Toy Soldiers: War Chest Hall of Fame Edition
Developer: Signal Studios
Genre: 3rd person tower defense
Release Date: 08/11/2015
I remember being a little guy, way back when, playing in the sandbox or backyard with my action figures. Some summer days it kept me occupied from the first golden light until the sky turned a mix of purple and orange, highlighting the carnage of the day’s hard fought battles. G.I. Joes were spread about, the casualties of war. As I have grown older, those days have stayed with me, occupying a special place in my heart. Toy Soldiers: War Chest Hall of Fame Edition attempts to satisfy that nostalgia.
Toy Soldiers: War Chest is a 3rd person, action, tower defense game that lets you take control of various armies of toys as they defend their toy box from other invading toys. The standard edition of the game comes with four armies with various themes and leaders: The Kaiser (inspired by both World Wars), Starbright (inspired by Rainbow Brite, The Care Bears, and My Little Pony), Phantom (science fiction), and Dark Lord (swords and sorcery). If you have the Hall of Fame Edition, you have access to four more armies; He-Man and the Masters of the Universe (led by He-Man), G.I. Joe (led by Duke), Cobra (led by Cobra Commander), and Assassin’s Creed (led by Ezio Auditore da Firenze). Okay, so one of those does not scratch the same nostalgic itch as the others, and feels a bit out of place, but Assassin’s Creed is an alright addition to the game and adds some variety.
Each faction has four types of towers that you place on predetermined spots on the battlefield. Anti-infantry are usually machine-like and used for taking down enemies that are cannon fodder. You have anti-armor in the form of missiles and mortars that are used to take on ground vehicles. When the flying baddies come out to play, you will be shooting them down with anti-aircraft towers, usually some type of flak cannon. Lastly, you have the big guns, heavy artillery, used to cause damage in a large radius. Anti-aircraft and heavy artillery can only occupy certain extra-large spaces on the battlefield. All of the towers can be upgraded by using money earned from destroying your foes. You can add range, armor, and damage to all towers, up to three levels each. You can also control all towers yourself, and racking up kills while in the gunner’s seat gains you extra money to spend on more upgrades. The upgrades are also locked at the start. You gain toy packs to open as you gain levels of experience. Inside them are upgrades or silver coins you can use to buy the specific upgrades you desire.
There are some special units as well. Some levels have ground or flying vehicles you can control until they are destroyed or the battery dies. On the side of the screen you have a meter that you fill by rapidly defeating enemies in various fashions (head shots, overkills, etc.) The meter has three levels, each grants you a bonus. The first level gives you direct controls over your faction’s leader in a standard 3rd person shooter style. Running out there wrecking shop with Cobra Commander is incredibly satisfying, until his battery dies, of course. The second level is a vehicle you can control such as Cobra’s Rattler jet. The last is some type of airstrike, and rarely worth the effort.
The game features a few types of modes; the standard levels, boss battles, survival, and weekly challenges, all of these modes can also be played in two-player cooperative mode. Competitive online mode is also present. The best way to play is in co-op though, the game really shines when you have a buddy sitting next to you that you can strategize with. It actually feels like it was meant to be played this way: sometimes in single-player the difficulty really feels like it is tuned for two players. One person can be on a turret while the other upgrades them. The game often feels like a puzzle, you need to decided what towers go where and when is the best time to put them there. You also need to manage your money for upgrades and repairs. When it all fits together it is incredibly satisfying. Though once you know a level it can be a breeze on replays.
The graphics have a charm to them. They aren’t realistic, they are stylized in a way that makes the plastic protagonists come to life. You have sound effects right from the He-Man and G.I. Joe cartoons. Even better, when you control your hero they have their theme music from the show, it really pulls you in. The controls take some time to get used to, but once they do they work as expected.
The game definitely isn’t perfect though. For some reason certain options won’t save forcing you to set them every time you start the game. When playing couch co-op my partner could only be the Kaiser’s faction and his leveling progress was never tracked. For online co-op you have to invite a friend to your game, you cannot just randomly join a stranger. None of the factions from the Hall of Fame Edition are actually on the disc and must be downloaded: what makes this more complicated is that sometimes the game just does not recognize that you own the DLC and you are locked out from using those four factions. The game has micro-transactions, you can buy the silver you use to upgrade. You earn so much silver in the game that this isn’t really an issue though, it is only there for people who want to be fully upgraded from the start. The AI controlled turrets wont use their secondary weapons, putting you at a disadvantage in single-player.
Something important must be addressed here, and that is price. If you buy the standard, digital edition, of War Chest you get the four base armies and the game for $15, the four additional armies are $5 each. The Hall of Fame Edition also grants you access to the three armies people will likely be most interested in and Assassin’s Creed’s army for $30, saving you about $5 if you plan to buy it all. However, savvy shoppers can find the retail version of the Hall of Fame Edition for around $20 making that the best value by far.
Short Attention Span Summary
Toy Soldiers: War Chest is a very enjoyable nostalgia trip that is worth playing, especially if you pick up the Hall of Fame Edition. The game features a very fun core gameplay experience with a good amount of variety and a handful of enjoyable modes and levels. The cooperative play is an absolute blast and is well worth the price of admission alone. This is one toy box that is worth spending some time playing around in.