75 minutes. That’s how long I played Toy Soldiers: War Chest before returning it.
If Steam was a retail store, I was a small child with tear-stained cheeks. I approached the counter and slide my broken toy across to the cashier. I walked out with my money in-hand, but money wasn’t going to dry my tears.
I purchased the $30 Hall of Fame Edition without batting an eye. I wanted to support the flagship tower defense franchise from Signal Studios, and expected that this version would live up to the price tag. I could not have been more wrong.
If you want the four licensed DLC armies of GI Joe, Cobra, Masters of the Universe and Assassin’s Creed, you double the price of Toy Soldiers: War Chest from $15 to $30.
The Assassin’s Creed army feels like the blatant corporate plant nobody asked for. I know there are some people who will enjoy playing with hooded men, but those days are gone for me. I have fond memories of Altair and Ezio, but they’re all sourced from the distant past. The franchise has since become a diseased stray dog, approaching me on a regular basis trying to convince me it has 20% less fleas than it did yesterday.
Ubisoft has a habit of this, trying to convince you to love it without recognizing how gross it really is, and Uplay is the puss-filled nose that Ubisoft leads with. Even when you purchase the game through Steam, you also have to wade through this additional layer of disgusting DRM. Fail to connect to Uplay and you can’t play the game you just bought. Many users on Steam are reporting connection issues with Uplay, which should surprise no one.
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Somebody at Ubisoft needs to grab a shotgun and put this lame duck of a game delivery system out of its misery. Whatever number of pirated games their spreadsheets say Uplay has saved them, the ill-will it has generated among consumers surely outweighs it. The only positive Uplay brings to the table is its system of in-game unlockables. You purchase these through the use of points generated throughout all Ubisoft titles. It’s a great idea, but the rewards skew towards the side of cosmetic fluff, rarely bringing any substantive content to the end-user.
The Crowded Room
If I ever muster the courage (or stupidity) to repurchase Toy Soldiers: War Chest, I will do it without any of these extras. The base game already gives you three new armies on top of the original WWI set, so throwing in four additional choices becomes overwhelming.
The two previous titles were always a binary choice, two armies battling against each other, so increasing that fourfold is rather jarring.
Each army uses the same tower archetypes, but each is re-skinned and some operate in a slightly different manner. The He-Man artillery piece unleashes a constant slow shower of firepower onto the battlefield, while the German howitzer launches a high-damage projectile with a long reload period. There’s a subtle conscious difference between each army, but the Hall of Fame Edition dumps everything on you from the beginning. The paradox of choice is in full effect and the game design suffers as a result.
They don’t need to restrict access to content, just build in into the natural progression of the game. But when you purchase DLC, you expect it to be available to you, so they couldn’t embed the licensed armies into the progression system. These should not have been DLC at all, they should have been part of the game, and that’s why the Hall of Fame Edition stumbles.
Eight individual armies also do a great job of divorcing the game of any cohesive theme or atmosphere. The original Toy Soldiers was seeping with the rarely-touched WWI motif, while Toy Soldiers: Cold War was baked in guitar ballads and ’80s muscle men. Hall of Fame Edition has no identity, it’s a crowded room of celebrities all vying for the spotlight.
If the game was simply Toy Soldiers: GI Joe, or Toy Soldiers: He-Man, we would have a much better game, but when you just dump them on top of a finished product they lose their power.
The Magic Is Gone
75 minutes isn’t long enough to give Toy Soldiers: War Chest a comprehensive critique, so I won’t even attempt it. Instead, I can simply tell you that I wish I was playing it right now instead of writing these depressing words.
The small time I spent battling waves of teddy bears and dragons was enjoyable, but the overbearing amount of armies and Ubisoft nonsense left me uncertain, and then a crippling progression bug took the wind out of my sails. I didn’t even get to play long enough to fully realize the itemized list of user complaints, the most notable being a lack of settings, frequent crashes, long loading times, and a framerate locked at 30fps.
The slimy footprints of Ubisoft scared me away
Normally I’d take this on the chin and wait for patches or a solution, but the slimy footprints of Ubisoft scared me away. There were tokens, microtransactions, and the sterile blue and white color palette I’ve learned to hate. Even the menus were displeasing—the bulky buttons convinced me I was looking at a phone screen rather than my computer monitor. The small studio whimsy and strong atmosphere I felt in the first two games is gone, replaced with corporate strategies and hard edges.
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