Swords and Soldiers HD is a fascinating strategy title, suitable for both casual and veteran players alike.

The day we were informed that the Vikings didn’t really wear helmets with huge horns sticking out of either side was the day our fascination with the Norse warriors diminished a little – suddenly these avid and ruthless explorers didn’t seem so intriguing anymore. Fortunately, Swords and Soldiers HD has restored our faith in these Norsemen, and given us a good laugh to boot.

Swords and Soldiers HD is a simple side-scrolling cross between a real-time strategy and a tower defense game, allowing players of all skill levels to build up armies and conquer the enemy. The gameplay can be a little too straightforward at times, especially for RTS veterans, but in general there are enough great ideas and humour packed in to keep you playing for hours on end.

Swords and Soldiers

With three campaigns available from the start – the Vikings, the Aztecs and the Chinese – the game recommends you start with the aforementioned aggressive Norsemen, although the story paints a very different picture. The Vikings are celebrating a recent victory with a great feast, when the pirate Blackbeard steals their barbecue and takes off. The Viking leader rallies the troops and sets off on an adventure, following the evil pirate until the BBQ is safely back in the hands of the Norse.

Immediately noticeable are the charming visuals and the witty dialogue. The Vikings are a very simple people, and they’ll stop at nothing to get their BBQ back, including ploughing through any other race who dares to get in their way. The comic graphics are wonderfully crisp and smooth, and the whole package has a huge amount of personality.

Gameplay-wise, leading your troops to victory is kept very simple, with a single click spawning a soldier into battle. Once a minion has been purchased, they will usually walk in a straight line from your castle until they meet an enemy soldier, at which point they’ll turn their attention to hacking the baddie down. Once the opponent’s unit is dead, your soldier will continue to walk towards enemy lines.

Reaching the enemy’s castle on the other side of the level is all about balance. You have several different units you can send out, and each will be strong against certain enemies, and weak against others – hence, building up a force that comprises a variety of different troops is the key. Swords and Soldiers HD is also very much reliant on being quick on the draw, as you’ll need to be hiring troops all the time and keeping your kingdom well guarded.

Swords and Soldiers

Apart from balancing your money and soldiers, there are also magic godly powers to play around with. These use up mana, which you earn slowly over time, and include the likes of thunderbolts to zap your opponents into piles of ash, and snowstorms to slow enemy soldiers down. There are even huge god-like powers to save up, including the huge Hammer of Thor that slams into the ground, taking out plenty of soldiers in one go.

While Swords and Soldiers HD is great fun, it can feel a little too simple at times, and rather reliant on being able to click really fast. Once you have lots of gold rushing in from your mines and a few different units to choose from, winning a level then usually becomes a case of spawning units over and over again as quickly as possible, and completely overcoming the enemy with sheer numbers rather than tactics. Still, watching your hordes descend on the enemy castle is very satisfying.

There are three main campaigns to play through, each with its own characters, armies and levels, and a skirmish mode for setting up your own customized games. You also have a variety of challenges to complete, which reminded us strongly of the challenge mode in Plants vs Zombies – you’re asked to play the game in different and unusual ways to normal, for example, leading a single Viking soldier as far as you can before he dies. These are great side-orders that bump the gameplay time up considerably.

Swords and Soldiers

You’ve also got a lovely online multiplayer mode to get involved with. This plays out like a normal campaign level, except that the enemy is in fact another player. The multiplayer mode houses the most epic back-and-forth battles you’ll see in Swords and Soldiers HD, as both players rain terror down on each other. The only real issue is that, as with the single-player, online matches can sometimes become simple ‘whoever can click the fastest wins’ stand-offs.

Swords and Soldiers HD is an incredibly enjoyable experience, perfect for both beginners and strategy fanatics alike. There is plenty to love on offer here, and both the single-player and multi-player elements will have you leading your troops into battle for hours on end.