Swords and Soldiers is the iPhone adaptation of the WiiWare, PlayStation Network, and PC/Mac game of the same name. It is an interesting title, mixing real-time strategy with 2-D side-scrolling, and adding a heaping helping of humor along the way. The game is focused around three different groups based on Vikings, the Aztecs, and the Imperial Chinese, as well as their individual driving motivations.
Perhaps the best example of this comes from the Vikings, who are best designated as the “starting” faction. You can elect to choose one of the others instead, but they also represent an increase in challenge, and are probably best left until you’ve effectively mastered the earlier stages of the game in the Viking campaign.
So, what motivates the Vikings? Are they out to pillage and plunder any sign of civilization they come across? Do they wish to crush their enemies, to see them driven before them, and to hear the lamentations of their women?
Mine your manners.
Nope; all they really want is to enjoy their barbecue, and perhaps discover the perfect sauce to accompany it in the process. Unfortunately, however, the evil rival viking warlord Blackbeard (would have figured him to be a pirate, but oh well) wants all of the delicious meats, glaze, and trimmings for himself, and so war begins. To meet the threat, you send the viking women into the gold mines to accumulate the wealth needed to purchase items and upgrades required for the stage, such as mana, healing spells, and the ability to send more men across the field to engage the oncoming forces.
You begin with Berserkers, who simply march forward and trade blows with enemy combatants until one of them falls; with sufficient mana, however, you can cast a healing spell which can allow them to endure. As you progress, you’ll find more troops, spells, and upgrades to add to your ranks, including axe-throwers and short, ice-hammer wielding troops, as well as the ability to cast “Rage” upon your men, which sends those you touch with it into a cartoonish cloud of dust and smoke which moves ahead at a much faster rate, doing additional damage in the process.
And so it goes, as you move from place to place and continent to continent, in pursuit of your dreaded nemesis. Vikings are not the only enemies you will face, though, as the other groups cross your path as well.
The war of the twins.
The other factions have their own quirks as well, though their basic gameplay is largely the same. The Aztecs are forced to fend off the malicious Lovsbatl as he seeks to make off with the Holy Pepper, while the childish Chinese Emperor seeks to collect candy and toys from around the world. The Chinese have sword-wielding troops and some with rockets mounted to their backs for long-range attacks, while the Aztecs (which seemed the most difficult to us) would send mystics out to raise armies of skeleton warriors to engage their enemies.
Oh, and ninja monkeys. Can’t forget the ninja monkeys.
It’s not an especially deep game. The common driving goal for the player is to keep enough troops coming that the enemy army is overwhelmed and their base destroyed. There are different modes of play, including Challenges and the custom Skirmish mode, but the overall premise is both simple and fun, and there is enough humor sprinkled around to keep things from becoming dull as you continue through the three different campaigns.
The only thing really missing is the Space Marine faction teased on the April Fool’s Day before the game’s original release. Now there’s a lot who could use a good humor injection.