September 16, 2012 6:30 PM | Staff
[Guest Reviewer Colin Brown profiles each game in the Back to School Bundle currently running on IndieGames' co-created site Indie Royale.]
If neat, off beat, unusual indie games are your thing, the Indie Royale Back to School bundle has you covered. And while we will certainly dive right in to some of the delightful oddities that await, first up is the fairly straightforward but very entertaining WiiWare import from Ronimo Games. Swords and Soldiers is a 2D strategy game based on an extraordinarily skewed view of the world where wars are fought not over culture, territory and religion, but over barbecues. Packed with multiple campaigns, online multiplayer and the bonus DLC, Swords and Soldiers is a perfect example of how to make a casual game without skimping on depth and strategy.
The gameplay is simple but deceptive. Taking on the role of the Vikings, the Aztecs or the Chinese empire, you are thrown onto a 2D battlefield with your enemy on the right and plenty of ground to cover. Like most RTS games, you must build units to gather gold before moving up the tech tree to unlock new units and spells. Blow up the enemy base by sending units after it, and victory is yours. The simplicity of the gameplay comes from the fact that you have next to no control over your own units, which will run to the right or die trying. While this might rub a few players the wrong way, the developers do a terrific job of balancing the game around this automated control scheme and it avoids the sort of zergling rush that dominates many RTS tactics.
The most surprising thing about Swords & Soldiers is how much attention to balance and detail each army has. All three empires play very differently, and have totally unique loadouts and spells. No one empire is a direct counter to the other, instead focusing on strategic use of units and spells to gain the upper hand. In all seriousness, the last RTS I can remember that achieved this sort of asynchronous balance was Starcraft, so the developers should truly be commended for it. Unlike most semi-casual strategy games, online multiplayer is a serious, viable, balanced option to play with friends.
Of course if multiplayer isn't your thing, the campaigns are packed with adorable writing and a variety of scenarios. Each one is short enough to finish in a single session, but still entertaining enough to finish them all in preparation for skirmishes and versus matches. And even if you played it before, it's worth jumping back into the game for the additional DLC campaign that the Indie Royale packed in for you. It may look like a simple and casual experience, but Ronimo tempers the simplicity with depth and strategy to create a good example of great game design.
[Swords & Soldiers (with its Super Saucy Sausage Fest DLC) and six other games are available now in Indie Royale's Back to School Bundle.]