I breathed a sigh of relief when my plant warriors finally freed the gelatinous boss from the volcano, sending him hurriedly to his doom.
Soft Knights is an interesting mix of grid-based tactics and deck building, focusing on fast-paced missions that put your skills to the test. It’s all tied together by an absurdly charming art style and a story that never gets too complex but manages to be just as charming.
In Soft Knights you play as Phoebe, a brilliant 16-year-old inventor who wants to save enough money to move out of her parents’ house. For this, she invents the Soft Knights system, which allows her to create plant soldiers so she can complete tasks around town and win the science fair prize.
Phoebe is accompanied by her sentient computer arm Carlton, and the dynamic between the two forms the bulk of the comic relief of Soft Knights. The dialogue is fast and snappy with an ironic slant, which reinforces the game’s core ethos of doing something specific and doing it well.
As you travel through a world map, the game is made up of 27 different story missions and 24 challenge missions. Don’t wait for the long dozens of hours that many tactical RPGs are known for, because Soft Knights likes to keep things light. Each level is basically like a puzzle, where you have to put together the right cards in order to complete the goal.
Each turn, you have a pool of five energy, and each card has an energy cost to use. The main focus of your deck is the commander card, which you must place on the field at the start. Each commander has their own special perks and a special card they can use each turn, but if the commander falls, it’s game over.
There is a basic set of rules that apply at all levels, such as each unit having one attack per turn but having to use an attack card to make another. Beyond that, however, the variety of maps can greatly influence how you approach battles. You have unit cards you can summon, healing cards, special attack cards, etc. There’s a wide variety of cards you’ll earn along the way, all of which can contribute to specialty decks.
At the same time, you’ll later unlock two other decks that represent other factions, and you can even mix and match cards as you see fit. There is an incredible amount of choice in Soft Knightsand that’s great, but somehow it feels like there isn’t enough time to explore all the options.
It is not necessarily the duration of the missions themselves, but their number. It just feels like the combat system doesn’t have enough room to breathe and grow naturally. The variety of maps is great, but more missions or options would have allowed the whole thing to breathe more. Ultimately, however, it’s a small issue against a solid base game system. The game also does a good job of increasing the difficulty and only has a few examples of notable difficulty spikes.
What helps Soft Knights excelling even more is its unique sense of style. The hand-drawn art style is done by the same art director as Dicey Dungeons, Marlowe Dobbe, and it works absolutely brilliantly here. Factory soldiers vaguely feel Plants vs. Zombies, but there’s a sort of low-budget Saturday morning cartoon feel to it. The retro-inspired soundtrack also contributes to this feeling, written by garden story composer Graham Nesbitt.
Soft Knights is a charming experience that brings something unique to the table, even if it doesn’t reinvent the wheel for any of its genres. I wish there was a bit more meat to the experience, and despite the lovely writing, the story just lacks a solid core. Despite that, however, it’s a worthwhile journey, especially if you’re a fan of tactical games or deck builders.
Soft Knights is now available for Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S and PC. Reverse reviewed the game on PC.
REVERSE ETHICS OF VIDEO GAME REVIEW: All Reverse The video game review answers two questions: is this game worth your time? Do you get what you pay for? We have no tolerance for endless fetch quests, clunky mechanics, or experience-diluting bugs. We care deeply about game design, world building, character arcs, and storytelling. Reverse will never strike, but we are not afraid to strike. We love magic and science fiction in equal measure, and while we love experiencing rich stories and worlds through games, we won’t ignore the real context in which these games are made.