Swords & Soldiers (WiiWare)

Game Review

Swords & Soldiers Review

Europe PAL Version

Posted by Marcel van Duyn

Has this much-hyped title been worth the wait?

The strategy genre has gone quite ignored on WiiWare. Aside from the launch title Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: My Life as a King the only other game was the recent Crystal Defenders R1. With Swords & Soldiers, Dutch developer Ronimo Games has taken a stab at bringing the RTS (real-time strategy) sub-genre into the mix.

One of the things you're likely to notice first is that the entire game is side-scrolling. This is in stark contrast to all other well-known RTS franchises, such as Command and Conquer and Starcraft, which instead feature an overhead map to command units on. Surprisingly, the game still manages to have quite a lot of depth. The game also has a very light-hearted cartoony graphical style, which looks great and really brings it all alive. The cartoon chaos is also accentuated by a great musical score, which changes as various things happen on the battlefield. For example, when an enemy starts an attack the music will suddenly become a bit more upbeat.

In Swords & Soldiers you can play as three "factions" - the Vikings, the Aztecs and the Chinese. Of course, these aren't just different visually - all of their units, buildings and spells have completely different functions, except for the primary "worker" unit. For all factions, this unit does nothing more than walk to goldmines, collecting gold and bringing it back to the base - But it's essential you have a lot of them (the maximum, however, is 10) because gold is needed to create additional units, or research new unit types and spells.

For example, the primary Viking unit is the Berserker - he relies on raw power and as such has more health than any other "basic" unit, and dishes out more damage. The Aztecs have the Jaguar Warrior, who always gets the first strike but doesn't have much health, while the Chinese have Foot-soldiers, who are pretty average in terms of attack power but have the added perk of randomly being able to deflect projectiles like throwing axes.

Each of the armies has three "basic" units in addition to the standard "worker", but they've also got one "strong" unit. Naturally, these cost quite a bunch, but they can turn the tide of any battle if used at the correct time. The Vikings naturally use catapults, while the Aztecs have a massive golem called the "Sun Giant" and the Chinese use the Zen Master, who can immobilize one unit at a time by lifting them into the air and then killing them with a single attack!

Every faction also has a single "tower" which you can build on designated building spots - the Vikings just have a plain old defensive tower which can be mounted by a single Axe Thrower to increase his throwing range and shield him from most attacks. The Aztecs can create a giant statue which shoots laser beams at nearby enemies, and the Chinese can create a Buddha statue to increase the speed at which their mana replenishes (we'll get to that in a bit).

The beauty of the game is that you don't really command any of the units. Once you've created them they'll simply march off to the enemy base and attack any enemy units along the way - they will never even turn around to head back to their own base. However, you can aid them in their journey - Every faction has a bunch of spells, some of which can be used on the enemy and some of which can be used on your own units.

For example, a Viking unit will win against almost every other unit as long as the enemy unit is alone - With the Heal spell you can just keep replenishing your Viking’s health. If you'd rather take matters into your own hands it's possible as well - The temptation of throwing a Poison Bomb into a large group of enemies as the Aztecs is all too great. Each faction also has a "super" spell, which costs a ton of mana, but will eradicate a large amount of enemies.

The most fun of these is that of the Aztecs - Their Boulder spell will create a gigantic rock that rolls from your base to the enemy's, killing every friendly and enemy unit along the way in one hit (Except for catapults and Sun Giants, who will be knocked down to near death) until it hits a tower or the enemy base. The fun in this comes from the fact that you can actually hit A to make the boulder jump - meaning you can possibly wipe out all the enemies and have a clear path to victory, or kill all of your own units and be in serious trouble!

All spells use different amounts of mana, and you'll have to be very careful not too spend too much. At the beginning of each stage you'll usually get a generous amount of it, but during the rest of the level it'll slowly regenerate. Only the Aztecs have the ability to quickly gain a bunch of it with their Sacrifice spell - this will naturally kill a friendly unit, converting their remaining health into mana. The other factions will have to wait for their mana to come back no matter what, although they can affect it slightly - the Vikings can upgrade their mana recovery speed up to three times in exchange for a large amount of gold, while the Chinese can build the aforementioned Buddha statues to increase the speed for each statue in play (although you might be in trouble if the level doesn't have a lot of places to build!).

The game's main gameplay mode is the Campaign. In this, you can play as any of the three factions as you try to make it through each of their ten unique levels. On the faction selection screen, initially, only the Vikings are lit up, but you can actually select the Aztecs and Chinese as well. Be warned though, because these are quite a bit harder and the AI is noticeably more aggressive in them.

Most of the missions in the campaign require you to destroy the enemy base - simply push forward slowly, by making the right units at the right time, until they reach the base and destroy it before the enemy can make more units. Some missions give you different objectives though, such as collecting a certain amount of gold or simply surviving long enough to escape. All in all there's a decent amount of variety, and the three campaigns will last you quite a while, as each takes about 2 hours to clear.

Once you've gotten to a certain point in a campaign you'll unlock a mini-game (or "challenge") based around the corresponding faction. The Chinese mini-game is the most basic - it's just a full-fledged, endless version of the "survival" concept from some campaign levels. If you're really good it can go on for over half an hour! The Aztecs get a mini-game based around their "Boulder" spell, in which you try to kill all 100 Vikings while jumping over all Aztecs.

The Vikings get the biggest mini-game - In Berserker Run, you control a single Berserker unit as he runs through a gigantic stage fighting a whole bunch of enemies. You have to aid him with spells from all three factions combined, and at certain points you'll get the option to pick one out of two new ones - Choose wisely!

Naturally, an RTS game cannot go without a multiplayer mode, and Swords & Soldiers is thankfully no exception. It's got a fully customizable versus mode in which you can play against the AI (to practice!) or a human. Of course, all three factions are available, and both sides can also pick the same one. There are even multiple maps to pick from. If you and your friend are both equally strategic, though, these matches can go on for quite a while - keep in mind the game is side-scrolling, so if you both perfectly counter each others' moves there'll just be one big fight in the centre that never ends!

The final feature is one which Xbox 360, PS3 and PC gamers are all too aware of - The game features 25 achievements which are awarded for achieving various, well, achievements! For example, try destroying the enemy base with a Boulder spell to unlock "RickRolled"!


Swords & Soldiers is a delightfully light-hearted take on the strategy genre. With 3 campaigns, each of which is over 2 hours long, three minigames, a multiplayer mode, and achievements to collect, it will keep you entertained for a very long time; needless to say, it's an essential download. With this game and the original PC version of de Blob under their belts already, Ronimo Games have proven themselves to be yet another great Dutch developer, and we greatly anticipate any future WiiWare projects from them.

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User Comments (65)



Corbs said:

I'm not a big RTS fan, but I'm getting this one now for sure! Great review Drakemeister!



Esposch said:

Great review Drake. If I may ask though, is there any online multiplayer?



KDR_11k said:

Nope, offline only.

I'm not sure I'd count the zen master as a "strong" unit, he's only 20 gold more than the rocket dude. The Aztec necromancer costs MORE than the zen master.



CanisWolfred said:

Well well, I'm glad to see this turned out to be good afterall. However, I've been playing RTS's for 2 weeks straight and need a break. Maybe I'll get it some other time.



opeter said:

This game is fantastic! I am only at the 5th vikking level, but it is simply amazing to play. Decent humour, great music (every level has another one, so it is not repeating), fantastic animations and beautiful cartoonish graphics.

Did I mention the gameplay? I had, to take a break after constantly playing it for 1,5 hours...



opeter said:

... because of my eyes. I forget to wink, so my eyes almost dried out!



calculon said:

An awesome game and a great review to boot. Just a little point - I'm fairly sure you can't unlock achievements at the slowest speed (there is an option to change the speed of the game in the options screen which is independent of the difficulty of the factions) but the game defaults to normal speed so unless you like tinkering with the options it probably won't matter.

It's just a shame there's no online multiplayer but there's no reason why Ronimo couldn't add it as an update later. Not that I expect they will if they're working on other WiiWare projects.



killer6370 said:

Damn, Now there are 3 games i need to buy(Megaman 9,Lost Winds and Swords an soldiers) but i only have 1500 points left



Sean_Aaron said:

I fired it up early this morning after buying it on Friday; it really is quite good. I've never been a big fan of RTSes, so not having to tell units where to go works great for me; the look and feel are also nice. I was initially flummoxed by the initial request to press the "miner" button and even went to the online manual to try to clear things up without success. Then I noticed the icon at the top of the screen (better manual would have been nice; it was 3am in my defense!)...



KnucklesSonic8 said:

Stellar review, Drake. Boy do I love seeing an informative review like this!

"The Chinese mini-game is the most basic - it's just a full-fledged, endless version of the "survival" concept from some campaign levels. If you're really good it can go on for over half an hour!" - How gratifying! Sounds to be a challenging game, indeed.

Being a fan of the RTS genre, this game really is an "essential download" for me and you can be assured that I'll be supporting Ronimo Games' efforts when it comes to NA in 2 weeks from now (prediction; confirmed to not come Monday).



matroos said:

Great review.

For the first time I did not wait for your review, bought directly when it was available. Totaly agree on the score and review.

Personally I like the multiplay most ...

The game has features of a full retail game ... 1000 points suits the quality of the game well! Specially coz you want to play this game more often if you like strategy games.



Wiiloveit said:

I really want to give this a go. I'm not really an RTS fan myself, but I must say that I have been enjoying Little Kings Story (which is strategy/sim), and this game is coming highly recommended from, well, everyone! Despite this however, I have told myself that I can't buy it until I play through some of my other games, since I've got several that I need to get round to playing through properly, and once I do that (and ensure that I have enough money left over from other games, such as Punch-Out!!, whilst keeping enough money for future releases - ie, Klonoa, The Conduit, Wii Sports Resort and WM+), I'll definitely be giving this a go.



mojo25 said:

I really want to try this, but is it good when you're playing by yourself? Like, will the gameplay last for more than a couple days when you just play with yourself? :



naut said:

When I first saw this, it looked really lame. Looks like I'll be buying it now!



ejamer said:

Does anyone else see a PopCap rip off coming soon? This looks like a great game, another gem to add to the WiiWare library.



Adam said:

Very detailed review, thanks! I love real-time strategy games, particularly Command and Conquer. I was worried this one might be disappointingly simplistic, but it sounds like they've packed a lot into it.



Drake said:

@ Bahamut: Yeah, if it had online it'd probably be a 10. It's understandable why it's not included though, it's just not really affordable for many smaller developers. I guess they could've included leaderboards though.



jhuhn said:

Well if the game had good impressions, I'm sure the North America region should get it launched sometime this summer.



WolfRamHeart said:

Excellent review! I was already going to download this as soon as it became available and now I know I'll be getting a truely awesome game! I just can't wait for it to come out!!!



Crazed said:

Glad to see that this game is doing well. With Little King's Story, Swords and Soldiers, and Majora's Mask all in Europe, I'm starting to get a bit jealous of Europe. Hopefully this and/or Majora's Mask comes tomorrow (I have no preference, but I know there is the whole 300th VC game thing, so I'll hope for the best.)



Objection said:

Great review! I really hope we get this along with whatever 300th VC. I'll be picking this up for sure.



Clint_Eastwood said:

It's my next WiiWare purchase, and the first this year actually. It's nice to see another quality game on there for once =D



KDR_11k said:

Does anyone else see a PopCap rip off coming soon?

They've already got Plants vs Zombies which is close enough.



Shortay said:

Great review Drake as usual. I'll definitely download this one when I get some points.



Awesome5 said:

Nice review, although it would have been cool to see the second "10" score on wiiware. I'll be getting this as soon as it hits the U.S.



Golgo said:

I love this. And I love Plants vs Zombies. Both games have nailed and distilled their respective genres.



DaVeMaN99 said:

Game looks great. Better come to NA tomorrow!
And Plants vs Zombies is nothing like this, from the looks of it.



Drake said:

It's been confirmed not to be released in the US tomorrow, so you'll have to wait at least one more week



Ricardo91 said:

"They've already got Plants vs Zombies which is close enough."

P vs. Z has absolutely NOTHING in common with this game, besides both of them being strategy games.

Still need to buy that too...



Haze4peace said:

I've been playing this game for a few days now and it's great! My interest hasn't been held this much by a game in a long time. Only thing that would make it better would be online battles. Oh well, maybe the sequel will have it!



Bahamut_ZERO said:

This has been a huge Nintendo year so far. We've got Excitebots, Little Kings Story, Swords & Soldiers, Rhythm Heaven, Punch Out!, Klonoa, the list goes on and on. My only problem is that I don't have the cash necessary for all of this

@Objection_Blaster: It's a conspiracy man!



Drake said:

Ronimo Games said the game isn't coming out in NA today, that's all I know, honest!



Clint_Eastwood said:

Just had my first go at this, completed the first four levels in the Viking campaign. Already it seems to be challenging me a bit, because I lost levels 3 and 4 on my first try. It's nice that it's so easily accesible, but not a complete push-over in the beginning. It's just nice and simple fast-paced fun. Nothing spectacular, but fun.

With this and Little King's story, my Wii is all about light-hearted world domination these days =)



Objection said:

@Drake, now that we're over the "big 300" day, how about next Monday? Is that a possible NA release for S&S, as far as you know?



GamerZack87 said:

I bought this about half an hour ago and played the first Viking mission, and I totally agree with Drake's review!

To all in Europe, Australia and New Zealand...you could do worse than see...Monty Python and the...oops, wrong media...uh...Swords & Soldiers IS DA BOB-OMB!



Drake said:

@ Objection_Blaster: I guess it could happen, but there's so many other games the US still needs (Adventure Island, Bubble Bobble, Rainbow Islands) they might want to catch up first.



nintendolover88 said:

GREAT GAME!!! the best thing is you dont actually have to command the units. The spells are really great and i lve the fire breathing chinease dragon Wish it had wi-fi...

P.S Great review Drake!!!



motang said:

Dang it, I got all excited to buy this game to my disappointment it's not even out in the states yet, hopefully soon!



Bones00 said:

Wow this game is challenging. I went back and forth with the enemy in one mission for so long that we killed about 400 of each other's soldiers before I finally won.



jordanr said:

caelett - Read the review It says three campaigns each about 2hrs long. So you would get around 6hrs total.



Mabbit said:

i had one mission that took me about an hour! man it was HARD. i finally won. we both killed about 800 of each others guys



KrazyKain said:

i love the game as a whole but the first level of the aztek campaign is endlessly ticking me off.. still havent beaten it yet



moomoo said:

Beat all the campaigns and can honestly say that this game is fantastic. It easily deserves the universally praised reviews it has gotten. One of the best games on wiiware.



mnementh said:

playing this game and i think it's the best wiiware game. would have paid for retail. hoping for a sequel. awesome awesome game.



gaminguy said:

Think i'll get this somtime this week, i'll let you know probably if I like it



gaminguy said:

got it. the campaign is short but EXTREMELY fun. I like how it slowly works you in to the game's three factions. The challenges are fun, although boulder is more like a minigame. The acheivments are balanced pretty well. Some are VERY easy, but some are based on pure luck or are extremely hard. (like getting a perfect score on a boulder game).
Skirmishes are fun, basically just a standard battle with custom rules, haven't done multiplayer but I'm sure it's great. It's somewhat casual once you beat the campaign's, but I recommend it to anyone who remotely likes RTS's.

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