Quick Thoughts on Tooth and Tail, an RTS for the casual crowd
A streamlined RTS with hints of mobile.
Upon first glance, Tooth and Tail is a rather exciting package. It’s not the kind of game hardcore RTS fans will give up their StarCraft or Age of Empires addiction for, but its got some of the same pacing and resource management sensibilities that will make more than a few give Tooth and Tail a shot. It takes place in a world reminiscent of Eastern Europe in the 1910’s but with the twist that it is an animal kingdom with multiple factions fighting for control and/or freedom.
The game comes with both a single-player campaign and a multiplayer mode, though the former feels a bit tacked on compared to the latter. Missions are doled out by the player character tracking down an NPC in a contained environment with an exclamation mark over their head. There is some light exposition to give some barebones context, but ultimately it’s nothing that will honestly draw you in and feel like you have a stake in the battles to come.
What Tooth and Tail is really about is its gameplay, which takes things you’d typically expect from an RTS like base building, resource management, and unit engagement, and simplifies it all down to the player controlling a single on-field general. Your general doesn’t have any attacks to speak of, only waving a banner back and forth to summon your soldiers to your location.
Players can drop additional barracks, each type of which spawns a unique unit and capture gristmills which can be used to plant farms for additional food income. Food is the only resource you have to manage, which is directly tied to the cost of building barracks, turrets, and the like as well as spawning the units. Matches unfold quickly taking mere minutes to complete, so it’s important to understand how to time when to take over another Gristmill while keeping your forces fed and at the ready, in case you fall under attack.
That said, it’s worth noting that unit upgrades and extensive micromanagement are virtually non-existent. In the interest of keeping things streamlined and straightforward, a lot of what makes strategy games hardcore has been stripped down to the bare essentials, so fans of the genre could potentially get bored with Tooth and Tail rather quickly. Though for people who have been turned off by its complexities, Tooth and Tail is pretty easy to get the hang of.
Unfortunately, not everything in Tooth and Tail feels like it works as it should. Maps in the game are randomly generated, which doesn’t seem like a big deal, but there is an unfortunate side effect as a result of the shift to controlling a single character with a controller. Maps are small but often have maze-like features to them, and you will find that you will get caught in a dead end more than once. Your character can burrow for a quick retreat back to your main base, but that can undo quite a bit of traveling, particularly if you brought your units with you (who can’t follow your hasty retreat).
What can also be frustrating is that your units’ line of sight can be pretty weak. There were multiple occasions, particularly in the single-player mode, where the level objective was more easily accomplished by running out on my own while leaving my army to defend the base and the farms. When they inevitably fell under attack, the units would sometimes just stand around and watch the base and farms be gradually destroyed while getting picked off from afar with no retaliation. Your armies require a fair amount of unnecessary babysitting, which can lead to more than a few failed missions.
Despite its drawbacks, Tooth and Tail can completely grab your attention with its fast pace, provided you can keep up. The game is easily learnable by a wide variety of players, and if you can figure out how to navigate its shortcomings, then it’s all the better. Tooth and Tail is available now on PC and PS4.