Signal Studios' iconic Xbox Arcade strategy game is back with upgraded visuals and performance.
If you're a long-time Xbox fan or had an Xbox 360 back when the console was in its hey-day, you've probably heard of, or even played, Signal Studios indie strategy Toy Soldiers. This game burst onto the Xbox Arcade scene in 2010, giving fans a unique tower defence experience, where the goal was to stop waves of oncoming toy soldiers from getting into the toybox on your side of the battlefield. Despite being set on a model battlefield, and using toy soldiers, the game boasted a World War 1 setting and was, and still remains as one of the best experiences to come out of Xbox Arcade.
Jump forward a decade and this very game is being re-released, this time as an updated version on more platforms, featuring upgrades to its performance and visuals, as well as coming as a complete bundle that includes the main game, all of its DLCs, and even a few new levels. This edition is known as Toy Soldiers HD, and is landing on PC, PS4, Xbox One, and Nintendo Switch on October 21, and I've been playing the game ahead of this release to see how this version stacks up.
First things first, as this is a remaster, it's worth noting that the gameplay of Toy Soldiers HD is pretty much identical to the 2010 original. The enemy AI can be a little dumb and predictable and your units struggle with their accuracy, but despite these minor issues, the general strategy experience is well-balanced. Then to make the gameplay that little more engaging, the options to take control of your units are still present, including that of tanks, planes, and even the sniper tower, which offer interesting methods to influence the battlefield. So, as you can see, the core Toy Soldiers experience has been protected and brought forward to the modern day, it's simply in its visuals and performance where the biggest changes seem to have been made.
Talking about the visuals, I will say that Toy Soldiers HD doesn't look all that impressive. The graphics consistently remind me that this was a 2010 indie game, and compared to one of the more recent remasters we've seen, Alan Wake Remastered, it almost feels like there have been no, or rather very minimal visual improvements. The units and enemy types do look more refined and clear, and everything is far more vibrant and colourful, but the overall graphics don't look great and reflect that of the 360-era. Signal has removed the dirty sepia filter that seemed to grace the original, which is a welcome improvement.
On a more positive note, the game plays incredibly fluidly. On the Xbox Series X, the game runs smoothly and without issues, and it doesn't matter whether you look to take a hands-off strategic approach, or favour being more active, and using the sniper tower to whittle down enemy forces, the game plays like a modern day title, as you would hope.
Toy Soldiers HD does also come as a larger package, meaning you get the base game, all of its DLCs, and a few added bonuses, which in turn serves up an array of singleplayer and multiplayer modes. The main campaign can be blasted through in a few hours, but to add a level of replayability, once you complete a level, you can go back and replay it on a newly unlocked harder difficulty. Likewise, each campaign level has a series of collectibles and mini-objectives to discover and complete, but these are pretty minor challenges all in all. And once you've wrapped up the main story, you'll even have the chance to dive into the Survival mode, which instead of giving you a win condition, asks you to survive as long as possible without being overrun by the AI enemy forces.
If solo play isn't your forte, the multiplayer mode also boasts nine individual campaigns, and can be played locally or in split-screen, meaning you do get a healthy amount of content to chew through, and that isn't even adding The Kaiser's Battle and the Invasion DLCs, which bring a total of six mini campaigns, as well as multiplayer maps, and new enemy units to face.
All of this is great, and anyone who never had the chance to play the original Toy Soldiers can be glad to know that this HD version is offering a way to explore that iconic indie game once again. But, as far as remasters go, Toy Soldiers HD is one of the less impressive ones. Considering we're in an era where 4K/60fps gameplay is becoming the norm, it's hard to shake the fact that this title still has the appearance of an Xbox 360 game, even if it does have more vibrant and more refined visuals. It's by no means a bad version of Toy Soldiers, but if you're expecting a significant upgrade to the original game, one that brings this fantastic title in line with the times, then Toy Soldiers HD will let you down a bit.
6 / 10
Gameplay is still engaging and well-balanced. Plenty of content to explore. Plays very fluidly.
The game still looks like it belongs in 2010. Feels like a pretty minor improvement to the original title.