Swords & Soldiers (& Vikings & Monkeys)

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.


  1. Fergus says:

    Brilliant idea with the play-while-you-wait system. It happens even in some larger games, I can’t count the number of times I’ve started up L4D2 and quit a few minutes later because I didn’t want to spend any more time sitting in a lobby waiting for players.

    • JonFitt says:

      I too like this system. Variations on that should become the norm for matchmade games.

      On a side note, the bit in L4D(2) matchmaking which I hated the most was when you hit the “Quick Join any old game ” button, and it would come back saying “Failed to join game”. WHICH FRAKKING GAME!?! I said join any old game, why on earth do I care if one failed to respond. TRY ANOTHER! NNNGGH.


  2. Delusibeta says:

    Considering the WiiWare version (which has been out for yonks) has been fairly highly rated (a Metacritic rating of 84), this should be good.

  3. Oak says:

    Oh, neat. Tom Chick talked this up on Three Moves Ahead once and it sounded really interesting.

  4. postmanX3 says:

    It’s a ton of fun as a Wii game, if only for its split screen multiplayer. But I think it might feel a little redundant on the PC, seeing as there’s been tons of web-based games with the same idea.

  5. Brian Artiaco says:

    Having had this on the Wii for a while, I can give a bit of a quick review:

    The game has a lot of polish, and a really good sense of humor, with a dash of clever internet meme-ness thrown in. The 3 races are fairly well balanced as well.

    Unfortunately, this game suffers from one particularly brutal game mechanic. Much like in history, when you raised an army, you’d have to wait for the army to arrive, and then get to fighting. However, the farther away you’re fighting from home, the harder it is to react. The closer you get to your enemies base in this game, the farther ahead you have to plan, sending a steady stream of enemies at your opponent. Now conversely, the closer you’re backed up against a wall, the quicker you can react to the battle, and you have a much longer time to see what’s coming your way and to plan ahead. The result of this, is that it can result in to opponents slugging it out back and forth for a long long time. One side gets the upper hand, but the closer you get to winning, the weaker your assault becomes, and the more effective your foes become.

    That being said it’s definitely fun from a casual perspective, and worth what I paid for it.

  6. Hoshi says:

    Ahhh great! Looks like a 100% girlfriend compatible LAN game…

  7. Tacroy says:

    The thing is, this game is not that revolutionary – the concept has been around in Flash games for a long, long time. I mean, we’re up to Epic War 4 at this point, and Epic War the first has been out since 2008, and it wasn’t even the first of this kind of game (I don’t really remember what that was, but I do remember the first Epic War not being the first one I’d played)

    The primary problem with this sort of game is that it always ends up being a grind – you just have to beat and beat and beat against the enemy until they give up. Maybe with this more polished game they’ve figured that out, or found other ways to make it entertaining, but the only sense I’ve ever gotten from this genre is unending tedium.

    Still, people seem to like it for some reason.


  8. Justin says:

    I remember a game on the Apple ][ that was like this, even. I forget the name…

    Anyway, that matchmaking scheme is the kind of concept that makes people jump out of their chair and say “YES”.

  9. SpinalJack says:

    Looks like a pretty generic flash game

  10. Kevbo says:

    This was an amazing game for WiiWare awhile ago so I am very happy to see it getting more exposure and multiplayer with a nice match making system. I had tons of fun playing it so I’ll grab it again for the PC. It reminded me of that army men game back in the day where you hit keys for different units or vehicles to move across the screen to destroy the enemy base.

  11. pipman3000 says:

    omigawd monkey ninjas how randum &_&

  12. jon says:

    The game is pretty fun and the single player is mildly entertaining with nods to internet memes. It is definitely well-polished. I just find that I get bored of it after a couple games, even with friends. Theres barely any strategy to it, so once both competitors know what all the units and spells do and how to use them, it can drag on for a long time.

    I find that basically every game against another human gets to the point where we have everything researched and just spam units. You can’t really strategize with unit composition, or else you just lose because the enemy has more stuff than you. Then it just boils down to who gets bored and starts getting sloppy with spells first. Which always happens because you’ve been playing the same game for 20 minutes by this point.

    Basically, it’s a game that everyone loves the first few times they play it…but also a game that nobody ever wants to play for more than half an hour.

  13. SeriousKriss says:

    Reminds me of Steam Brigade, which was pretty good. Did anyone try both?

  14. Ian says:

    It’s a shame that RTS-players aren’t a target market of the Wii ’cause I’d have thought that there was an opening to make a “proper” RTS of some sort for the Wii. Y’know, do for RTS controls on a console what Metroid Prime did for FPS controls (i.e. be awesome.)

  15. K says:

    DotA anyone? Except without a hero unit, without tons of upgrades and with only one route instead of 3. So yeah, simple DotA.

  16. RUN msdos.exe -DMC says:

    So no one wants to be angry over it being ported to another platform?

    Dammit, why can’t all gaming sites be so civil and rational?