Tower defense games are an interesting breed. They have been around since the the release of Atari’s Rampart back in 1990, but are still struggling to really find their place in the modern gaming world. With so many tower defense mods available for games like Starcraft 2 it can be hard for developers of this rather niche, genre to get any attention. Some developers try to differentiate themselves by including interesting twists on the standard tower defense formulas, such as the FPS elements in Sanctum 2. Others just try to polish the formula to an extent far beyond the efforts of other developers to set themselves above, rather than apart from, the opposition. Prime World: Defenders does a bit of both by adding in a couple of twists to the generic tower defense gameplay, but also trying to achieve a really polished feel.
I’m not entirely sure why the developers, Nival, decided to include a storyline at all. It ends up being pretty much irrelevant, and just a way to string together the different levels. The game starts off with a promising introductory cinematic, describing an apocalyptic world which is reborn through a substance known as ‘Prime’. It then details two factions, one built around technology and one around magic, which would have set an interesting backdrop. Unfortunately it turns out you are a member of a third faction which makes use of both magic and technology, leaving the preceding story completely irrelevant. There is a bit of dialogue in between the different stages, but for the most part they contained no real story, and just felt like filler between levels.
The gameplay somewhat makes up for the lack of a relevant plot by including a number of twists on the standard tower defense formula, but also keeping the core gameplay the same so that veterans of the genre will find it very easy to pick up. The game’s first few levels act as the tutorial, but unfortunately can’t be skipped by those who are experienced in the genre and just want to jump right in to the more complex and challenging scenarios. The maps have a decent amount of variation, but the stages do begin to feel a bit monotonous after a while. The boss fights are fairly challenging, though this is coming from someone who is relatively inexperienced in tower defense games, and there are a few interesting, if superfluous, RPG mechanics added in to the game. These include a talent tree as well as a lightweight crafting system, which allows you to combine ‘cards’ which represent the towers and spells you take into each level of the game. You collect more cards as you go along, and can forge more powerful versions of cards which allow you to upgrade towers during each stage to increase their power substantially. Ultimately I’m not a huge fan of the talent tree and crafting systems as they are, like the story, pretty pointless additions that don’t add much to the game’s fun factor. I feel like they are purely to artificially lengthen the game’s lifespan.
Defenders looks great, and it is obvious that there was a lot of work put in to make the levels look really beautiful. There is a decent amount of variation in the levels, with different land types used and lots of details which make the different environments look top notch. I was very impressed by the visual appeal of the towers themselves, each of which have their own unique style. The towers’ models change as they are upgraded, which again shows a lot of effort by the developers. Spells have their own particles, and they also look fantastic.
The sound design is solid, with each tower making different noises as they fire. I remember the sound of an arrow being fired from the basic turret as being particularly awesome. I found that the music seemed to fade into the background slightly, but that was the only real sound problem I experienced.
Every time the player completes a stage they get given a rating out of 3 stars. 1 star for barely scraping through the level, 2 for doing pretty well but not perfect or 3 stars for a completely immaculate performance. This system could add a bit of longevity to the game for those who really enjoy it, but honestly I felt no reason to go back and perfect the earlier stages as it feels similar to fighting a level 1 creature with a level 30 character in an RPG: ridiculously easy, and rather pointless. The crafting system allows those who really enjoy the game to spend time upgrading all their towers completely, but again, I felt no need to.
Overall I guess, as always, it just comes down to personal preference. Defenders is a solid tower defense game, which is it’s strongest and weakest point. Fans of the genre will likely enjoy this game, but it’s also just another tower defense game, and with the number of mods out there available for free, it’s hard to justify buying a dedicated tower defense game. I think its strongest aspect is how easy it is to pick up and start playing, even for relatively inexperienced players. I would play it again, but only when I’m looking to kill a couple of minutes when waiting around.
(Reviewed on PC. Review code supplied by Nival. Thank you.)
ONLY SINGLE PLAYER SCORE
Story – 4/10
Gameplay/Design – 8/10
Visuals – 9/10
Sound – 8/10
Lasting Appeal – 6/10
Overall – 6.5/10
(Not an average)
Platforms: PC, Mac