Signal Studios is ready to usher in the next generation of Toy Soldiers. It includes a Rainbow Brite look-a-like and her loyal army of waving teddy bears.
Released in 2010, the original Toy Soldiers put players in control of two miniature toy armies duking it out in dioramas. Its follow-up, Toy Soldiers: Cold War had a similar set-up with more battlefields to explore. For a franchise that's always been about wars fought in a child's imagination, however, no previous game better captures this than Toy Soldiers: War Chest.
Players won't do battle with plain troops anymore; with different armies to choose from, game director Chris Rubyor says War Chest is closer to the developer's vision than ever before.
"It's [about] bringing a variety of different toys that you would have around your room — kinda like Toy Story, in that sense," Rubyor said. "You bring them all together to do these epic battles, and battle it out."
War Chest charges players with the task of defending their toy box from waves of invading enemies. Each character has a special campaign for players to experience, as well as units unique to their theme. During a demo of the game, we were shown two different armies driven by heroes Kaiser and Starbright. Players of previous games will recognize Kaiser, a World War I soldier Rubyor considers core to the series; Kaiser calls in tanks and turrets befitting of his character.
New to the franchise is Starbright, a colorful character that commands an army of pegasus, pixies and Care Bear-like "Buddy Bears." Starbright's diorama battlefield is a stark contrast to Kaiser's; while he rampages through the European countryside, Starbright protects a backyard with her confetti cannon and cake launcher. The game is meant to be lighthearted, and openly embraces being silly.
"Not taking itself too seriously is a key element here," Rubyor said. "It's all about fun in the battles that you wage in your background. "
The battles themselves proved to be tricky. As new waves of enemies poured in, we jumped between units to keep our toy box protected. The game allowed us to take direct control of units and mow down enemies personally, or command from afar. As we took down enemies, we could upgrade our units to have more health or power, or sell them to grab more cash.
"As you start building more and more turrets, the battles start becoming more and more chaotic," Rubyor said. "It's really important for you to assess what's going on and switch your turrets out as needed.
"The waves increase. We add those waves in tower defense-style so that they increase in difficulty. Early on, you may have three waves. By the end of the game, you may be fighting 20 waves. Those 20 waves on the design side are put together based on how we want to challenge you as a player."
The final wave we fought against was Starbright's boss unit: a giant, floating castle that fired color cannons and glitter nukes. Although we preferred to jump directly into our units, or even Kaiser himself to fight against Starbright, Rubyor said that players can easily adapt their playstyle however they wish.
"Because it's not just straight tower defense, it caters to a couple different types of audiences," he said. "If you really want to get into the whole action setting, you can take direct control of your heroes and your units, as well as your turrets and enjoy the game that way. If you're a big strategy type of individual, you can master everything from on high as a general of your army. For us, it's all about capturing, the whole goal behind the series is capturing that imagination of those toy-like battles from when we were kids."
Thanks to a new publishing deal with Ubisoft, Toy Soldiers: War Chest will launch for the first time on PlayStation 4, as well as Xbox One and PC in "early 2015." The game's full lineup hasn't been announced, though Rubyor told Polygon there will be four armies in total, half of which are driven by women. Although Kaiser is an "iconic" character in the franchise, Rubyor said, he's a character that's been played in dozens of games before.
"We know Kaiser," Rubyor said. "Starbright is the one that we're playing at the office.
"[War Chest] captures that child-like imagination of taking toys vs. toys, be it He-Man vs. G.I. Joe, or Rainbow Brite or Strawberry Shortcake vs. Barbie."