We shall not eat the food of beasts, we shall eat meat. Like the civilised. Those who win shall feast. Those who fall, will be dinner!
So a little bit ago I reviewed They Are Billions on console – It wasn’t the best experience, but I believe I may have been a tad hard on it due to the difference between the PC version and the console version. Let’s just get this out of the way, the PC version is great… But for an RTS it just lacks that sense of satisfaction that comes from beating another human being.
But what is Tooth and Tail? I mentioned it in passing in said review; it’s one of my absolute favourite RTS games of the modern age, taking the broad strokes of the RTS genre and condensing them down into a simplified, quick fire format. Get in, whoop ass, get out, repeat. It takes everything you know about RTS and boils it down to the core, and it’s god damn brilliant.
RTS games have always been a hit and miss for me, I’ve never liked how they’re always long games, and always have that invisible clock hanging around – Red Alert 3 for instance. Whether you’re fighting AI or not, it’s a race; a race to get your super weapon first, lest it be a damn upward fight for the ages. Even in turn based strategy games, like XCom, you’ve always got that dumb clock counting down, and it’s a shame ’cause without that clock, a lot of RTS and TBS games would be much more fun in my opinion.
That’s why I love Tooth and Tail so much. It’s speedy and intense – You get into a match and it’s all paws on deck. A mad scramble to start harassing the opponent. An intense waiting game as you scout around, waiting for your troops to grow in number. Think of RTS as a game of Chess; slow and methodical… Well Tooth and Tail is like blitz Chess. It does away with so many staples of the RTS genre to it’s advantage.
From the word ‘go’ you control everything with basically three buttons. The trigger buttons rallies your troops to your location, targets enemies, and signals them to retreat. The X/A button is used to build troop spawners and farms, and the Square/Y button allows you to quickly respawn at base if you need to. That’s all for control – It’s extremely simple, and works well. You also can only bring a certain amount of unit types to each match, and you and your opponent has to pick from the same pool of unit types to begin with. There are four types of units In Tooth and Tail, and five variations in each type; you have you cannon fodder, your intermediary units, your hero units and your defensive units, as opposed to most RTS games which have a wide range of visually distinct units per each faction.
Another good aspect to Tooth and Tail is the resource collection. Every RTS game has various resources you need to collect and manage, usually power, oil, ore, and sometimes food. Tooth and Tail has just one, and it’s finite. Food. Scattered throughout each small, procedurally generated map there are ‘gritsmills’, mechanical windmills surrounded by farms. Capturing one of these allows you to construct farms around it that will produce food until the farms run fallow, aka, dead. There’s only a certain amount of gritsmills per map, and every unit costs food to build and produce. Larger units need more food to build and produce, so it’s a bit of a balancing act… But it is a manageable one. Again, it’s simple and works well.
Just about the only thing Tooth and Tail does follow in the almighty RTS guidebook is having factions. There are four factions, helpfully colour coded, Blue, Red, Green and Yellow. Each faction has a leader, and that’s who you control when playing a match. Yes, you get to be a person! Not some giant eyeball in the sky, looking down upon everything like some God. Though to say you’re a person is a stretch… All four leaders are rats actually. There’s Bellfeide, leader of the Longcoats, whose up in arms against the Civilised after his son was taken away to be culled. There’s Hopper, my personal favourite, the spitfire leader of the commonfolk, fighting against the classist treatment of the people. There’s the Commissioner, the leader of the KSA, a militaristic movement keeping the ‘beasts’ oppressed through power and bullying… Lastly there’s Archimedes, leader of the Civilised, who are a bunch of classist assholes who basically think they’re better than everyone else.
You meet all these colourful characters and learn their stories through the campaign mode, which serves as your introduction to the game world and tutorial. Starting with the Longcoats and ending with the Civilised; it’s very clear that in this world there are no animals, least not any feral ones, so every now and then the population is culled for food, the campaign boils down to everyone fighting to be in charge so they can pick who, where, and how many get the axe.
It’s surprisingly dark for a game with such beautiful art design. Merging pixel graphics with hand drawn stills and a truly upbeat and quaint sound design; I’ve found myself humming the credit song for hours these last few days without even realising it. Tooth and Tail is a magnificent game, one I’m glad to have picked up when I did. It certainly has me excited for some of the upcoming RTS games, like Iron Harvest.
Published by Pocketwatch Games and Developed by Andy Schatz, Tooth and Tail is a curve ball that is a wonderfully fun and unique entry into the RTS genre. One that stands out quite proudly and one that I quite enjoy! It’s simple to learn and get into, whilst still providing a challenge. I will say there are a few missions in the campaign that have surprising and wavering difficulty curves, but that’s not a deal breaker.
A cheer to Tooth and Tail! Certainly a solid 9/10