Review: Tooth & Tail

Review: Tooth & Tail

I wont’ beat around the bush: Tooth and Tail is a fantastic addition to the RTS genre, boiling down the core appeal of real time strategy into a bite sized format, cutting match length down to under 10 minutes while preserving the strategic feel and adding flexibility. Backed up by gorgeous art, characterful sprites, beautiful music and engaging story, Tooth and Tail is a must buy if you ask me.

 

 

Title: Tooth & Tail
Developer: Pocketwatch Games
Platform: PC
Game Version: Final
Review Copy: Provide by Developer
Interface: Keyboard & Mouse
Available on Steam, GOG & PS4

Lead the revolution with an army of flamethrowing Boars, mustard gas-lobbing Skunks, and paratrooper-puking Owls. Tooth and Tail is a Real-Time-Strategy game featuring Single Player, Online Competitive Play, Split Screen, Replays, and more.

Initially, it was the story and art style of Tooth and Tail that drew me in. Tooth and Tail can best be described as Redwall meets the Russian Revolution. It’s a story of animal against animal in a desperate fight for food, with each faction supporting a different way to determine who will end up on the dinner plate. The Longcoats believe in a free market solutions, while the Commonfolk represent a more socialist approach. The KSR is the standing army, and thus represent a military approach. Finally, the Civilized represent the church and a faith centered means of determining dinner. All of these players are caught up in the  midst of a Civil War explored in the game’s Single Player campaign.

The art in Tooth and Tail is jaw-droppingly gorgeous. The game art is done by Jerome Jacinto, who has also worked on Armello and is full of color and emotion, clearly showing the desperation and anger of these animals thrust into this terrible position. The pixel art, done by Adam DeGrandis, who we interviewed last year to talk about his process, truly surprised me, as the unit sprites are full of character and attitude. It’s hard to get pixel graphics to get these qualities across so clearly, and they do a fantastic job of conveying what that unit is all about in seconds.

On top of all this is a wonderful, mood setting soundtrack by composer Austin Wintory. The music does a superb job of getting you in the right mindset for revolution, with a distinct Eastern European and Russian style to it.

But, as much as the story and aesthetic of game can entice you and draw you in, it’s the gameplay that ultimately makes the game a winner or not. Safe to say, Tooth and Tail lives up to it’s tag line: it has taken the concepts found in RTS games of every shape and size, and distilled them into a fast-paced, quick to learn but hard to master game that is immense fun.

Tooth and Tail founds itself around three concepts: Resource Management, Unit Choice and Procedurally generated maps.

Unlike most other RTS games I’ve ever run into, the maps in Tooth and Tail aren’t selected from a list, but are procedurally generated each time you play. No two game’s are going to be the same, and this keeps things fresh and different. I did feel like some of the matches I played lend themselves to specific play styles: having a couple of bases on the other side of a swamp is a perfect opportunity to play defensively (swamps slow movement, and thus are a perfect place to pullet a bulletnest turret). Choke points are incredibly valuable, as is the placement of resources around the map.

Each match played in Tooth and Tail revolves around food. Food is generated through Farms, which are found in the map around Gritsmills. You’ll start with one Gritsmill, and a few farms around it. Farms produce food at a steady rate, but do deplete over time, and will eventually go fallow, so expansion is a necessity, not an option.

You spend this food on just about everything you do in the game: building warrens (unit producing buildings), defensive structures, claiming new gritsmills and making more farms. It’s important not to stretch yourself too thin, but you’ll not want to sit on a stockpile of food, because everything takes time to produce, and you can’t just produce a giant force on the drop of a dime.

In game, you control the commander of your force, and primarily serve as the scout of this army and the person pointing at what needs to be killed. You cannot actually fight yourself, and instead rely on your units to do damage. It is incredibly important to use your commander to scout out the map in the opening moments of the game, identify where your opponent’s bases are, and then return back to your own base with a plan of attack.

Tooth and Tail has an absolutely wonderful cast of murderous woodland creatures at your disposal. From drunk, revolver wielding squirrels, to spiked club touting chameleons, to crazed badgers hauling Gatling guns, there are a lot of units to pick from, and it’s a bit over whelming if you jump right in. The core of your force will be the throw away cannon fodder types, cheap and relatively quick to produce. However, a horde of these guys, be they squirrels or lizards should NOT be underestimate. To back these more basic units up, you have a host of other units, from pigeons that provide healing, to fox snipers, to commissar-esq wolves barking orders to make your units move faster.

Here’s my normal selection. Got a better set up? Let me know in the Comments!:

Squirrel, Pigeon | Chameleon | Badger |  Landmine, Turret

The nicest thing about the unit diversity of Tooth and Tail is that nothing feels like a particular must have. You for sure are gonna want some cheap units, some heavy hitters and some defense, but the choice between the badger or the boar, or the squirrels or the lizards doesn’t feel like a meta-bound decision.

I did get the feeling that hordes were definitely the best way to go, but also found that using landmines really threw a wrench in that tactic. Over time, I wouldn’t be surprised if a meta emerges, but I really appreciate the thought and the steps Pocketwatch Games have taken to try to make multiple builds viable and effective.

Online play is robust and has a whole host of options. There’s both Ranked and Unranked modes of play, with up to 4 players in free for all or team modes. Tooth and Tail also didn’t skimp on the extras, and has launched with a spectator mode and replays available, something many Multiplayer games don’t add to their game until much later.

Tooth and Tail presents an incredibly well polished, beautifully realized RTS game in it’s purest form. Matches take minutes, your choices matter, but you’re still given freedom to play with a different composition from game to game, not slave to a pre-determined meta strategy. Any fan of RTS games should pickup Tooth and Tail without hesitation, and gamers that have hated RTS titles in the past would do well to revisit the genre through this title.

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Written by
Editor-in-Chief of IndieHangover.com. With a soft spot for epics, sagas and tales of all types, Jacob approaches games as ways to tell stories. He's particularly interested in indie games because of the freedom they have to tell different stories, often in more interesting and innovative ways than Triple A titles.

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