Originally intended to be released as a flash game, Ronimo Games' 2D side-scrolling joint Swords & Soldiers wound up hitting Nintendo's WiiWare service in 2009 as what many consider one of the best real-time strategy console games of all time. Now its Chinese, Viking and Aztec warriors invade the iPhone and iPad, and they've never been more powerful.
Swords & Soldiers is a colourful cartoon-styled game that puts the player in the shoes of one of three different historical factions: the Vikings, the Aztecs and the Imperial Chinese, one of which is still around today. Each faction has their own singleplayer campaign, pitting the player against impossible odds with only their finger standing between the enemy hordes, total annihilation, and the power of the gods themselves.
That finger is a powerful tool, however. A single touch sets gold collectors in motion, slowly gathering the resources necessary to send powerful units into battle. Those units march relentlessly across the field towards the enemy, dancing a fine line between defence, offence, and suicide. It's up to the player to unlock skills and spells to help those soldiers stay alive. Casting healing spells with a touch of that omnipotent fingertip of theirs as fast as mana will allow.
This simplistic take on the RTS genre has been aped time and time again since the release of Swords & Soldiers and for good reason. It's a brilliant distillation of real-time strategy game concepts into a smaller, more digestible form. It might even act as a gateway drug for some players, urging them on the bigger and more complicated things. First the Aztecs triumph, then it's time for the Zerg rush.
Swords & Soldiers is available now on the iPhone and iPod Touch for $3.99, with an HD iPad version available for $5.99.
Swords & Soldiers [iTunes App Store]