So many towers in one place.
It has been a while coming, but finally Paradox Interactive’s Defenders of Ardania is available on Xbox Live Arcade. The game has been popular on iOS since the launch in December, but now gamers can indulge on the big screen in some hearty tower defence/offence in the fantasy world made famous by the Majesty series.
The tower defence side of Defenders of Ardania is fairly straight forward and will feel familiar to anyone who has dipped a toe into this particular genre. Players are able to build defensive towers to protect their base, whilst various different units travel along paths, intent on causing your base harm. It is all as you would expect. A grid can be turned on which shows where towers can be built, with positioning being dependant on the locations of other towers. These towers come in various different flavours that are matched to the various units that will attack, such as some towers being better for flying creatures, others for fast moving or tanks etc.
Placement of the towers becomes rather tactical as the player tries to prevent the enemy units from reaching their base, cutting off routes and making the units take a longer path, grabbing the highlighted higher ground for a larger area of effect or certain positions that grant the player increased resources. The player is limited by the number of towers they can build, but they can be sold if the placement is wrong, or upgraded further down the line to make them more powerful.
Things take a slight twist with the player being able to create units themselves and send them off along the paths, past enemy towers, to attack the enemy base. This adds another level to the game, forcing the player to carefully juggle the spending of resources between offence and defence. The units begin fairly basic, fast moving but weak through to slow moving but strong, until the player unlocks new units which come with special abilities, such as the ability to attack enemy towers as they pass. As with the towers, players are limited by the number of units they can have on screen at any one time.
A third use of the players’ resources comes in the form of spells and upgrades. Beyond the basic upgrading of towers, the player is able to also buy more general upgrades, such as increasing the number of units on the map, or decreasing the cost of creating their units. There are also magical spells which can be cast, each of which has a cool down after use, so timing is essential. From the basic heal spell which replaces your base health, to an impressive spell which can destroy towers, these spells, when timed right, can be game changers.
The game comes with a fairly decent campaign mode, which involves an undead menace threatening Ardania. Fans of the Majesty series of games will feel at home in this well fleshed out fantasy world, and will be happy to hear that they have a dry witted advisor to help them on their journey.
The maps across which the game is played vary widely in both their lay out and their difficulty. The campaign does tend to suffer from a rather uneven difficulty curve. But the different lay outs keep things interesting, with some maps even offering four-way battles which can quickly descend into chaos.
Having played the game back in October on the PC, my biggest concern was how the controls would translate to the Xbox. Thankfully, the developers have done a good job here. Placement of towers are controlled with the face buttons and easily navigated menus, creation of troops, spells and upgrades are all controlled with the d-pad. Turning on the grid makes life a lot easier when it comes to tower placement, and everything moves smoothly. No complaints there.
Although the campaign does a good job of detailing all of the intricacies of the game, most gamers on XBL will be more interested in the multiplayer. With up to four human players fighting it out on some maps, and across a couple of different modes, you could be forgiven for thinking that it would be crazy fun.
Unfortunately, the fun only comes in the first few minutes, during the initial placement of the towers. It is at this point that players can mess up and make things interesting. However, if all of the players have a rough idea of what they are doing, the game rapidly turns into a stalemate with a slow grind to an eventual winner. It is a bit like playing noughts and crosses against another adult, albeit with someone winning eventually. This grind can mean that games last for an eternity and, as a result, become a bit boring.
But playing multiplayer gives access to all of the spells, upgrades and different races available in the game, making it certainly interesting for players who have yet to finish the campaign. Sadly, I feel that it will only be the really hardcore genre fans that visit the multiplayer more a few times.
Which is a shame as Defenders of Ardania is not a bad game. For fans of the tower defence genre, it offers a few twists on what they may be used to and asks them to consider their moves a bit more intently. The game is light-hearted and looks good, and works well on the Xbox360, but in reality I think it will appeal to the PC crowd more. It is a competent game, but for 1200 MSPoints I think players would want more than competent.