Whereas traditional real-time strategy (RTS) games are famous for their sprawling gameplay that requires high levels of multitasking and fast-paced clicking, Pocketwatch Games has trimmed down the hardest bits of RTS games in a valiant effort to bring the genre back to the mainstream audience. Simplifying the conventional rules of the RTS, Tooth and Tail is a grim strategy game that works just as well with a keyboard and mouse as it does with a controller.
The game is set in a world controlled by talking human-like animals walking on two feet. Sounds cute, doesn’t it? Think again! The story begins at the onset of a revolution and the prevalent status quo is in danger. The animals have been divided into four different factions, all of which are armed with their own ideas of governing. More importantly, all four factions have their own idea of how to determine who gets eaten. That’s right, the talking animals of Tooth and Tail are almost without fail carnivores, and the world struggles with constant food shortages. The poor folk on the menu are often fallen enemies or pigs grown into slaughter. The absurdity of the narrative is fascinating and entertaining, and the dark setting is matched well with the various units in the game. You got your pistol-wielding squirrels, artillery-carrying ferrets, falcons with a minigun strapped to their belly, and owls spewing zombie rats, just to name a few. Though the dialogue produced by various animals in the campaign is mediocre for the most part, the story stands tall in its brutal absurdity.
The secret police forces are seen in full attention in the story mode
The ghastly story clashes with the pixel art animals and beautiful landscapes in a flawless manner. There is something oddly charming in the hairy cast of units marching around, even though you know the cuddly creatures are going to start waging war in a minute. On top of their pixelated forms, the units of the game are brought to life with delightfully crafted portraits that fit the tone of the game perfectly well.
Conventionally RTS players are tasked at controlling dozens of units or battalions separately, all the while keeping up with the process of building up their forces and bases. Tooth and Tail introduces several mechanics aimed at taking the frantic multitasking requirements out of real-time strategy. By automating the unit production and having the player control only the commander, with whom to build structures and handle the troops, Tooth and Tail reinvigorates the genre. Despite the innovations, many trusted elements of RTS are still present. The players collect resources to finance their structures and unit production and the winning condition is, quite simply, to destroy the enemy. The games are swift and action-packed with players having several options on how to approach and engage the enemy. Even though streamlining means that the possibilities of strategy are far from the heights of more prestigious RTS games, Tooth and Tail is a great new look at an old genre. Its absurd story and unique mechanics present a new way of enjoying real-time strategy. If you have even a budding interest in the world of strategy games, give this one a go.
Pictures: Screenshots from the game, taken by the author
Publisher: Pocketwatch Games
Developer: Pocketwatch Games
Platforms: Microsoft Windows, MacOS, Linux, PlayStation 4
Release Date: September 12, 2017
Genres: Real-Time strategy (RTS)
PEGI: PEGI 12, ESRB – T – Fantasy Violence, Mild Blood, Alcohol Reference, Crude Humor
Header image: “portrait_skunk”, from Tooth and Tail presskit: http://www.pocketwatchgames.com/presskit/sheet.php?p=Tooth%20and%20Tail