review from Chris Alexander, robotics engineer. Check out his Kinect-controlled robot arm. Sure, they’re not self-aware YET but with SkyNet just around the corner I’d keep my eye on this one.

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