As soon as I saw the trailer for this game, I wanted it. It brought up cherished childhood memories of the epic battles I once had with my Brothers. The anticipation of war as we set up our toys for battle to the all out madness that ensued after, it’s something that’s stayed with me forever. So much so I’m now an avid collector of action figures that herald from my youth. If this game was made for anyone, I was it’s demographic. So, is this game one for the collector’s shelf or will we see it in the bargain bin?
Toy Soldiers: War Chest is published by Ubisoft and developed by Signal Studios. It’s essentially a tower defense shooter, which is a novel idea. You get to choose out of several characters based around toy genres. There’s no real story to speak of, as it’s just random encounters with other toys throughout the game. I was playing the Hall of Fame edition. However, the only real difference between that and the vanilla version is you get factions based on real toys from the 80’s. I will cover the expansion in more detail later on.
A piece of advice for this game is to play through until you get to the train set level then start over as a different character. Do this with each one and get a feel for which fits your play style best. By the time you’ve done this you will have accrued a lot of ‘Tokens’. These are the games equivalent of experience points. Now go to ‘customise army’ and buy all the upgrades for your towers. With whatever is left buy booster packs. You should now be ready to take on the train level. This is an ongoing thing throughout the game. There are difficulty spikes that will have you grinding it out on early levels or one of the games modes just to get tokens. They don’t take too long to get but I can’t help thinking these spikes wouldn’t even exist if it weren’t for the micro transactions in the game.
Probably the best part of Toy Soldiers: War Chest Hall of Fame Edition is the aesthetics. From the comic book style main menu to the levels that reminded me of the Micro Machines games. The nostalgia really hits home. Even more so when you see unlocked characters in boxes that you can turn around and see the old school character card and box art. A really nice touch that weirdly you lose if you unlock the character. If they were in the box until you chose them as your hero that would have been a better idea. Each army has it’s own unique qualities and are well themed to the genre you choose.
There’s no escaping that Toy Soldiers: War Chest Hall of Fame Edition is a tower defense game at heart. You have the usual fare of anti-personnel, anti-armour, anti-air and artillery. Each can have range, attack and defense upgraded. Almost to try to alleviate the boredom of waiting for the hordes a shooter element has been incorporated. If you were thinking of just sitting back and micro managing towers, then think again. Your Hero power meter is directly linked to how aggressive you are on the field. Meaning you have to actively shoot enemies yourself using the towers you’ve built. Fastest way to do this is with anti-personnel. There are three tiers to the hero meter. Until you reach a tier your meter will deplete very quickly between kills. AI kills don’t count for some reason; this can cause frustration when the AI kill steals. If you do reach a tier then the meter won’t drop below it, which is good as you can potentially store a hero power for when you need it most.
There are D-pad hot keys for faster maneuverability and quick upgrading of towers. However, I only found these through personal experimentation, as the game never tells you they exist. One thing this game is severely lacking is a permanent tactical map on the HUD. There’s a tactical map but you have to remove yourself from the battlefield to use it. I actually used it more to cover larger maps faster for the most part. The reason you need one constantly is because while you are firing a turret or running around as a hero you have absolutely no idea what’s going on. You will be clueless what towers are being attacked or how much damage they may have sustained. This causes you to have many situations where full upgraded towers are destroyed without any warning.
Heroes are possibly the main selling point of this game. To be totally honest if I hadn’t seen He-Man and GI-Joe I probably wouldn’t have looked twice. I know many out there probably feel the same. Yet for some reason the main hero of your faction can’t jump. Yeah you read that right, I can’t count the amount of times I got stuck in a trench. It’s kind of embarrassing for a He-Man, the most powerful Man in the Universe, to be defeated by a knee-high wall. Your heroes have a timer that you can replenish by grabbing batteries scattered across the battlefield. The second tier of the hero meter will give you a hero creature. Depending on which faction you’ve chosen some are land based and suffer from getting stuck and slowed by obstacles in the field. Fortunately, some of these fly and are actually quite fun when you get the hang of them. Burning hordes of troops with the Dark Lord’s Dragon was seriously cool. The Final tier is a level clearer ability that many will store until the final boss wave of the level. Though, I felt they lacked a cool animation to show it’s been used. It’s not necessary and a minor nit-pick but it would have been nice considering the effort it takes to get them. It’s important to note that vanilla game heroes can be customized with new abilities. However, the expansion heroes as far as I could tell from extensive play, aren’t. I couldn’t help but feel the expansion was a bit pay to win. For example, the He-Man faction has a rapid firing artillery cannon instead of the slow firing and slow loading artillery that the vanilla characters have.
For longevity there’s a weekly challenge available that as the name suggests changes each week with booster packs for rewards. There’s also a co-op or versus mode that can be played locally or online. Though, this is where a revelation dawns on you. You see, the versus match allows one of you to send troops while the other tower defends. I can’t help but think how much better the game could have been if you both sent troops and also had tower defense. Maybe instead of towers you built facilities like camps for troops and factories for vehicles. In your ‘customise team’ section you can see your troops and even buy more with tokens, so you know you have an army. Yet, outside of versus mode you will never use it. What adds to this absurdity is that every level has your troops just hanging around doing nothing but dying by getting in the way.
Overall, much as I have nostalgia for the factions that are either true representations or their own brand versions of 80’s franchises, it’s not enough. Toy Soldiers: War Chest even with the Hall of Fame expansion ultimately feels rushed and suffers from clunky gameplay mechanics that conflict constantly. It’s a game that has some fun moments and interesting ideas. With more polish this game could have been something really unique. However, the merging of tower defense and shooter games is poorly implemented. One thing is for certain; it’s not a Master of the Universe.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary Sony Playstation 4 code was provided to Bonus Stage for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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