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Swords and Soldiers by Romino Games presents itself as a real time strategy game, but adds a level of utter goofiness that can excite and interest gamers who've never played this type of game before. Yes, I'm talking about me.
The premise of Swords and Soldiers is simple. Adopting yourself into one of three 'factions' – Vikings, Aztecs, or Chinese – you are presented with a series of challenges, mostly related to defeating your enemies by collecting gold, casting spells, and creating some good old-fashioned mayhem. You command who does what by selecting icons at the top of the screen. The most basic unit is the 'worker' unit, who walks back and forth collecting gold. This unit is integral, however, since you need the gold to purchase the warrior and magical units. Once you pick the unit, you lose control of them – they march off to the enemy base and attack until they defeat the enemy or are killed (in the most cartoonish and non-bloody way imaginable).
I enjoyed this game so much that I actually lost track of time.
This sounds stressful, and it is to an extent, but the primary skill utilized in this game is money management. Do you spend your gold on replenishing your Viking Berserkers or do you spend it on a lightning bolt spell to pulverize the advancing enemy? Because your workers are steadily collecting gold, you make these strategic decisions constantly. A little tip – when you begin play, only the Vikings are highlighted, but you can actually pick any of the factions to begin play. The Vikings are the easiest lot to manage, however. Enemies in the Aztec and Chinese factions are much more difficult to subdue.
Each faction provides a far different playing experience of the game. The Vikings are brute force swarthy types; the Aztecs can harness the power of the undead; and the Chinese have the most magic at their disposal. Common to the entire game, though, is a goofy adbsurdist streak that extends through the storyline (for example, a Chinese emperor who doesn't like having his toys stolen); the animation, with its broad caricatures and primary colour scheme; even the music, which after each challenge is presented, gives you an orchestral swoop that sounds lifted right out of the old Batman television series.
I enjoyed this game so much that I actually lost track of time. I was in the middle of a Viking battle in their quest for a better barbecue sauce, and came this close to taking over the enemy base. I glanced at the clock and realized that I had been playing that particular skirmish for 45 minutes and was now perilously close to being late for work.
My only gripe is that the icons are small enough that they can be devilishly hard to distinguish. If you have a large plasma television (which I don't) or keen eyesight (which I don't), this will not pose a problem, but if you're poor and near-sighted like myself, it's a minor inconvenience.
Just don't let it make you late for work.
Can kids play the game? My own brood (five and seven) are probably too young to grasp enough of the strategy to make it a fun game for them, but I would venture that for children ages ten and older, this could be a game that could occupy them for hours. There is a multi-player mode that allows a player to play against the computer or a human. Since the play scrolls side-to-side, if players are equally matched, the game could literally never end!
In short, Swords and Soldiers offers a lot of fun and challenge, whether you're a seasoned RTS player or new to the genre. Just don't let it make you late for work.
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