Ronimo Games offers up a humorous, superb real-time strategy game with minor issues present.
It's rare for a WiiWare title to blow me away. Ronimo Games however created a gem not to be missed. Ronimo was founded by the same creators of the prototype design for de Blob. Swords & Soldiers (S&S) has not only destroyed my expectations of downloadable games, but also made me realize that real-time strategy (RTS) games can actually be good on the Wii. With S&S being their first title, Ronimo is already proving their company's worth.
This isn't your grandfather's RTS game. The whole game takes place on a 2D playing field, allowing your units to only move left or right. Having RTS gameplay on a 2D plane is reminiscent of Grim Grimoire on Playstation 2, except Sword & Soldiers has a lot more charm.
Swords & Soldiers’ gives an experience that players can enjoy with its simple menus, slick animations, and beautiful drawings. The art style alone is amazing. Ronimo definitely created S&S with a gamer's humor in mind. Gamers can find themselves enjoying the iconic '60s Batman-esque scene transitions, nerdy achievement titles, and simple-yet-innocent plotlines.
Like a typical RTS game, S&S features your basic resources collecting, different factions to choose from, a variety of units to build, upgrade trees to learn, and bases to rush. All of this can be done with only the Wii Remote. Move the cursor to the left and right of the field to scroll the map; click on buttons at the top of the screen to either build or upgrade units. There are three factions: Vikings, Aztecs, and Imperial Chinese, each balanced with its own set of units and skills. Some units are good for up-close combat, while others are more suited to attack from afar. It's not only your units you have to worry about; each faction has its own magical skills. The Vikings have the brute strength, with freezing spells and electrical bolts; they're also the only faction capable of healing. The Imperial Chinese have skills focused on summoning extra warriors who can attack ranged units. The Aztecs have the power of the undead, combined with the ability to set traps and poison enemies. Each skill requires the use of mana, which is replenished over time.
The main campaign offers ten missions for each faction. To beat each mission you basically have to take over the enemy's base. Missions can vary in difficulty and some can add requirementsto make it more challenging. They could have a time limit or only allow certain units to be used. Other ones can provide a change of pace (such as tower defense). Even though the campaign only lasts seven hours each mission is different and enjoyable enough to play through that the length didn't matter so much. It could have been longer, but it's impressive that all of it was even fit into a WiiWare title. The campaign story isn't generic either; it contains just as much charm as the presentation, and is unique for an RTS game. Ronimo tailored the story to the cartoon-like experience the game provides.
Although the story plays very well to the game's strengths, the true beauty is that every overwhelmingly complicated aspect of traditional RTS games is thrown out the window. What remains is a slick interface, allowing the player to unleash everything given to them with the ease of a point-and-click interface. With gold being the only resource to collect, all your time can be spent deciding which troops to send out. With the simple push of a button at the top of the screen, a unit instantly pops out of home base marching towards the other side of the screen. Depending on the terrain and/or available buildings, your units will continue marching until they reach the enemy headquarters or die trying. Some maps have splitting paths that separate into a high road and a low road. In these cases, the path a unit takes is determined by the click of an arrow. This can be strategic, for one path may contain more enemies, but also more gold to harvest. It's simple mechanics like these that remove any tedious micro-managing, allowing the player to direct their attention to the main draw of the game: the tug-of-war confrontations.
When units from one force encounter enemy units it creates a point of contest. Units don't have the ability to pass enemies, so your units bunch up at one focus point and unleash all of their attacks. The focus point can move back and forth given the strength of one army, but it's this tug-of-war gameplay that makes battles tense and fast-paced. Unfortunately, it can be difficult to select specific units when all of your units are bunched up; healthbars on top of each troop becomes hard to see, and clicking on the right unit to heal becomes a challenge. The same problem exists with special attacks directed towards the enemy, as too often a regular unit is targeted instead of the intended larger unit.
In the single-player campaign, the computer offers very strong resistance that forces the player to plan his attacks. I found myself having to retry missions frequently due to the brute strength of the computer. Figuring out which units to send out at the right time becomes the strategy and adds complexity to the seemingly simple system. Knowing there's a magic caster coming ahead, do you send out melee troops or axe throwers? These are questions you will have to answer on a regular basis.
Aside from the single-player campaign, there are additional modes. There's a practice Skirmish mode and several mini-game challenges. The mode with the most replay value is the two-player Skirmish. These are just like normal battles, but your opponent is a human being. Spread across nine varied maps, these battles are just as intense as those in the campaign. An in-game achievement system also rewards you for accomplishments, like destroying an enemy base with a boulder or controlling 50 units at once. No unlockables can be won from gaining achievements, but they are goals one can work towards for more replayability.
With the creation of the de Blob prototype and now Swords & Soldiers, Ronimo Games is definitely an up-and-coming developer. You can't find any other game like this one on Wii. For a WiiWare title, the production value is over the top. Despite not providing a deep RTS experience, it will still provide enough enjoyment to make strategy fans happy. Some control issues are present, and online multiplayer is missed, but consider this a game to add to your collection. With its quirkiness and charm, Swords & Soldiers is an astounding game.