Review: But do any of the soldiers have onions on their belts?
The Tower Defense genre is dead; long live the tower defense genre! Yes, Toy Soldiers is another entry in the long list of tower defense games. Yes, it is plagued by some of the same shortcomings that those games suffer from. However, it offers enough changes and innovations to take the genre a step further and develop its own identity.
The core basics for Toy Soldiers are exactly like any other tower defense game; you are given the task of preventing the enemy from invading your side of the playing field. As this game revolves around actual toy soldiers, you must stop them from overrunning -what else- your toybox. As in any other tower defense, you are given traps and other defensive measures to prevent the enemy from succeeding. Here you are supplied with an army of green plastic soldiers. They will take position at machine guns, drive tanks, fly planes, or just plain old attack from the trenches. As this game is based around the technologies and tactics of World War I, all items you are supplied with will be based around that time period. You will control the methods and delivery that your troops will use to attack the enemy, and it is in this control where the game offers something unique.
When you first start up Toy Soldiers, you are given a few options on how to play it. You can place your units down and wait for the oncoming onslaught, watching from above as your sentries hopefully decimate the oncoming forces; or you can take control. Here is where the game really shines. When you select one of your battalions, you have the option to take full control. When you do, the camera mode will shift depending on what unit you select. For example, if you decide to select the machine-gunners, you're thrust into a third person machine-gun perspective with full control of that unit. Here you can wipe out any incoming soldiers and cavalry who dare to attack you. The same goes for the cannon and mortars. If you opt to take control of a plane, you can have dogfights with other enemy planes and drop bombs on unsuspecting foes. When you take over a sniping perch, the camera automatically zooms into a first person perspective. I can't tell you how much all of this control adds to the overall level of enjoyment. If this were a typical tower defense, you would just place your troops in stationary positions and hope they would be strong enough to survive the attack. By actively including the gamer in this manner, Toy Soldiers improves on the aesthetic tremendously. However, though this game is tons of fun to play, it does have its faults as well.
A big problem here is with the A.I. I found that, more often than not, if you leave your machine gunners or cannons on their own, they would do a slightly sufficient job. That is, unless enemies were coming from out of their direct line of sight. If that is the case, your troops will ignore the enemy completely, often resulting in their demise. In order to correct this, you have to manually take control of your unit and aim them in the right direction. This can be distracting, especially when you're in an aircraft. The only way to relinquish control of a plane is to jump out, causing it to inadvertently crash to pieces on the ground. The gunners are also not nearly as good at taking out enemies on their own as you are when controlling them. You will constantly need to rush to take over those spots in order to prevent an excessive group of solders or cavalry from entering your toybox. Though this may have been implemented in order to create an atmosphere of tension, it simply comes across as annoying and cumbersome. Also, towards the end of the single player campaign, it becomes slightly repetitive and makes you remember why the tower defense genre is on its last legs.
Though the single player is fun, albeit slightly repetitive, the multiplayer really helps this game stand out. The multiplayer component in this game is very much a RTS meets tower defense. You build up your troops and gather resources by destroying enemy units. Faced against a human component, you each try to make it into the other's toybox while simultaneously destroying the others defenses. While this is fun, it can be extremely hectic. You are in a constant race to upgrade and control your units. I felt extremely rushed during the game and never got that satisfaction of placing my troops in a tremendous battle. I feel that if the developers focused a little more time and geared the multiplayer a little more to the RTS side, then this would have been a great addition to the game. Instead, this multiplayer shies away from being great, and is simply just good. I also had some trouble finding opponents in the pregame matchup. This aspect was not developed well. Every time I could not find an opponent, I had to quit the multiplayer and then enter again to find a new game. It was definitely not a connection issue on my part, but shoddy servers and programming on the side of the developers. Hopefully they will fix this in future updates.