Something else I curiously pointed my eyes at whilst dashing around GamesCom’s titanic floorspace was Dutch indie studio Ronimo’s side-on strategy title Swords & Soldiers. Which, if you ask me, is a name that rather undersells a game about giants, monkeys and clouds made of angry vikings…
It’s already been out on Wiiware, where it was hailed as making the ever tricky RTS-on-console thing work rather neatly. Next month, it’s due on PC, with higher res graphics and a cheeky little multiplayer mode.
The hook is that you don’t control your units – they march inexorably to the other side of the screen, getting into big old barnies with any opposing forces they might encounter en route. The first side to raze the other team’s tower wins, basically. A little bit of tower defence and a little bit of DoTA, but nothing at all like either.
Where you come in, aside from watching the cartoon carnage, is to choose exactly what’s built. The basic balance is melee units counter ranged units counter stunning units, so you take an educated guess about what the enemy’s sending at you and build to suit.
The unit types are, I suspect, where the game sings. Split between three factions – Aztecs, Vikings and Chinese – they cheerfully encompass every mythical stereotype going. Giants! Valkyries with ratings board-troubling decolletage! Bomb-chucking monkeys!
On top of that are game-changing spells and upgrades; it’s a resource-management game despite the lack of directly-controlled harvesting. You take a punt on what’s going to be most useful, and if you can hold out long enough to drop an Indiana Jones-style boulder onto the battlefield, it’ll achieve a whole lot more than marching a couple of Zen Masters across the screen. As will the Viking spell called rage, which turns a handful of units into screaming dust cloud which can safely approach the enemy without getting nobbled en route.
Sadly technical issues meant I couldn’t give the game a spin at GamesCom, but hopefully we’ll have some code incoming soon and I can give you a decent impression of how it plays. For now, though: videos!
September 21 is the intended date, and it’ll be on Steam. It’ll bring with it a clever-sounding online mode, wherein you can turn on matchmaking any time in the game and the singlepayer game will continue while it looks for another player. It’ll pull you out of your solo session once one is found, then put you back where you left off once your match is done. It’s intended to defeat the persistent problem inherent in some smaller games – that the limited player base means you can end up lurking in a multiplayer lobby for ages. This way, you can at least get on with something while you wait.
So that’s it for now, but more to come soon – while I’ve not played it, the mechanics, humour and look of what I saw seemed very much on the right track.