Real Time Strategy is not an easy genre to get into, and Pocketwatch Games is completely aware of the fact. With Tooth And Tail they offer an easy to approach, yet fun to dig into RTS experience. And don’t let the overarching theme and flashy visuals fool you. Underneath the squabbles of the animal kingdom, Tooth and Tail actually tells a grim tale of strife among various factions.
While Tooth and Tail is light on the RTS mechanics, it’s heavy on the tone and setting. You play as different factions represented by different animals, and are fighting for survival. The narrative is presented in the form of a Civil War, and is strongly reminiscent of the Russian Revolution. It takes on a pretty dark tone, with you needing to eat your enemies to sustain your armies. Riots and wars ensue, and while there are bits of humor thrown in for good measure, the game does a good job of balancing the darker undertones and the witty overtones.
The gameplay is fairly simple, and that’s actually to the game’s benefit. Unlike most RTS games, you don’t need to select units and lead them to battle. Instead you control a single character who acts as a bannerman of sorts. You build farms which the produce food for your armies. You lead your armies, guided by the bannerman, and defeat your enemies. The core is simple, yet very strong. It’s the strategic elements layered on top of it that makes the game so very compelling.
Since you can only control a single unit/character, you can only perform one action at a time. You can either be scouting, building or attacking. Deciding a plan and putting it into action is key here, and the randomly generated maps keep things from getting repetitive. Since you can only build while you are near a gristmill, you need to keep coming back to develop your base. Striking a balance between scouting, building and attacking is immensely satisfying, and makes for an enjoyable gameplay loop.
While the single player is a lot of fun, the real challenge is in the multiplayer. Even without the twitchy micromanagement, the randomly generated maps and unpredictable player behavior can lead to some real intense sessions. With this level of randomness, even for the best players, adapting and improvising is a key part of the experience.
There’s a good variety to the units at your disposal, ranging from engineers to medics to units with flamethrowers. The game also looks really great, with a cleaner visual style and excellent lighting. Movement and combat animations are also really well done.
Even with the simplicity, Tooth and Tail offers a fair challenge, and a really enjoyable RTS experience for those willing to dig into the game. Selecting the right units for the fight, laying out plans and deciding your approach is a lot of fun. Sessions are never too long, and the overall design leads to a tighter experience that you won’t usually find in most RTS games.