For almost as long as real-time strategy games have been around, there have always been developers trying to squeeze down and distill the genre’s appeal onto consoles. Unfortunately, even the best of these efforts come with caveats. Without a mouse and keyboard, it’s hard to make the micromanagement-heavy gameplay of an RTS manageable, let alone palatable.
Following in the footsteps of games like Sacrifice, Brutal Legend and Halo Wars, Pocketwatch Games’ Tooth and Tail feels like comes closer than ever to realizing this. However, it’s narrow focus can often leaves you frustrated in the process.
Indie developer Pocketwatch Games only have a single title under their belt but it’s nothing short of an exceptional one: 2013’s Monaco: What’s Yours Is Mine. With Monaco, Pocketwatch were able to marry the chaos of a 4-player cooperative party game with the tense system's management of a tip-of-your-toes stealth experience. Tooth and Tail sees them turn their attention to another classic genre: the real-time strategy game.
Set a world Redwall-esque world of slightly-pixelated anthropomorphic animals, Tooth and Tail sees four furry factions set against one another by civil war. The libertarian Longcoats, the populist Commonfolk, the fascist KSR, and the theocratic ‘Civilized’ each offer their own ideology and take on the story’s central question: who decides who is eaten?
The world of Tooth and Tail is colorful in its characteristics and dense in its allegory, giving players plenty to chew on between its short, fast-paced levels. These levels are more often 5-10 minute sprints rather than the 30-40 minutes marches you’d find in classic RTS games like Starcraft or Age of Empires. In a way, this structure best reflects the broader ideas at work here. In both form and function, Tooth and Tail is an exercise in trimming and remixes everything you want out of the RTS experience. As Pocketwatch themselves put it "Tooth and Tail is a popcorn RTS for veterans and newcomers alike"