Swords & soldiers & goblins & magic & towers
My first online match in Swords & Soldiers II: Shawarmageddon was against someone who clearly had experience with the game. The game, part sidescrolling RTS and part tower defense, is an update of the Wii U release that adds in this new online mode. Requiring us to balance how we attack and defend, I tried to do both at the same time, sending a trickle of attackers while working on a couple of defense towers.
Boy, was that the wrong route to take.
My opponent opted to send in one giant attack at once, effortlessly knocking down my towers and destroying me in the process. “Okay, nice try,” I thought, and opted in for the rematch. I tried the same tactic again, thinking that my strategy wasn’t flawed but just ill-timed, but ended with the same ugly result. “Hmm,” I thought. “Maybe I really should do what he did and send in a single wave of enemies.” And so, building up enough resources, I send in a big wave at once, sending out attackers as fast as I can create them, and manage to meet right up against his army before he has the advantage.
Or so I thought.
I could only pump out a set speed of attackers with my slow resource mining, and before I knew it he had overpowered me and won again. My wily adversary had only been making just enough attackers to slow me down until he built up his resource mining, which let him upgrade his army and send out a giant backup wave that washed over me. Again I opt in for the rematch, copying his methods and pushing back a little further into his territory, until I hit his defense towers that he had been secretly building. These slowed me down just enough for him to — once again — build up a big group of attackers to wipe me out.
Oddly enough, I wasn’t upset that I was getting obliterated each time. In fact, it was as if my foe was slowly teaching me the entire time, letting me get better and better and learn his particular “correct way” to play this genre of game. It was a strange idea, helping your enemy improve, just to hope that they’ll provide a challenge later on, but that’s just what he seemed to be doing.
That experience wrapped right into the rest of the game.
Developer Ronimo Games’s mix of Vikings, Goblins, the Middle East and magic blends its genres into a simple East-to-West play field highlighted by terrific HD visuals and an enjoyable audio track full of mindless minion chatter and effects. Though it’s not a major visual upgrade of the already likable cartoon aesthetics of the original version, it holds up completely fine on both the TV and in handheld mode, no small thanks to the large scale of the characters and simple environments.
The game itself is easy to understand, and easy to control (especially when we need to juggle building attackers and using their special powers during battle) but it can get very hectic very fast, often making us feel like there are too many enemies on the screen to account for at once. An upgrade tree lets us improve our team and our towers and open new spells, sometimes specific to the play arena we are in.
By nature it forces us to be aggressive, almost overly aggressive, pushing past a traditional tower defense for just that reason. We have to balance between those big onslaughts or trickling out warriors while we do other things; when battles shift from these simple one-v-one skirmishes to include defense modes, pirating and even treasure-hunting, it compels us to readjust to our situation in very different ways. It results in a single player mode that is surprisingly challenging.
But the online is where I really enjoy my time most, even if I’m just taking battle classes unbeknownst to myself. Swords & Soldiers II Shawarmageddon is easy to recommend for someone looking for a nicely polished experience on the Switch, and a great diversion from some of the AAA games about to hit us.
This Hot Take review is based on a code sent to SideQuesting by the publisher.