Tooth & Tail Review: Food Chain
Kalvin Martinez / Oct 5th, 2017 No Comments
The real-time strategy genre has long lived and prospered on PC, but attempts to bring the methodic pacing and control to consoles have mostly faltered because the controls and mechanics do not translate to a controller. Tooth & Tail aims to change that, and the game largely succeeds in doing so. The controls are intuitive and help make a damn fine controller-based RTS.
We Shall Feast
The Civil War over meat has come to a head, with four factions fighting fiercely over who should eat and who should be eaten. Each faction feels it has the right to be the one who decides who gets eaten.
While some have more control than others, no one side feels their side is morally unjust. Some happen to have more ground to stand on due to the way society has been set up.
The Longcoats, led by Bellafide, are fueled by revenge ever since Bellafide’s young son was eaten. That was the last straw, leading him to revolt against the Civilized.
War isn’t easy, and revolutions are even more hard fought. Soon Bellafide learns the expense of war, and if he plans to win, he must make alliances with the other marginalized group: the Commonfolk. However, nothing is black and white.
Tooth & Tail isn’t about one side being right. Obviously we want the mistreated and lower class to rise up against their oppressors, but you’re never meant to find the Longcoats and the Commonfolk to be more righteous than the KSR or the Civilized. Every story gives you a reason why each side fights and a compelling reason why they want to win, but never tells you who is just.
It is the shades of grey and complexity of the narrative that makes playing through Tooth & Tail’s lengthy and sometimes difficult single-player campaign addictive. Every time you feel like you identify with one side, you’re swept to another perspective to give you a bigger, deeper picture of this world.
There is no right answer when it comes down to who decides who feasts and who is food.
The core gameplay for Tooth & Tail will be familiar to RTS veterans and even those with a passing familiarity with the genre — build up your base, gather resources, spawn units, and attack the enemy. It is an oversimplification of sorts, but mostly accurate.
A lot of what characterizes (or plagues, depending on your point of view) the genre is the long, drawn out passive approach. Often victory is about memorizing the map or hoping to catch your opponent off-guard with an early attack.
Tooth & Tail changes up the formula by adopting a much faster pace. Most matches can be won in minutes instead of hours. The quickened pace is a result of a more refined approach to unit types, defenses and resource accumulation. By limiting the choices for each faction, you get matches predicated on more streamlined strategy and a distillation of familiar mechanics.
It further shakes things up with procedurally generated maps. No longer will memorizing maps help you. You’ll need to rely on specific strategies and a good amount of improvisation to claim victory. The beauty of this is not only does it speed up the game, but it also makes for more dynamic matches.
Where Tooth & Tail most dramatically changes conventions of the genre is in its controls. Every action you’d want to do is smoothly mapped to a controller. From issuing commands to building warrens, farms or defenses, it can all be done with a few simple button presses.
By automating a number of processes like farming and unit production, Tooth & Tail loses the micromanagement common to other games in the genre. However, players still have plenty of control, including the ability to split up unit types into brigades and lead them into battle or hold them in defense.
What makes this all work is the general avatar that can roam the map spying on enemy position and defenses while also placing buildings, claiming garrisons and identifying targets for units to attack. The result is a more streamlined control scheme that doesn’t lack any of the depth or complexity found in other RTS gams.
Tooth & Tail sucks you into a world of animals on the brink of absolute anarchy. The story mode firmly situates you in this debilitating conflict over who gets to eat who and builds a bleak and harsh atmosphere around you.
Its gameplay feels like an evolution of the RTS genre rather than simply another secure base and gather resources grind. The use of procedurally generated maps makes you focus on creating real strategies rather than memorizing map layouts.
It is rare that replayability comes both from the single-player and multiplayer components, but Tooth & Tail gives you a good reason to revisit its campaign as much as competing online to see who will eat and who will be eaten.
Tooth & Tail was reviewed on PlayStation 4 with a code provided by the developer
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