Disclosure: Key provided by the developer.
Tooth and Tail is an eat or be eaten world, one that is embroiled in a civil war. It’s a slightly dark, but humorous take on riots and revolution featuring a varied animal cast.
While Tooth and Tail is an RTS game, it’s nothing like the usual base building and unit massing types we’ve seen before. It’s a smaller, quicker and more focused game. Games are designed to only last 5-20 minutes, so it’s an ideal game for when you don’t have a lot of time. There’s no worrying about the design of a base, to find out later it’s rubbish. It’s the type where you need to think quickly to outwit your opponent. They've essentially taken the good bits of an RTS and tried to make people think about them differently, you might say they've partially re-invented the genre. They've certainly succeeded in making me appreciate it.
Instead of being some nameless commander, you’re right there in the battle as the Flagbearer. You will be running around and ordering your troops, but you cannot directly attack. Instead, you wave your flag about looking important while rallying your troops around. You can send them all in to attack at once, or pick specific unit types to attack specific points. Even with the simple controls, there’s a surprising amount of different strategies you can use.
I tested it with the Logitech F310 as well as Mouse and Keyboard and it was perfect with them both.
The game features a full campaign which the developers say sits around 15 hours. I’m unsure how long it took me as the Steam launcher for it broke a few times in the review build, meaning I had to launch it manually without any kind of Steam tracking. Still, it felt sufficient in length and I didn’t really notice it due to the fast-paced nature of the game.
Each race has the same units available and the ability to quickly dig back to a mill. As you play each of them through the campaign it allows you to learn the mechanics for the multiplayer, so it serves as a story and a tutorial. The units are slowly rolled out through the single player and it did seem like they each had different units, but that's just for the singleplayer. Thanks to this though, the game remains quite balanced.
The campaign is really quite engrossing and surprisingly varied overall, considering the simple nature of the game they've managed to do a lot with it. The missions aren’t as simple as the multiplayer, making it really fun to play. Some missions need you to survive a certain length of time as you fend off waves of enemies, some give you limited vision because of weather effects, you will break your comrades out of prisons and so on.
In-between missions you get to run around your home base, speak to people and start missions, you can also replay the missions too. As you progress, you unlock more of the home base to run around and speak to more characters. The writing is quite amusing too, humorously dark but I like it. I must say, the tales of war from an animals point of view are quite odd.
It’s funny really, because during the gameplay you’re fighting for control of the mills and the farms are run by the Swine, but you’re eating them. When talking to one of them as the Longcoat Flagbearer, they asked me if I had seen a Swine they referred to by a number, which I can only assume was stored in a barrel somewhere for my troops to eat.
The campaign is challenging, one level in particular got me for a while. Outside your borders, the sand is too hot and your health quickly goes down. You also only have a maximum food level of 200, as it spoils after that in this particular mission. Managing those mechanics, on top of trying to build up an army to expand and take down the enemy mills was quite difficult. This is what I've really enjoyed about it, not just the fact that it's rather different overall and fast paced, but the level rules also give it a unique and tasty flavour.
There was one bit that slightly annoyed me in the campaign. You start off as the Longcoats (the blue guys) and eventually come to a mission where you recruit the Commonfolks (the red guys). After this, you seem to take control of the Flagbearer for the Commonfolk. I spoke to a person in their base and went back to the Longcoats (I didn’t really know what I was doing). It didn’t tell me how to get back to continue through the campaign (something they should make clearer). I assumed I just had to do the mission again, but it turns out there is someone in the Longcoats base to send you back. This did give me a chance to see how the random generation works for re-doing a mission and it does work surprisingly well, I had the same objectives but a totally different map.
When it comes to the multiplayer, it's quite different to the campaign. You only have one objective, which is to destroy all the "Gristmills" the enemy owns. It's faster paced than the singleplayer for sure, but just as interesting.
The fun begins even before you start a multiplayer game, since you each pick a set of 6 unit types and the other player doesn't know what you've picked until you're in the game. Thanks to being able to pick your army load-out and the random maps, the game feels constantly fresh.
It looks really great, the quick matches are fun and it’s an interesting take on the strategy genre. The random map generation for singleplayer and multiplayer works really well, so it’s highly replayable. Even if you're not traditionally a fan of RTS games, I think this might change your mind about them.