For the kid in me.
I was always a casual fan of Signal Studios’ Toy Soldiers franchise. The action-style take on tower defense made it a more digestible experience for me. So of course when they announced a new one, I was paying attention. What made this one stand out though was the inclusion of some of my favorite childhood toys. I could finally wage virtual war with my army from Eternia, or have a red and blue laser battle against Cobra. The nostalgia was too much to ignore. It all works well, but also comes with some questionable practices that sour an otherwise joyous affair.
For those that have never played a Toy Soldiers game, the idea is both simple and unique. Think of it as a tower defense game, but with the ability to get right down into the action. Levels mostly start off with set plots where players can build turrets. Killing enemies racks up money, which can then be spent to buy more turrets, or upgrade existing ones.
MSRP: $14.99 (base game) $5 (hero pack DLC individual) $29.99 (Hall of Fame edition)
Platforms: XB1, PS4, PC
Price I’d Pay: $19.99
The catch for Toy Soldiers though, is that I could get right into the action by taking over individual turrets, changing the perspective from a top-down strategy style, to a more third-person action game. This isn’t just for show either. Doing this actually increases the money earned, plus player-controlled turrets are much more effective than AI-controlled ones.
Taking control of turrets also serves another purpose. There is a hero meter that filled as I tallied up kills. It only increases while I am the one controlling the turret. It has three levels, and each one corresponds to unleashing a hero. The first level is just the hero, while the second usually includes a vehicle and so on. The heroes are the most powerful characters in the game, and can change the tide of battle, so they are imperative to use, especially on the harder levels.
The campaign in the game follows a pretty standard path, but does allow for the use of any army. It is worth noting that three of the four standard armies are locked at the outset, and the ones everyone really wants to play are actually DLC. More on that in a second. Armies also level up separately, so for example playing the game earns tokens and XP that can be used to unlock new upgrades and turrets, but only for that army. Increasing the firepower of another requires grinding the same levels with that army. Sadly, this all seems geared to support the microtransactions found in the game.
So tokens can be used to unlock things, and they can be earned through normal game play, but who wants to grind all eight armies to see everything? What if you could just buy more tokens with real money? Well you can, and that is a sour part of the experience. There are packages of tokens able to be bought with real money, and it feels like once again, a reason to earn some extra cash on the side from impatient players.
There are a total of eight armies in the game currently. Four of them come with the base $15 game, the other four (the ones everyone really wants to play) are actually DLC. G.I. Joe, Cobra, He-Man, and Assassin’s Creed are all downloadable packs that run $5 apiece. They can also be purchased as a bundle for $15, or there is a Hall of Fame edition that comes with everything for $30. While I certainly don’t think that $30 is a lot for everything that is here, it feels weird having it all broken up like that.
Visually the game isn’t going to turn any heads, which makes the performance problems even more perplexing. The game constantly dropped framerate anytime a major battle occurred. It never ruined the experience, but for a game that wasn’t especially taxing, it definitely stood out. I am impressed that they took the time to make each army feel unique though, complete with specific units, vehicles, and even authentic sound effects.
Toy Soldiers: War Chest is a good game marred by some questionable business practices. If they had just packaged it as one clear offering for $30 and removed the separate leveling systems for each faction, or at least increased their speed, it would have been great. As it stands fans of the Toy Soldiers games are bound to enjoy the latest outing, and of course those with fond memories of the DLC properties are in for a treat. It is like going back and playing with action figures, which is precisely what the game sets out to do.
Review copy of game provided by publisher.