enfrdeitptrues

Tower Defense

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    boxart
    Game Info:

    Aegis Defenders
    Developed By: GUTS Department
    Published By: Humble Bundle
    Released: Feb 8, 2018
    Available On: macOS, Switch, PlayStation 4, Windows, Xbox One.
    Genre: Platforming, Tower Defense, Strategy
    ESRB Rating: E10+ for Fantasy Violence, Mild blood, Suggestive themes, Mild Language
    Number of Players: 1 offline, 2 players locally
    Price: $19.99
    (Humble Store Link)

     

    Thank you Humble Bundle for sending the game to review!

    Aegis Defenders is a pixelated, 2D platforming, tower defense game for up to two people. Later in the game, it gets very challenging if you're playing on your own. After many attempts at this particular level, I got someone to come help me and was able to breeze through the level playing in Co-op. Playing the game in single player can be difficult and frustrating at times. The best experience you can have with this game is playing with a buddy.

    The game itself is a good mix of platforming and tower defense. Each level will consist of you platforming though different terrains, gathering resources, and using light puzzle solving to help your characters move through the level. You will be at least controlling two people on your own, which means you will be switching between them a lot. This part of the game is not as frustrating as the tower defense portion of the level.

    Aegis Defenders
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Fun platforming, multiple characters, great local Co-Op gameplay
    Weak Points: Frustrating single player experience 
    Moral Warnings:Some cartoon violence, minor language, and mild blood

    There are secret items to collect and even bad guys to kill. Each character has its own attacks and special attack. There are color-coded doorways that allow only one character to pass, forcing you to switch characters to open up a gate. Often times you will get to the end of a level, where you have to stand on a switch to let another player though the gate, which then starts a tower defense game. Now you must defend against hordes of creatures and can be dangerous by just the number of enemies that can swarm you.

    The story isn’t all that interesting, though there is a twist later in the game. The story is told through cutscenes and often have an interactive element to them, in that you are given dialogue options which reward you with points to upgrade your arsenal of towers. It feels like there is a right choice in the dialogue options and you do not really get to roleplay. Bart and his granddaughter are Ruinhunters, and they scavenge in a world of Deathless(gods). The two other characters you unlock are more interesting to play, as one can shoot fireballs and the other can fling shuriken through multiple enemies.

    Aegis Defenders
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 80%
    Gameplay - 15/20
    Graphics - 8/10
    Sound - 7/10
    Stability - 5/5
    Controls - 5/5

    Morality Score - 89%
    Violence - 6.5/10
    Language - 8/10
    Sexual Content - 10/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 10/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 10/10

    The tower defense part of the game can get crazy while switching between multiple characters. You have a short amount of time to set up towers before each wave, but each character only has one tower they can build. You can upgrade them or sometimes if you build on top of a tower, it changes into something completely new. For example, Clu’s tower is a bomb that you can lay down, but if you build another bomb on top it becomes a spike trap. To build each tower for each character you will need to collect resources. It becomes hectic switching to each character, collecting resources, and building each character's towers in a strategic way. It can be done, but later on, in the game, it can become very stressful. This is where the local Co-op comes into play, making the game way less frustrating, as you do not have to worry about multiple characters, just the one you are controlling. You can split up tasks and the game just flows better.

    Morally there is some minor language used and there is some violence. You obviously destroy creatures in the game and while there is no gore, there is some mild blood that appears for a second after the creature is destroyed.

    Aegis Defense is a decent mash-up of genres. The game is cute with its pixel graphics and the platforming sections are great. It only gets frustrating in the latter half of the level where the tower defense starts. It’s unfortunate that the game is meant to be played with other people, as you may not have another person around to help. If you plan on playing this game solo remember that it gets brutal towards the end of the game.

  • boxart
    Game Info:

    Alchemic Jousts
    Developed by: Lunatic Pixels
    Published by: Lunatic Pixels
    Release date: December 16, 2016
    Available on: PS4, Windows
    Genre: Tower defense
    Number of players: Up to two locally or online
    ESRB Rating: Everyone
    Price: $14.99

    Thank you Lunatic Pixels for sending us this game to review!

    In Alchemic Jousts you start off with water, fire, and earth. With these three elements you can unlock over one-hundred and eighty buffs, disguises, elementals, enchants, and passive abilities. Unfortunately, you can’t just fuse items haphazardly. Combing items requires reagents that you earn from completing campaign missions. Unsuccessful attempts still consume reagents. On a positive note the game shows you your past few combinations and will give you clues and hints for yet to be discovered unlockables.

    There are thirty stages plus an additional five elite levels to work your way through. In order to advance to the next stage you have to earn at least one star from the previous one. With the exception to the challenge levels, you get to select the difficulty and number of stars you can earn. The harder the difficulty, the more stars, reagents, and experience you’ll be awarded.

    Alchemic Jousts
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Charming visuals; fun concept with lots of possibilities and 182 items to unlock and use 
    Weak Points: Multiplayer not available right away
    Moral Warnings: Alchemy use; references to evolution

    The 2D graphics are very colorful and cute. Don’t let the simplicity fool you as this game has a lot of depth to it. To start, you have the basic rules of water beating fire, fire beating earth, and earth beating water. Air can also be used for aerial attacks. Things get more complicated as different tiers of elements (steam, lava, mud, sand) are used and you’ll have to remember their origin to defeat them.

    The winning conditions depend on which of the five game modes you’re playing. Combat is the standard game mode where you have to defeat your opponent’s tower while defending yours. Whichever runs out of hit points first loses. As you unlock passive abilities you’ll find a couple that permanently increase your tower’s starting health points! Discovering the recipes is half of the fun and it is possible to unlock higher tier recipes as long as you figure out the components needed.

    The Capture mode focuses on collecting wands and bringing them back to your tower to do damage to your opponent’s. The elements carrying the wands are slowed down significantly. Attacks made to the towers directly won’t count. The King of the Hill mode focuses on claiming territory near the towers and the side with the most claims slowly deals damage to their enemy’s stronghold. In the Attack mode your goal is to hit your opponent’s tower as many times as possible before the time runs out. Your tower won’t be impacted by enemy attacks. The final game mode is Endless where you have to survive as long as possible while the enemy steadily gets stronger. Their tower is impenetrable in this mode. Once all of the game modes have been played, multiplayer becomes available.

    Alchemic Jousts
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 86%
    Gameplay - 16/20
    Graphics - 9/10
    Sound - 8/10
    Stability - 5/5
    Controls - 5/5

    Morality Score - 90%
    Violence - 8/10
    Language - 10/10
    Sexual Content - 10/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 7/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 10/10

    As you can see there’s a fair amount of variety in this game. Some of the levels are themed and have boosts and handicaps to add further challenge. Besides selecting your elements and boosts, you can equip last ditch defenses and elemental generating boosts. Lower tiered units become available quicker, but they are weaker. Since the slots are limited, choose your offensive and defensive items carefully. For example, King of the Hill modes won’t need wind or air units. Instead, equip faster moving ones that focus on movement over fighting.

    The battles are pretty tame as conquered foes just go up in smoke. The logic behind combining items is quasi-scientific in nature and it came as no surprise that life originates from combining water and energy (the source of lightning). As the title suggests, alchemy is heavily used in this game.

    If you enjoy tower defense or strategy games, Alchemic Jousts is worth looking into. The Steam version offers a free demo if you’d like to check it out before spending $15. There's plenty to do and unlock in this title and if you have friends to play against, you'll be sure to get your money's worth.

  • boxart
    Game Info:

    Ancient Amuletor
    Developed by: TiGames
    Published by: Time of Virtual Reality
    Release date: June, 27, 2017 (PSVR), December 20, 2017 (PC)
    Available on: HTC Vive, Oculus Rift, PSVR
    Genre: Tower defense
    Number of players: Up to three players
    ESRB Rating: Teen for violence
    Price: $19.99

    Thank you TiGames for sending us this game to review!

    We have reviewed and enjoyed a couple of tower defense games in VR. Like traditional tower defense games, in Ancient Amuletor you’ll have to defend crystals. Instead of deploying defenses, YOU are the main line of defense. You can teleport to different areas and hurl various attacks at the waves of enemies coming to smash your crystals.

    The base game has two worlds, Desert and Empire, and they each have two levels with a boss at the end of the final one. There are also four playable characters out of the box. Each class has a unique attack method and skills to unlock and learn. Two more worlds and a Viking character are available for purchase with a $2.99 Into the Ice DLC pack. This DLC is free on Steam.

    With only four levels to play, there’s not a whole lot of content in this game. Thankfully, there’s plenty of variety in characters and difficulty levels. The four difficulty levels are Easy, Normal, Hard, and Endless. The last two are initially locked until you complete the levels at the previous difficulty level.

    Ancient Amuletor
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Fun gameplay and classes; multiplayer option
    Weak Points: No active multiplayer games to join; only four levels in the base game
    Moral Warnings: Cartoon violence; magic use; females have tight/form fitting clothes

    The characters are what ultimately make this game interesting. During the tutorial, you’ll become acquainted with the archer, Lia. Her controls are pretty straightforward with your left arm holding the bow steady and your right arm drawing the bow string back and releasing the arrow(s). Lia’s power skill is the ability to hit multiple enemies with one shot.

    The other characters' attacks took some trial and error to learn but I got them all figured out pretty quickly. Katie is a dual wielding gunner and a quick flick of the wrist upwards will reload the guns. Harry the mage conjures an orb from the grimoire on the left hand and flings it with the wand on the right. Park the puppeteer isn’t available until you complete the desert world, but he’s worth the effort. With Park you can summon a tank-like puppet after you warp and then when it’s deployed, you get to control its arms and attack enemies nearby.

    Some of the enemies take multiple hits before they go down. There is some variety in their heartiness and attack methods. If left unchecked, mages will lock teleportation pillars making it difficult to attack enemies in their vicinity. Archers can attack crystals from a distance and they do a fair amount of damage quickly. Depending on how many crystals are still standing at the end of the waves, you’ll be awarded between one and three stars for the level. A score is also assigned and shared on the global leaderboards.

    Ancient Amuletor
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 74%
    Gameplay - 14/20
    Graphics - 8/10
    Sound - 7/10
    Stability - 5/5
    Controls - 3/5

    Morality Score - 85%
    Violence - 8/10
    Language - 10/10
    Sexual Content - 8.5/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 6/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 10/10

    Up to three players can work together in defending the crystals or fighting against immense bosses. Sadly, I was not able to join or partake in any multiplayer action.

    From a moral standpoint, this game is pretty clean. The violence is rather cartoony and there is no blood or gore shown. Magic use can be avoided by not playing as the mage, however enemy mages will still use their magic on you.

    Like other PSVR games, I experienced some calibration issues and often had to re-calibrate to properly attack enemies. Keeping a standard controller nearby to calibrate while wearing a headset and two move controllers is rather annoying. Thankfully this game was still fun despite the technical difficulties.

    Because of the lack of multiplayer and overall content, it’s hard to recommend this game at its asking price of $19.99. I have seen it on sale for 50% off and for that price, it’s worth picking up. If you’re still unsure, there is a demo available to try.

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    boxart
    Game Info:

    Animal Force
    Developed by: ISVR
    Published by: ISVR
    Release date: July 10,2018 (PSVR), November 23, 2018 (Steam)
    Available on: HTC Vive, Oculus Rift, PSVR
    Genre: Tower defense
    Number of players: Up to four locally
    ESRB Rating: Everyone for fantasy violence
    Price: $15.99 ($14.99 on Steam)

    Thank you Oasis Games for sending us a review code!

    Aliens are invading and it’s up to a group of animals flying around in a rocket to stop them from abducting humans. There are thirty levels and six boss battles in the single-player campaign. Depending on how well you do, you’ll be awarded between one and three stars for each completed level. If you’re not happy with your performance or need to earn stars for upgrades, you can replay levels to your heart’s content.

    Between waves of enemies, you’ll have a chance to collect stars which are useful for upgrading and expanding your army of animals with different abilities. The enemies will change their tactics and you’ll have to assemble an army that can counter them sufficiently. For example, it doesn’t take long for enemies to shoot back at your defenses. The parrot can deflect bullets, but the cat can deflect both bullets and aliens that charge into your units. Anytime a unit comes in contact with an alien or their ammo, they will disappear. Though re-enforcements occasionally appear, if you run out of units or are left with just defensive ones, it will be game over. After ten humans are abducted, the level will end, but you will get to keep any stars earned in it.

    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Cute VR tower defense and multiplayer games
    Weak Points: Inconsistent difficulty spikes; hardware tracking issues
    Moral Warnings: Although there is no blood, you either shoot down enemies or pierce them with arrows

    The level difficulty spikes can be rather dramatic and grinding to power-up your animal army will be necessary to survive. The levels are not random so you can learn the patterns and strategize accordingly. You can place your animals in specific locations, or hand control as many as you like. Unfortunately, on several occasions, the PSVR tracking limitations got in the way of my gameplay and I lost the level as a result.

    There are six worlds and in order to complete them, you’ll have to battle with an intimidating boss at the end. For the boss battles, I fared better with manually moving around my forces instead of stationing them in specific areas. Do whatever works best and keep your units out of harm’s way.

    Along with the single-player campaign are three local multiplayer mini-games that can be enjoyed with non-VR users. Steal the Statue is a mini-game that can benefit from multiple non-VR players since the VR player has an advantage. The objective in this game is to either steal the statue (non-VR players) or prevent it from happening (VR player). The VR player can switch between various turrets and shoot arrows at the prospective thieves. It takes two hits to bring down a thief, but if there are multiple non-VR players, they can revive a fallen comrade. If there are only two players total, the VR player will automatically win if they bring down the thief.

    Animal Force
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 66%
    Gameplay - 13/20
    Graphics - 7/10
    Sound - 6/10
    Stability - 5/5
    Controls - 2/5

    Morality Score - 90%
    Violence - 8/10
    Language - 10/10
    Sexual Content - 10/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 7/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 10/10

    In Odd One Out, the non-VR player must try and fit in with the crowd and follow their movements while the VR player gets three guesses to figure out which character is the non-VR player. The last game, Divide & Conga, has the non-VR player(s) guiding a train of humans to the exit. The VR player must try and do a match three of humans by shooting more of them into the train of people making their way toward the exit. If they leave the level, the non-VR player will win.

    The visuals are colorful and adequately detailed. Though there is violence, it’s not bloody or gory, even after seeing arrows pierce through enemies. Any defeated foes simply vanish once conquered.

    On the audio front, the sound effects are cute and appealing to kids. The animals make a silly “hee hee” noise a bit too often for my tastes. The background music is very upbeat and fitting.

    Overall, I find Animal Force a decent game though it’s sadly plagued by inferior PSVR tracking. I’m not a fan of the necessary grinding either. Other than those gripes, this is a cute game that is family friendly and fun in short spurts.

  • boxart
    Game Info:

    Castle Conqueror Defender
    Developed by: Easytech/Lanan
    Published by: Circle Entertainment
    Release Date: November 13, 2014
    Available on: Nintendo 3DS
    Genre: Strategy/Tower Defense
    Number of Players: Single-Player
    ESRB Rating: E 10+ for Fantasy Violence, Mild Blood
    Price: $4.99

    Thank you Circle Entertainment for sending us this game to review!

    Castle Conqueror Defender is a 2D tower defense/strategy hybrid that has you building up defenses, but also gives you the ability to move your soldiers around.  Fortress fortifications cannot be moved, but they can be sold or upgraded as needed. 

    The knight leader, Arthur, must stay alive and protect the town hall from waves of enemy soldiers.  If either Arthur, or the town hall fall, the level will be lost. Fortunately, it can be retried with all of the starting defenses and gold earned by defeating enemies.  While each level starts you off with basic fortifications and some soldiers,  there is plenty of room for upgrading your forces and defenses if you have the gold to cover the costs.

    Castle Conqueror Defender
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Can use Nintendo play coins to supplement in-game currency
    Weak Points: While the word "nenemies" sounds cool, it's still a typo; dumb AI
    Moral Warnings: While the bodies of killed soldiers disappear, the bloodied villager bodies do not; magic use

    Gold can be earned by killing enemies, their banner man, or destroying their tents.  You can also trade in your 3DS play coins for in-game currency.  With gold you can upgrade your units, fortress fortifications or buildings within it. Don't spend all of your money on upgrades as you will need it to deploy units and defenses!   

    There isn't much of a tutorial so you'll have to read through the digital manual and the upgrade menu to find out what each unit and building does.  As you complete stages in the various campaigns, new units and buildings will become available.     At first the fortresses will be wood based and not very durable.  Later in the game stone fortifications will become available and ones with defense mechanisms after that.  I often would skimp on soldiers and splurge on ballista towers, catapults and spiked traps scattered all around.  

    To increase your army size you'll have to place more houses.  Having stables allow your units to move faster while sword workshops increase the attack range of short range forces.  To give your archer units a boost, you should consider adding a bow workshop.  By having a fully upgraded magic tower you can cast healing, freezing, and flame spells.  Those come in handy!

    Castle Conqueror Defender
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 70%
    Gameplay - 14/20
    Graphics - 7/10
    Sound - 7/10
    Stability - 4/5
    Controls - 3/5

    Morality Score - 81%
    Violence - 4/10
    Language - 10/10
    Sexual Content - 10/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 6.5/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 10/10

    You'll never know what kind of enemy forces will be  heading your way so it is wise to have a wide variety of defensive units.  Axemen are good for attacking the enemy campsite, but a Royal Guard can do it faster.  Soldiers and Swordsmen can hold their ground pretty well, but their mounted variants are faster and more powerful.  Cavalrymen with their long lances can quickly disarm mounted swordsmen.  Archers are essential for picking off enemy soldiers from a distance, but if you want to get past their armor, you'll need to use crossbowmen instead.

    There are three game modes, but in order to unlock the Glory and Crusader Modes, the fifty level Story Mode has to be completed.  Story mode has ten stages with five days/waves each.  A formidable leader must be defeated in the final wave of every stage.  Glory Mode has a harder twenty day campaign.  The Crusader Mode has some religious overtones and you must protect a church and its monks from the crusaders.  While the enemy will target the priests, Arthur and the town hall must remain standing at the end of the day.   There are several stages with eight levels each in Crusader Mode.  

    There is plenty to do in Castle Conqueror Defender and it offers a fair amount of gameplay for $5.  It's certainly not the best tower defense game I have played, but it is challenging.  Part of the challenge is working with the dumb AI and limited controls.  It's hard to move my short-range units one at a time out of danger while enemy archers are attacking them (because they are too stupid to move out of harm's way).   

    Morally there is violence and some blood as you see villager's bodies laying around.  Bodies of fallen soldiers disappear though.  Magic use is helpful, but not required.  If these issues don't bother you and you enjoy tower defense and strategy games, keep an eye out for Castle Conqueror Defender.

  • boxart
    Game Info:

     Colony Defense (PC)
    Developed By: Mana Bomb Game Studio
    Release Date: March 2010
    Available on: PC, Xbox 360
    Genre: Tower Defense
    ESRB Rating: N/R
    Retail price: $4.95

    Thank you GamersGate for giving us this game to review!

    With no clear back story or indication of who you are, you find yourself defending thirty-four planets from unprovoked alien attacks.  We’re not talking a couple hovering UFOs here; there are swarms of alien fleets gunning for your helpless colonies.   You must quickly erect and deploy defense turrets in strategic locations since money is scarce.  As you destroy enemy ships, you’ll earn some money back to build more defenses.  You’ll need them.

    You’re only allowed a limited number of breaches into your bases before you lose.  If you successfully defend the colonies from the attackers, you’ll be awarded talent points.  You can spend the talent points on upgrading your weapon range, firing rate, lowering the build and upgrade costs and so on.   If there are no casualties you’ll earn an extra talent point.  Fortunately you can always go back and try again if you’re not happy with your score.

    Highlights:

    Strengths: Low price, Challenging game play.

    Weaknesses: Not very flashy, obvious Xbox 360 port

    Moral Warnings: Some language in the text

     

    When you start a level you’ll have about twenty seconds or so to rotate the planet to locate your colonies and enemy spawn points.  The aliens are limited to only travel on the specified paths but these paths get pretty complex as you progress in the game.  I like to place my turrets near cross roads and the enemy spawn areas.  As you level up, you’ll have access to bigger and better defense systems including an orbital ion canon.  When you first begin the campaign, you\'ll only have access to get laser turrets and flame throwers.

    The enemy will take different routes and can be unpredictable at times.  Be sure to add variety in your arsenal since the alien spacecrafts get immune to your defenses.     When the aliens get immune you can upgrade your weapons or recycle and replace them with different types of defense systems.

    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score: 70%

    Game Play: 12/20

    Graphics: 7:10

    Sound: 7/10

    Stability: 5/5

    Controls/Interface: 4/5

    Moral Score: 87%

    Violence: 7/10

    Language: 6.5/10

    Sexual Content:10/10

    Occult/Supernatural: 10/10

    Cultural/Ethical/Moral: 10/10

     

    The 3D graphics are not that flashy but they get the job done.  Some of the planets have weird textures and sometimes you can see where the textures begin and end.  My only nitpick here is that you can obviously tell this game is an Xbox 360 port with the Xbox controller buttons showing up in the menu buttons.

    There is no voice acting so you have to read some text before each level starts.  The background music is decent and pleasant to listen to.  The sound effects consist of weapons firing and alien ships blowing up.

     

    Maybe it’s better that there’s no voice acting; there’s some harsh language in some of the dialogue.   Other than that, there are the obvious explosions from the alien vessels being destroyed by your defense systems.  Like many RTS games, there’s no blood or gruesome details shown.

    I had no problems running this game on my system.  It’s a pretty straight forward Tower Defense game where you have to protect yourself from hordes of enemies.  There’s no multiplayer or varying difficulty levels.  With thirty-four planets to defend, you’ll get your $5 worth of game play.  If you like Tower Defense style games, I would check this one out if you don’t mind the language.

     

  •  

    boxart
    Game Info:

    Conan Unconquered
    Developed by: Petroglyph
    Published by: Funcom
    Release date: May 29, 2019
    Available on: Windows
    Genre: RTS
    Number of players: Up to two players online
    ESRB Rating: Not rated
    Price: $19.99
    (Humble Store Link)

    Thank you Funcom for sending us this game to review!

    Conan Unconquered provides an interesting take on the real-time strategy genre. In this title, you must stand your ground against increasingly stronger hordes of enemies that arrive every few minutes. Between the enemy waves, you must build up your army, defenses, and explore your surroundings for caches of resources that will come in handy.

    There’s not much of a story other than traveling to different areas and protecting your fortress from attack. If you survive the ordeal, some princess will congratulate you on your bravery. If not, your blood will become the foundation of your enemy’s empire. No matter how good or bad you do, you’ll be given a game code that you can share (with friends who own the game) and they can see if they can survive and/or beat your ending score.

    If you’re looking for multiplayer, you’ll have to rely on your friends since there are not many active games to join. The Steam community forums are disabled and the one existing topic points users to Funcom’s forums. There are some matchmaking topics so you may have some luck there.

    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Interesting mashup of RTS and Tower-Defense genres
    Weak Points: No online matches to join
    Moral Warnings: Violence and bloodshed; language (b*stard); necromancy

    Thankfully, there’s plenty to do by yourself. A recent free DLC called Belit’s Fury added a new campaign hero and some more single-player scenarios. In total, there are ten scenarios of escalating difficulty that unlock once you complete the previous level. You can adjust the difficulty if you’re struggling a bit. There’s also an unconquered mode in which you can customize your own scenarios to your liking. You can adjust the number of waves, map size, choke points, resource availability and more.

    There’s a wide variety of enemies ranging from nomad spearmen to necromancer wizards summoning the undead. There’s plenty of creepy crawlies to slaughter as well, including killer ostriches, scorpions, and spiders. The spiders can be as big as your fortress and the scorpions can poison your units. Some maps have boss-like guardians roaming about that drop helpful artifacts that make defeating them worthwhile. The artifacts I’ve acquired granted healing abilities or caused the enemies to leave behind gold upon their demise. You can only equip two artifacts at a time.

    Each scenario will start you off with different structures. Having a healing shrine from the get-go is quite helpful, but uncommon. You’ll also need to quickly build a training center if you want to build up your army. The only units you need to micro-manage are your warriors. Resources are automatically gathered after you build the proper structures for them.

    Like many RTS games, you’ll have to gather enough wood, food, gold, stone, and animals to build up your empire. To use magic, you’ll also have to collect the life essence of your defeated foes. At first you’ll only have two warrior classes available: a swordsman and a spear wielder. Each unit has their own strengths and weaknesses when it comes to close combat against ground or mounted units.

    Conan Unconquered
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 76%
    Gameplay - 14/20
    Graphics - 7/10
    Sound - 7/10
    Stability - 5/5
    Controls - 5/5

    Morality Score - 69%
    Violence - 2.5/10
    Language - 7/10
    Sexual Content - 10/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 5/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 10/10

    As you meet the requirements and unlock different guilds, you can perform research and learn new technologies that can give you an edge against the incoming hordes of enemies. Learning how to increase production, make traps, and unlock new warrior classes will give you a fighting chance against the next wave of bad guys coming your way in a few minutes.

    If you’re getting overwhelmed, you can actively pause the game and issue orders to units or start building and researching things without worrying about the armies marching toward your compound. Though the game doesn't directly punish you for pausing, it does encourage you not to do so-- I did earn a Steam achievement for not using the active pause feature. In total, there are one hundred and eleven achievements.

    Outside of the intro cutscene, Conan Unconquered is not very impressive visually. There’s a limit on how pretty you can make scorched desert maps. The abandoned ruins throughout them are a nice touch though. When you defeat waves of enemies, they will leave puddles of blood behind along with their rotting corpses.

    The background music is good when it’s not drowned out by battle cries, weapons clanking, and dying noises. The voice acting is decent as the champions have a few repetitive catchphrases they utter when you select them or when they enter battle. I enjoy the main voice actress' English accent, which lets me know when I don’t have enough resources to build something or when a structure is completed.

    As previously mentioned, this game is extremely bloody and violent. There is some language (b*stard) too. Magic use is prevalent and that includes necromancy.

    Overall Conan Unconcerned is a fun game. It’s a shame that the multiplayer matches are few and far between. Thankfully there’s plenty to do by yourself. If you enjoy RTS and tower-defense games, you’ll want to check out Conan Unconquered.

  •  

    boxart
    Game Info:

    Defender of Earth vs The Alien Armada
    Developed By: Monkey Wrench Studio Inc.
    Published By: Monkey Wrench Studio Inc.
    Release Date: September 12, 2017
    Available On: Windows
    ESRB Rating: N/A
    Genre: Action Tower Defense
    Mode: Single Player
    MSRP: $6.99
    (Amazon Affiliate Link)

    Thank you Monkey Wrench Studios for sending us this game to review!

    We had the unique honor of meeting the developers of this fine game at GDEX 2017, which was a great experience for us. They are legitimately good people, and I had the dubious honor of finding a bug for them when I was there. (I seem to have a knack for finding bugs in things; just ask my co-workers.) Unfortunately, as things go, we got our wires crossed on getting review codes squared away, but now here we are.

    Defender of Earth Vs The Alien Armada is a relatively simple tower defense game which takes place in space. You are trying to defend Earth (or the paths that lead there) from several different alien races that mean the human homeworld harm. There are three different kinds of aliens, and a total of sixteen levels in which to fight off the invaders. The last level has you knocking out all three aliens at the same time, which is a nice touch.

    The game is rendered completely in 3D, and it looks pretty nice. Each level plays in a more-or-less flat plane, with a visible line of travel for the ships to follow. It does sometimes go above and below, but most of the planning can be done from a top-down view, and it works just fine that way.

    Defender of Earth vs The Alien Armada
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Graphics look nice; simple but fun gameplay; great price
    Weak Points: Game-breaking bugs (for now at least); mechanics are fairly simple, and if you don’t stay on top of things it can be quite difficult
    Moral Warnings: Alien ships blow up

    There are six different kinds of turrets that you can buy, as well as two more utility stations, for a total of eight. Each one also has various upgrades you can buy for them in the field. The upgrades can get expensive, but are totally worth it. Two of the turrets must be unlocked from behind an expensive tech tree, and are quite powerful. But what surprised me the most is that arguably the most powerful unit is actually the two starting rapid fire units. You see, two of the units are eventually more or less replaced with the upgraded ones, but the original two, rather than having two levels, have four. Those turrets, at level four, do an insane amount of damage – and can take a few hits, too. They are just great.

    One neat thing, especially if you find yourself in a bit of a bind, is that you can actually take control of most turrets in what is called FPS mode. In this mode, you can aim and fire with your mouse directly. If you are desperately low on turrets, this can literally be a lifesaver. Or you can just do it because it’s fun to blast things yourself, rather than rely on the computer for everything.

    The utility units are handy as well, though sadly they don’t survive very many hits, so you have to protect them. One of them slows down the enemy ships, which is very useful, and allows your turrets to pummel them even more brutally. It’s pretty much indispensable. The other one is a satellite unit that powers up other nearby units. Great for sure.

    Defender of Earth vs The Alien Armada
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 76%
    Gameplay - 13/20
    Graphics - 9/10
    Sound - 9/10
    Stability - 3/5
    Controls - 4/5

    Morality Score - 98%
    Violence - 9/10
    Language - 10/10
    Sexual Content - 10/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 10/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 10/10

    Some levels have asteroids in them. If you plant a miner on the asteroids, they give you a constant source of resources in addition to whatever you would normally get from destroying enemies. To say it’s useful is the understatement of the year. After starting the first wave, you should always mine asteroids at the first possible opportunity.

    Unfortunately, I found a bug related to asteroid mining while I was playing. For some reason, it appears that, as of version 1.4, how many resources you receive is related to some percentage of what you have. As your total goes up more and more, you can actually start getting thousands at once, which sounds great, until you overflow the variables! This puts you in the negatives, and I could never recover from this until I either beat the mission with what was already in play, or quit the game. To compound the problem, your money grows even between turns, which feels like a bug (it may not be). I’m sure, since I reported it, that they will be solved quickly. But that’s the danger of game development, especially with a tiny two person team. You never know what crazy users will do!

    Defender of Earth Vs The Alien Armada is a simple, inexpensive, and fun tower defense game. I have played other tower defense games with layers upon layers of depth – and there’s a place for that. But sometimes you just want it straight and simple, and Defender of Earth does that very well. I also happen to be a fan of games set in space, so that helps, too. Morally, this game can be played by pretty much anyone, as most don’t mind keeping invading aliens away. For those who are looking for a pure fun tower defense game, I highly recommend taking a close look at Defender of Earth. Just wait until a version greater than 1.4 is released, as this one has some nasty surprise bugs under the hood.

  • boxart
    Game Info:

    Defender's Quest
    Developed by: Level Up Labs
    Published by: Level Up Labs
    Release Date: October 30, 2012
    Available on: PC, Mac, Linux
    Genre: Tower Defense, RPG
    Number of Players: Single-Player
    ESRB Rating: Not rated
    Price: $14.99

    Thank you Level Up Labs for sending us a review copy of this game!

    Defender's Quest: Valley of the Forgotten is a retro looking, 2D tower defense game with RPG elements.  Even though the graphics aren't modern looking, they get the job done.  The soundtrack however is top notch and available to listen to in Steam's music library.  I have played many tower defense style games and this is by far one of my favorites in the genre.  The character development is excellent and the RPG elements are well thought out and fun to implement. 

    The game begins with the main character, Azra,  dying from a plague that is threatening her kingdom.   They don't wait for her to die and throw her into a pit with others suffering the same fate.  Instead of succumbing to the plague, Azra prevails over it by entering into a trance state between the world of the living and the dead.  In this state she is able to defeat  an endless army of those who have died from the plague.   Technically, Azra is not the one fighting; instead she is able to bring others into this half-way world and enable them to fight off the hordes of revenant warriors.   While not defenseless, Azra is vulnerable in this state and must be protected at all costs since she is the only one who can put an end to this plague and its source.

    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Great intertwining of Tower-Defense and RPG elements; epic sound track
    Weak Points: The retro graphics hold this game back from perfection
    Moral Warnings: Violence and magic use; language; supernatural references

    The first ally Azra will meet is a berserker warrior named Slak (you can rename all characters in this game).     He's pretty silly, but good with a sword.  Throughout the game you'll also meet archers, healers, ice mages, knights, and even dragons that are willing to fight alongside you.   Once a unit type is unlocked, you can hire more of their kind.  Every time you recruit a unit, the cost to recruit the next, no matter what type will go up.   The currency in this game is called scrap which can be earned for attempting to beat a level.  

    Even if you fail one of the thirty-four levels you'll still get some experience and scrap, so there is no harm in trying a harder difficulty (other than bruising your ego a little).   There are four difficulty levels (Casual, Normal, Advanced, Extreme).  While I was able to beat the levels on Normal difficulty on the first try, I found beating the Advanced and Extreme levels more challenging, but attainable.  Beating levels on the harder levels will net you more scrap and powerful weaponry.  Sadly you can only earn a unique weapon once, even if you beat the level multiple times.  I was able to beat this game in eight hours, but there is still plenty more I can go back and do. A New Game + becomes available after beating the standard game.  

    Defender's Quest
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 88%
    Gameplay - 17/20
    Graphics - 7/10
    Sound - 10/10
    Stability - 5/5
    Controls - 5/5

    Morality Score - 74%
    Violence - 6.5/10
    Language - 7/10
    Sexual Content - 10/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 3.5/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 10/10

    At the beginning of every level you will see where Azra is and markers from where the enemy units will spawn from.  Some levels and harder difficulties have more spawning points than others.  Allies can only be placed on designated squares on the map.  Each unit requires a certain amount of PSI energy to be placed and Azra must have enough available in order to position and upgrade units.  Upgrading units will make them attack faster and able to use advanced abilities in their skill set.  When placing units you will be able to see their attack/healing radius.  

    There are five speed settings including pause, .5X, 1X, 2X and 4X.  When the level begins you only have a few moments to place your defenses before the zombies come pouring in.  I often began my levels by pausing it and then starting it once my units were in place.  If the enemies are getting too close to Azra, you can use various magic attacks like lightning, fire and the ability to push them back a few spaces.  These spells are not with Azra from the start of the game and have to be learned throughout her journey.  

    Besides magic use, psychic powers,  and zombies, the only other objectionable content worth mentioning is some mild language.  The words h*ll and *ss are used a couple of times during the game.  The developers do a good job explaining the content in lieu of getting an official ESRB Rating.  

    If those issues don't bother you and you like tower defense games, I highly recommend checking out Defender's Quest.  The Street price is $14.99, but I have seen it for less than $3.50 on sale.  The gameplay and soundtrack is fantastic and I look forward to the upcoming sequel.

  • boxart
    Game Info:

    Defenders of Ardania
    Developed By: Most Wanted Entertainment
    Published By: Paradox Interactive
    Release Date: March 14th, 2012
    Available On: IOS, XBLA, PC
    Genre: Tower Defense
    Modes: Single, Multiplayer
    ESRB Rating: Teen
    MSRP: $15

    Thank you GamersGate for sending us this game to review!

    The Majesty series has been around for a while and known and loved for adding a fun twist to the real time strategy genre.  I enjoyed their RTS games since the units usually don’t obey you unless they are bribed.  While there are some RTS elements in Defenders of Ardania, I didn’t find this game as ground breaking as I was hoping for.  When it comes down to it, it’s a run of the mill Tower Defense game where you have to protect your base from swarms of enemy units and you must set up towers to deflect their attacks.  

    Just like the previous Majesty games, you are the ruler and your helpful and witty advisor (who like Sean Connery) is there to brief you on the missions waiting for you. The single player campaign has fifteen missions that will unlock new units, towers and abilities as you complete them.    When you first start out, you’ll have your basic unit types of runners, tanks or hordes.  Later on you can unlock flying and healer units.  

    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Good graphics and humor.
    Weak Points: Game play is just okay; multiplayer servers are non-existent.
    Moral Warnings: Violence is a given; some language; sexual references and graphics; undead enemies.

    The starting towers include spear throwers and ballistas.  As you progress in the campaign you’ll get flame throwers and crystal towers.  Each tower is designed to take out a particular enemy type.   They will still attack other units, but they won’t be as effective.  The ballistas are good against hordes and the flame throwers counter the runner units.  Flying units can only be taken down by towers meant for them.  

    Towards the end of the game, you’ll encounter hero units that will end your game if they make it to your base alive.  You can send your own hero units by accumulating enough experience by consistently using a particular unit.  Crystal towers are your best bet against these tank units.  Resources are limited and you do have a cap on how many towers you can have up at a time.  Fortunately, you can take down towers that are ineffective or no longer needed.  The strategy element in this game comes to play when placing your towers.  There are certain areas where you can build towers and some areas offer advantages such as higher ground for a wider attack radius and so on.  While you cannot completely block access to your base entirely, you can make it a painful and lengthy journey to get there.

    Money to hire units and to build and upgrade towers is slowly accumulated by taxing your subjects, but you earn most of it by defeating enemies.  You can erect statues or purchase upgrades to accumulate resources faster.  Other upgrades include the ability to raise your resource ceiling, experience earning rates, party size, and finally, reducing party and tower costs.

    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 72%
    Gameplay - 14/20
    Graphics - 8/10
    Sound - 7/10
    Stability - 4/5
    Controls 3/5

    Morality Score - 61%
    Violence - 7/10
    Language - 7/10
    Sexual Content - 4/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 4/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 8.5/10

    The single player and multiplayer missions range from one to four players.  If you have an ally you’ll have to keep their base protected as well.  When it’s three to one it gets pretty challenging.  I can imagine multiplayer being fun but I didn’t see anyone online to play against.

    Even without the multiplayer you’ll get a fair amount of game time.  I spent roughly eight hours and for a $15 title, that’s not too bad.  Even still, I think this is an average game and there’s nothing spectacular about it.  The graphics are decent with the maps being cheerful and colorful and as you get deeper into the story, they get gloomier and depressing.  The music is pleasant to listen to, but not memorable.  I enjoyed the voice acting for the units and the advisor, but the elf leader’s raspy voice got on my nerves a little bit.  

    The controls are functional but require memorizing keyboard and mouse buttons instead of having it all on the screen’s user interface.  Managing towers and units is all done by the mouse but to see the tower placement grid, you have to press F1. In order to speed up the game speed you have to press F4 on the keyboard.  I guess I’m spoiled by the 1-4x button from the King Arthur games.

    Morally speaking, there are some things worth noting.  Defenders of Ardania earns its Teen rating for swearing (D word), violence and alcohol references.   I was surprised to see a lesbian shower drawing in the ending credits.  I think they meant it to be funny, but it's unnecessary and goes against Biblical teachings.  

    The humor for the most part was entertaining but after seeing the credits, I just can't recommend this game with a clean conscience.  From a game play stand point, it's average.  There is a demo available if you want to check it out, but there are better Tower Defense games out there.  I recommend sticking with the far superior RTS Majesty games.

     
  • boxart
    Game Info:

    Defense Grid 2
    Developed by: Hidden Path Entertainment
    Published by: 505 Games
    Release Date: September 23, 2014
    Available on: PC, PS4, Xbox One
    Genre: Tower Defense
    Number of Players: Up to two
    ESRB Rating: E10 for fantasy violence and mild language
    Price: $24.99

    Thank you 505 Games for sending us this game to review!

    Defense Grid: The Awakening was created by Hidden Path Entertainment and released in 2008.  It was a single-player only game that earned positive reviews.  Defense Grid 2 offers the same great 3D tower defense gameplay  with the addition of multiplayer support.

    Like all tower defense games, you must erect various defense weapons to protect your planet’s cores from numerous waves of aliens. If all of the planet's cores are taken, you will lose the level.  To prevent that from happening, you must place the weapons in spaces where they will do the most damage.  As they say in the real estate business: location, location, location.  

    The weapons vary from guns, lasers, cannons, concussion blasts, inferno towers, missile launchers and meteor cannons.  To slow and wear down the enemies you can place temporal towers in heavily guarded areas.  To give your weapons a little more oomph, you can place them on booster towers.

    Defense Grid 2
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Great tower defense gameplay; lots of game modes; level editor
    Weak Points: Takes a little while to find a multiplayer match; Windows volume controls do not work
    Moral Warnings: Alien violence; language

    The single-player campaign will guide you through the basics of placing, using and upgrading your weapons and commander abilities.  Before each mission you can choose which commander will lead and lend their power to your army.  Some of their abilities include a power laser attack or the option to slow down a group of aliens.  While these abilities are powerful, they have a long recharge time.  

    In total there are twenty missions that you can play and adjust the game mode for.   Besides the story, you can play with fixed resources, limited number of towers, or upgrades for them.  There are two grinder modes that have one-hundred waves of aliens; super grinder mode is more challenging with multiple alien species to contend with.  For those looking for a challenge you can damage the aliens manually in power outage or focal point.  In those modes you have to control the towers or deal the damage yourself.    

    Multiplayer offers several game modes as well.  In DG Fighter aliens that are destroyed by your weapons are sent to your opponent’s side of the map and vice-versa.  In the Co-op Doubles mode both players work together to stop the alien’s onslaught.  Lastly, in DG Coordinated Defense the players must work together, but they can only place defense towers on their territory.

    While many people play Defense Grid 2, it took a few minutes to find a person to play against.  I like how the game lets you play the single player campaign and notifies you when the match is ready.  You then have the option to accept or decline the match and if you accept, your single-player progress will be saved.  This is a nice feature since you cannot manually save the game.  The auto saves are frequent and you have the ability to roll back to the last checkpoint if your level takes a turn for the worse.  In fact, you can earn Steam achievements for using this feature.

    Defense Grid 2
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 82%
    Gameplay - 17/20
    Graphics - 8/10
    Sound - 7/10
    Stability - 5/5
    Controls - 4/5

    Morality Score - 85%
    Violence - 6.5/10
    Language - 7/10
    Sexual Content - 10/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 10/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 9/10

    There are sixty-five Steam achievements that can be earned.  You can earn them for killing 1, 100, 1000, 10,000 and 50,000 aliens.  Each of the commander’s abilities earns you an achievement when used as well.  Another great Steam feature is the cloud game saves.  I like the ability to seamlessly play between my laptop and my more powerful desktop.

    While this game was playable on my laptop, it noticeably lagged when hundreds of aliens were swarming my planet.  The 3D graphics are decent and there are multiple types of aliens and you can zoom in to get more details and information about them.  I wish some of the towers looked a little more unique since it’s hard to tell what I placed where.  There’s quite a bit of variety in the different planets/levels.  There’s a level editor as well if you want to make your own.

    The sound effects are good and very loud, especially since I was not able to lower my volume using my keyboard or Windows volume controls.  The AI voice acting and conversations are amusing to listen to, especially when they have been compromised by the aliens.  Unfortunately, there is some language including d*mn and b*stards.  God is spelled with a lower case “g” as well.  Like all tower defense games, the enemies are literally shot down; I did not notice any blood or gibs in the process though.

    There’s a lot to like in Defense Grid 2; there’s plenty of single-player action to be had.  Multiplayer support is a nice added bonus and I hope that picks up more steam.  This is a great game to get if you enjoy earning Steam achievements.  The price of $24.99 is reasonable given how much content there is.  There are already some DLC packs available and one of them is free if you register on their mailing list.  I look forward to playing more of this game and others in the franchise.    

  • boxart
    Game Info:

    Dungeon Defenders
    Developed by: Trendy Entertainment
    Released: October 19th, 2011
    ESRB Rating: E 10+
    Available On: PC, PSN, XBLA, iOS, Android
    Genre: Tower Defense, RPG
    Single/Multiplayer 4 players
    Price: $15

    Thank you GamersGate for sending us this game to review!

    While their parents are out saving the land of Etheria, the adolescent apprentice, squire, huntress, and monk are left by themselves to protect the castle and crystals from invading monsters.  Dungeon Defenders is primarily a tower defense game, but it does have RPG elements too.  The main goal is to protect the Eternia crystals from being destroyed by hordes of enemies that come in growing waves.  Your characters will gain experience for each kill they or their defenses make.  When you level up, you can increase attributes for your character like power, health, spell casting rate, or speed. You can also increase your defense attributes such as health damage, attack rate, number of detonations, and area of effect.

    Each hero offers unique fighting styles and defenses.  The squire is a warrior who fights with a sword or an axe.  His defenses include blockades, turrets, and spinning blade barricades. The silent monk fights with staves, and his defenses are auras that can slow down, electrify, drain strength, or cause enemies to fight each other.  The monk can also cast healing auras that can heal team mates.  The apprentice is your typical mage that uses a staff to fire balls of energy at foes.  The apprentice’s defenses also shoot balls of energy, fire, and electricity.  He can use barricades to protect his towers. The Deadly Strike tower is very powerful, but slow with a 4.5 second wait per shot.  When you have a swarm of eight hundred monsters heading your way, you can’t afford to wait that long.  Lastly, the huntress attacks with crossbows and firearms.  These are nice, but you have to stop and reload them frequently.  The huntress’ defense mainly consist of traps that can blind, stun, or do fire damage to enemies.  Her Ethereal Spike Trap is powerful, but it only harms one enemy at a time per detonation.  It’s very powerful against bosses and ogres.  

    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Unique art style; good voice acting and story; a decent variety of character classes and abilities.  
    Weak Points: Some of the levels are unbalanced, and the last level is hard to beat by yourself. 
    Moral Warnings: Lots of violence but minimal gore; magic use; the huntress is sexualized and walks around in low cut shorts revealing her butt crack.

    There’s a wide variety of enemies and they usually have immunity to a random element.  Be sure to use a variety of traps to make sure all of your bases are covered, as some enemies will attack up-close with weapons, and others attack from a distance with bows and arrows.  Others will jump or fly and avoid all of your traps, but as tempting as it is to jump into the fray and slay hordes of enemies, your primary goal is to protect your crystal at all costs and let the defenses do their job.  

    You know your defenses are well placed when they take a beating or get destroyed.  When there’s a lot of damage to a defensive unit, it’s better to upgrade than to repair it.  Everything in this game is upgradable if you have enough Mana to pay for it.  Your armor, weapons and pets are all upgradable and can give your hero and defenses added bonuses along with upgrading their attack damage and attack rates.  Pets are great to have, as they will help you attack enemies close by.

    If you get your game through GamersGate, you will receive a nice dragon pet that can be upgraded sixteen times.  Steam users can get Team Fortress 2 pets and the huntress can equip a Portal gun.  There has been some free Halloween DLC that offers costumes and customized maps for the ranked server environment.

    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 90%
    Gameplay - 17/20
    Graphics - 9/10
    Sound - 9/10
    Stability - 5/5
    Controls - 5/5

    Morality Score - 73%
    Violence - 6.5/10
    Language - 10/10
    Sexual Content - 6.5/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 3.5/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 10/10

    Multiplayer is where it’s at in this game.  Single player is great for leveling up and getting to know the classes, but having various units work together is a beautiful thing.  You can play on ranked servers or open ones.  Ranked servers require you to create a new character that will be played on vanilla servers that will not allow hacks or cheating.  Open servers let you use your single player characters and will support various game modifications.  You can connect to these servers using Gamespy or Steam.  Cross platform support is limited, but available.  I had no problems finding an active server or game to join.

    The game ran fine for me; the only hiccup I experienced was getting my characters transferred over from my Gamersgate install to my Steam install.  The website instructions were incorrect.  You have to put the .dun file in the steamapps/common/dungeon defenders/Binaries/Win32 folder.

    Other than that character transfer issue, my overall game experience has been a positive one.  While Dungeon Defenders is rated E 10+, it does have some moral issues worth noting.  Obviously there’s a lot of hacking and slashing of your foes.  Fortunately, there isn’t much blood or gore involved.  Magic does not have to be used by the player, but certain enemies use it to summon skeletons.  The huntress character is a bit sexualized by shaking her butt when your select her.  It doesn’t stop there: if you play as the huntress, her default outfit constantly shows her butt crack.  Some of the new DLC outfits cover her up better.

    Whether you like strategy, RPG, or tower defense games, Dungeon Defenders is a solid buy.  The price is a reasonable $15, and there is a demo available if you want to give it a try.  If you get frustrated with the single player campaign, try multiplayer; it’s much more fun! 

  • boxart
    Game Info:

    Dungeon Defenders II
    Developed by: Trendy Entertainment
    Published by: Trendy Entertainment
    Early Access Release Date: December 5, 2014
    Available on: PC, PS4
    Genre: Tower defense
    Number of players: Up to four players online
    ESRB Rating: E10+ for fantasy violence and alcohol references
    Price: Free with in-game purchases

     

    Thank you Sandbox Strategy for giving us a Defender’s Pack for this game!

    Etheria is once again in peril as the harbingers are attacking their eternia crystals.  The same rag-tag team of a squire, huntress, monk, and an apprentice are all that stand between waves of monsters and total destruction.  Each class has their own unique offensive moves and defensive towers/traps/auras.  Teamwork is key as players share limited resources to build the defenses to protect the level’s vulnerable assets like crystals, eggs, valves, etc.  

    Up to four plays can join in private or public matches.  The party can be varied and I like how you can have multiple characters and switch between them throughout the match.  For example, when I was leveling up my newly created monk I switched to my powerful squire to build solid defenses and let my monk pick off the remaining enemies and reap tons of experience.  Characters share inventory and it doesn’t take long before your inventory bags fill up.  More bags are available if you’re willing to pay for them.

    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Same great gameplay; free to play
    Weak Points: Plenty of opportunities to spend real money
    Moral Warnings: Cartoon violence; magic use; cleavage shown by female characters; tavern setting

    Trendy Entertainment is still aiming to make money so there are plenty of helpful and cosmetic upgrades available.  There are seasonal and Star Wars themed costumes available for $4-8 each.  The Defender’s Pack DLC I was given sells for $25 (but I have seen it on sale for less than $20) and it comes with 3,000 gems which is worth $30, four character accessories, and two extra character slots.   According to Trendy’s website the paid upgrades are only cosmetic and do not give players who buy them an unfair advantage.    

    Instead of spending $1.50 worth of gems to unlock chests with random accessories, I sold them for in game gold which can be used to buy weapons, armor, and food for my pets.  There’s a wide variety of pets available and they are not available until a higher level map with a boss battle is cleared in the main campaign.  Once that map is completed, pets become available for all characters no matter what level they are.    

    Despite much of the game being the same as the original, the character classes are more tweakable with spheres for enhancing the character’s attributes without having to level up. The maps are even more detailed and interwoven with story cut-scenes preceding many of them.   Because this title is free to play, there are many people online and ready to play alongside.  Despite having to start a few maps on my own, I seldom finished a map by myself and some people usually joined me after a successful wave or two.   Each map typically has six or seven waves.  There are multiple difficulties and the harder the difficulty you play at, the better the loot you can earn.  In the Onslaught game mode, you get to choose your reward type and IF you can survive three waves, you’ll get it.  The other game type is Incursion and this mode has super difficult and massive amounts of enemy monsters.  The same premise applies no matter which mode you choose; you have to protect the vulnerable items and utilize your defenses to choke off enemies before they even reach their target.  

    Dungeon Defenders II
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 86%
    Gameplay - 18/20
    Graphics - 8/10
    Sound - 8/10
    Stability - 5/5
    Controls - 4/5

    Morality Score - 90%
    Violence - 8/10
    Language - 10/10
    Sexual Content - 8.5/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 8.5/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 10/10

    There are daily and monthly challenges and they pay out in gold and items.  The daily challenges typically involve completing a certain number of maps.  The other challenges typically require that you do a specified amount of damage or defeat a certain number of special class enemies.  Many of the enemies types are carried over from the first Dungeon Defenders, but there are some new ones as well.  The boss battles are fun and often drop legendary equipment as a reward.

    Since this game is still in the Alpha state as of this review, many things are bound to change before its final release (which does not have an ETA).  While the cut scenes are a little low-res and blurry on my 27” in monitor, the rest of the visuals are very colorful and crisp.  The huntress can use a little more covering up on her chest area in my opinion.  I was bummed not to see female options available for the other classes (yet?).  Hopefully that becomes an option in the final game.

    In its current state Dungeon Defenders II is very fun and pretty safe for people of all ages to play.  My eight-year-old son has started playing and really enjoys playing as a squire.  If you enjoy tower defense games and don’t mind some cartoon violence and magic use, Dungeon Defenders II is worth checking out.  I look forward to watching this game develop further and to playing more matches with my kids!

  •  

    boxart
    Game Info:

    Excubitor
    Developed by: Tesseract Interactive
    Published by: Kasedo Games
    Release date: May 26, 2016
    Available on: Windows, macOS, Linux
    Genre: Shoot ‘Em Up, Tower Defense
    Number of players: Single player
    ESRB Rating: Not rated
    Price: $14.99
    (Humble Store link)

    Thanks, Kasedo Games, for sending us a review key!

    Many popular casual games are in the time-management genre. In these games, a hard-working waitress must seat customers, take their orders, and deliver their food in a timely manner. It’s a plate-spinning experience of balancing the growing line of customers at the door with food piling up to be served. Excubitor is, superficially, nothing like that. From moment-to-moment, though, Excubitor feels more like Diner Dash than like other shoot ‘em ups or tower defense games. At the start of each level, you must survey the land, pick a few spots to build turret defenses, and run back to base before the drones that spawned while you were setting up destroy your mothership. While you defend, more drones will spawn across the map to attack helpless colonists. You could fend off the attack now, or wait a few seconds to finish building a weapon-suppressing EMP. Hopefully you set up some generators back at the start, or you’ll be out of power already. This combination of tower defense and shoot ‘em up is a stellar example of neither genre, but the alchemical combination produces intense plate-spinning gameplay of continuous tactical trade-offs and near-failures. In the world of Excubitor, Flo the Diner Dash waitress would be an excellent pilot.

    For all I could tell of the plot, Flo might as well be the pilot. I tried to follow the story as told in mission briefings, and I gathered that human colonies set up to mine an energy source known as Voidshards were under attack by drones. I don’t know who the pilot player character is. I don’t know anything about the A.I.-controlled mothership except that it’s called the Antares and must not be allowed to die in any mission. I believe the attacking drones were originally created by humans. Apparently the story didn’t feel the need to explain, because the ending cinematic said that a completely different space ship was investigating the source of the attacks somewhere near Jupiter. I would play a sequel to Excubitor for reasons I’ll get to soon, but the blatant sequel hook is not one of those reasons.

    Mission types boil down to defending points, surviving waves, or destroying a boss. The basic mechanics of the game are split between shooting down drones and building towers to shoot them down for you. Shooting them yourself is strongly emphasized. You have few spots to build towers; you must use some spots for power generators; and most of the towers don’t pack enough punch to take out major threats. There are several types of offensive towers such as machine guns, rockets, and multi-shot electric spires. Support towers include enemy-slowing cryo units, EMPs, and ship-healing points. Towers are critical to surviving missions in that they whittle enemy drones’ health so that your ship can take them out quickly.

    Excubitor
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Fast-paced and constant decision-making; appreciable improvement in leveling and equipment over time; satisfying increase in difficulty from normal to hard and beyond
    Weak Points: Limited choice in tower defense gameplay; little visceral appeal in shoot ‘em up gameplay; controls make concessions to tower defense needs at the expense of shooting
    Moral Warnings: Space combat with drones, lasers, rockets, and explosions; objective points which may be destroyed include civilian buildings and space ships

    The hands-on approach to enemy disposal is facilitated by the same ship which you use to set up towers. The player must switch between construction, attack, and evasion at a moment’s notice. The ship is helped by regular weapon upgrades with good variety. My favorite, albeit inefficient, ship loadout had an ice ray to slow enemies and a flamethrower to provide damage over time. The weapons lack a certain desirable kick and, in my mind, came to be understood as erasers swept over enemies until they disappeared. The ship’s shields, hull integrity, weapon power, and engines can be upgraded over time. Each upgrade is important, and the game is not kind to over-specialization.

    You must diversify ship upgrades because, if you don’t, you’ll be too slow to zip about the map efficiently, too squishy to survive waves of enemies, or too wimpy to destroy them before they destroy the mission objectives or your mother ship. Your ship respawns when it is destroyed with no penalty; unfortunately, as long as your ship is down, the enemy can focus all fire on defense points. In this, Excubitor is quite punishing. Sustained fire on objectives over the course of several seconds is devastating. On higher difficulties, a few shots are enough to warrant a retry if they slip by early enough in a mission.

    The few enemy types combine in interesting ways to demand tactical responses. Tiny drone swarms can be ignored with the right tower setup and otherwise will annihilate everything. Bombers which will kill the mother ship in moments are slow and, therefore, are escorted by fighters which will deviate from their path to chase your ship. Some drones heal those around them; some drones use tractor beams to prevent your ship from chasing down the bombers. A few enemies become absolute priority targets because of their destructive potential. That said, only one enemy felt unfair to me (I despise the spider tank); the rest were varied and engaging.

    Excubitor is a fractal of tactical tradeoffs. Do I need a generator here, or can I afford a rocket tower? Should I defend the secondary objective for the extra reward or rush back to defend the base? Should I try to kill the bomber which is about to end the mission, or do I need to kill the healing drone first? Even power-ups dropped by enemies require careful consideration. The power-ups cycle between various kinds of healing and boosts. Can I grab the speed boost to get to the objective, or do I need to wait for the shield restore? Should I pick up the power-up now or leave it on the map for when I need it more desperately? Whatever the player does, these decisions have to be made fast, because a bomber flanked by fighters is incoming across the map, and it better be stopped. The wrong decisions are punished, so it is very satisfying to successfully balance defense, building, offense, and evasion.

    Excubitor
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 82%
    Gameplay - 16/20
    Graphics - 9/10
    Sound - 8/10
    Stability - 4/5
    Controls - 4/5

    Morality Score - 94%
    Violence - 7/10
    Language - 10/10
    Sexual Content - 10/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 10/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 10/10

    Excubitor should be played with a mouse and keyboard. A controller is well-supported; it just isn’t well-suited to the gameplay. One thumb must be dedicated to movement; the other, to aim. This isn’t a problem in twin-stick shooters because there, “aim” simply means direction. Here, the targeting reticle handles direction as well as distance from the ship, acting as a cursor both to place towers and to attack enemies. A controller is too slow in the heat of battle to handle that kind of precision. The mouse, on the other hand, performs its job very well.

    While sound design is fairly minimal, Excubitor distinguished itself with the most helpful and least annoying klaxon I've ever heard. This alarm goes off to signal that a mission-critical point is under attack. Somehow it is just loud enough to be heard over the din of explosions yet quiet enough not to grate. Graphics are good and always make identifying enemies, pickups, and objectives easy. The backgrounds are well-designed as well; unfortunately, each map looks very similar across its surface, making it easy to get lost. The minimap is an essential tool for navigation, and this can be problematic in intense scrambles to and from different points in the level. The low camera angle is more to blame here than the graphics.

    The levels full of particles and independent entities can be hard on a computer’s hardware. Slowdown was never a problem; overheating sometimes was. Accompanying overheating were game-breaking loading errors such as spawning the player ship below the plain of the stage or not spawning enemies correctly. Restarting the game, or simply giving my computer a couple minutes to cool off, fixed the problems. The many explosions are the only major moral concern. Robot voices are the primary thing heard in dialog; the rare instance of human voices did not include horrific deaths or terror.

    Excubitor, if not more than the sum of its parts, is distinct from them. Arcade combat combined with strategic defense equals frantic time-management. Time flies when you're madly dashing from mother ship to drone factory and back again; I hardly believed Steam when it told me that I'd spent 10 hours on the 16-mission story. Your mileage may vary time-wise. I spent most of the story in Hard mode, finely tuning the first 20 seconds of most levels to get my towers set up before the enemies got too close and iterating on my strategy for the rest of the level until I finally broke through. I wouldn't have it any other way, though Normal difficulty offers a good challenge as well. The game allows difficulty switching during the story. New Game+ mode, then, locks the difficulty on just this side of requiring perfect play. I tried it but did not finish. By that point, Excubitor had given me plenty of thrills and satisfaction. It’s rewarding; it’s fun. It might not be the best choice for fans of Excubitor’s component genres. Nevertheless, its special concoction of tactics is worth trying out.

  •  

    boxart
    Game Info:

    Gotta Protectors
    Developed by: Ancient 
    Published by: Ancient
    Release date: July 28, 2016
    Available on: 3DS
    Genre: Hack n' slash/Tower Defense
    Number of players: Up to four players
    ESRB Rating: Everyone 10+ for Fantasy violence and suggestive themes
    Price: $12.99

    Thank you Ancient for sending us a review code for this game!

    Gotta Protectors is an 8-bit themed hack n' slash with tower defense elements that’s a sequel to Protect Me Knight.  The prequel was released in 2010 for the Xbox 360.   Gotta Protectors was originally released in Japan in 2014 and thankfully it arrived in the United States two years later. 

    The premise is similar to the original game, but now there are six warriors called upon to protect Princess Lola.  These quirky but strong warriors include a fighter, an amazon warrior, a ninja, a mage, an old guy, and an archer.  Each warrior has different strengths and weaknesses in regards to power, health, speed, and magic.  

    Like many tower defense games, you have to set up turrets and blockades to withstand attacks from swarms of monsters.  There are two kinds of monster spawners: limited and infinite.  The limited spawners will eventually go away, but in order to complete a level, all of the enemies and spawners must be eliminated.   Many of the one-hundred story levels have blocked off areas that must be opened by finding the similarly colored key.  Whenever you unlock a new area it’s pretty much guaranteed that new spawners will appear on the map.

    Gotta Protectors
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Funny dialogue and characters; download play; map editor; excellent music
    Weak Points: Hard to find the map editor; inconsistent difficulty ratings on levels as some marked hard are actually pretty easy
    Moral Warnings: Cartoon violence; skimpy outfits on male and female characters (they are the source of many jokes)

    There are a wide variety of enemies including goblins, skeletons, minotaurs, succubus, dark knights, zombies and werebears.  Stronger variants of the monsters will also spawn and they are recognizable by their different coloring.  Bosses and mini-bosses are not to be underestimated with their increased health and strength that enables them to move and destroy your defenses quickly.  

    With one-hundred levels and the ability to create your own with the hard to find level editor, there’s plenty of variety and lots to do in this $12.99 title.  The map editor is in the fighting menu and you have to select user maps instead of the story chapters.  Once you get into the map editor it’s pretty easy to use and share your maps via co-op play or through QR codes.

    Co-op play is fun and download play lets people join your session even if they don’t own the game (yet).  The download version is only limited to two playable characters, but it’s enough to get a good feel for the game.  As a tower defense game, Gotta Protectors won’t disappoint.  What won me over was its sense of humor and warm fuzzies that it gave me as an old school gamer.  

    Gotta Protectors
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 88%
    Gameplay - 19/20
    Graphics - 7/10
    Sound - 10/10
    Stability - 4/5
    Controls - 4/5

    Morality Score - 80%
    Violence - 7/10
    Language - 8/10
    Sexual Content - 6.5/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 8.5/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 10/10

    For gamers who have played games on the original Nintendo Entertainment System (NES), Gotta Protectors will push many of the right buttons for you.  It’s been a while since I have had to blow into a game to get it to function properly.  When you first launch Gotta Protectors it will ask you to blow into the microphone to launch the game.  You can skip this “feature” by pressing the start button, but I’ll admit that I played along the first time around.  My son didn’t realize this step was optional and is now familiar with this long forgotten ritual.

    The 8-bit graphics and low quality voice acting are also fitting to the retro theme.  The background music is excellent and is composed by Yuzo Koshiro (Ys, Etrian Odyssey, 7th Dragon).  There’s a $7.99 DLC option to purchase a higher definition version of the game’s soundtrack.  

    Aside from the hard to find map editor, and a glitch where a boss didn’t leave the screen once defeated, my 18.5 hours of playing this game have been fun.  After completing the story on the easy or normal mode, a hard difficulty becomes available.  If the awards/achievements are any indication, there is also a hell difficulty level.  A music player also becomes unlocked after your first play-through.   Overall, Gotta Protectors is a great game with a quirky sense of humor.  If you enjoy hack n' slash or tower defense games, this is a must buy for your digital 3DS library.  

     

  • boxart
    Game Info:

    Hero Defense - Haunted Island
    Developed By: Happy Tuesday
    Published By: Happy Tuesday
    Released: May 31, 2016
    Available On: Microsoft Windows
    Genre: Action, Tower Defense
    ESRB Rating: RP (Rating Pending)
    Number of Players: Single player and online multiplayer
    MSRP: $14.99
    (Humble Store Link)

    Thank you Happy Tuesday for sending a review copy of this game!

    Hero Defense - Haunted Island is a tower defense style game with the twist of placing 5 heroes instead of deploying many different towers. The heroes are all unique and can be placed anywhere on the map and moved around at will. While the game has a horror/Halloween theme it's fairly lighthearted in its presentation.

    When I first fired up this game I wondered if this was a special Halloween Edition of the game. It genuinely looks like a normal tower defense game with a Halloween skin slapped on it. The game uses a cartoony artstyle that is executed well but conflicts with the tone of the game. The dialogue and story are fairly cliche, but the colorful characters didn't mesh well with the bland narrative. It really is a paint-by-numbers story and some of the references are so overt I had to roll my eyes.The voice acting is stunted and doesn't really fit the lighter aesthetic either. These are fairly minor complaints though because the gameplay is solid.

    Hero Defense - Haunted Island
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Unique tower defense gameplay; deep upgrade systems; lots of replayability
    Weak Points: Story is bland and cliche; online modes are dead due to lack of players
    Moral Warnings: Magic used by player; zombies and other undead monsters; overt occult references

    Story mode consists of unlocking different maps, one at a time, with interspersed dialogue and cutscenes. The maps are well designed and they each offer a few different paths for enemies to move through. Each mission starts by selecting one hero and placing them on the map. Heroes can be moved at any time, to almost any part of the map. However, the hero has to physically run to each new spot, so it takes some time. You're encouraged to do strategic movement and positioning of heroes to take advantage of choke points and special buffs. Each hero is best suited to fighting a certain type of enemy, such as zombies, werewolves or vampires. Heroes also have special abilities; for example, Barrows can slow down monsters' movement speed. As you kill more creatures you'll be able to place more heroes on the map or level up heroes you're already using. Enemies come in waves, and each wave is a single type of enemy that's color coded to the hero that's strong against it. After a set number of waves make their way through their various winding paths there's a boss minion. In typical tower defense fashion, the boss has much more health than standard creatures and requires some additional strategy to take down. Really the entire mission requires a careful dance of where to most effectively position your heroes.

    After completing a mission you head back to town and upgrade your buildings and heroes. Each hero has a skill tree that you choose upgrades from as well as rune slots. The rune system lets you choose different abilities that are activated when a hero is leveled up during a mission. It can be a bit confusing at first because you're essentially leveling up in two places, but the game does an adequate job of explaining these systems. You can also upgrade certain buildings in the town in order to expand the number of abilities available for your heroes. Truly, this is a game for people who like micromanaging lots of things.

    Hero Defense - Haunted Island
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 84%
    Gameplay - 17/20
    Graphics - 9/10
    Sound - 7/10
    Stability - 5/5
    Controls - 4/5

    Morality Score - 74%
    Violence - 6.5/10
    Language - 8.5/10
    Sexual Content - 10/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 2/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 10/10

    I do have to commend the game on having a lot of content both for the price and for being a tower defense title. There's a lot of replayability because you can go back to previous levels and replay them on a harder difficulty to get more rewards. A lot of the rare runes are obtained by going back and replaying the levels in a more challenging way. This can feel like a grind if you want a specific rune and the level is especially challenging. There is also multiplayer support with leaderboards, but I tried on two occasions, for 30 minutes each time, and could not find any multiplayer action. So I don't know how any of that works and sadly I doubt new players will have better luck. Thankfully the breadth of single-player content makes up for this.

    As I stated earlier this is an obstinately Halloween themed game and includes a lot of horror movie features and tropes such as zombies, vampires, and werewolves. One of the heroes is a little red-haired girl named Sam Hain, a clear reference to the pagan festival of the same name. There's a couple lines of dialogue that reference seances and rituals. Magic is used throughout the game by the heroes and in powerups. The game does have a lighter, cartoony artstyle but there is still some blood present in the game.

    Hero Defense - Haunted Island is a solid entry into the tower defense genre with enough of a gameplay twist to keep it interesting from start to finish. The story is bland and cliche but that's easy to overlook, honestly. I'm disappointed that the multiplayer is effectively dead, but that's a function of the playerbase being small and not the developer abandoning the game, like other companies have done.

  • boxart
    Game Info:

    Kingdom Rush Origins
    Developed By: Ironhide Game Studio
    Published By: Ironhide Game Studio
    Released: Oct 17, 2018
    Available On: Android, iOS, Linux, macOS, Windows
    Genre: Strategy, Tower Defense
    ESRB Rating: Not Rated
    Number of Players: Single-player
    Price: $14.99 (Steam); $2.99/$4.99 (Google Play/App Store with in-app purchases)

    Thank you Ironhide Game Studio for sending us a review code!

    This it is, the final push! The horde really wants your bacon and you only got the ragtag bunch of misfits left out of THAT ragtag bunch to defend your butt. They’re sending literally everyone out now: the dogs, the cats, their mother, your mother, and even the Roomba to haul you and your treasures back! But it’s all good, you just have to last out one more wave, right? It’ll all be worth it in the end.

    Kingdom Rush Origins is yet another entry into the vast but niche tower defense sub-genre of strategy games. Contrary to the name, Origins is actually the third entry to the Kingdom Rush series. I have not played the previous entries so I cannot compare it to its prequels (well, sequels in a timeline sense), but I do know a thing or two about tower defense after all. As this is an origin story, Origins will explain how the main villain of the last two entries, Vez’nan, became corrupt with power. Malicia, Queen of the Twilight Elves, takes the role of villainess for this story.

    Presented in a comic book-like format, the art of Origins is pleasing and charming, and even reminds me of comic books and webcomics in general. The character art is expressive (although most characters are typically sporting a scowl) and colorful. Enemies all have a distinct and unique look from each other. For a game series that originated on mobile devices, it presents itself on the PC quite efficiently.

    As Origins is a tower defense game, all controlled by the mouse, it has the typical lanes that enemies walk down, the typical spots where you can build your towers, and the whole goal is to prevent them from reaching your base, earning gold for each enemy slain. In the standard game mode, you have 20 lives, with the amount of lives decreasing by 1 or 2 with any enemy that passes your defenses. Enemies are split into waves, and only a limited amount of time is given before the next wave starts. There is the option to start waves early, with an incentive of extra gold given out.

    Kingdom Rush Origins
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Simple to pick up and play; multiple ways to test your skills; heroes to add an extra depth to the gameplay
    Weak Points: No fast-forward button; difficulty levels only increase the amount of health enemies have; PC version lacks some features that the mobile versions have, such as endless mode
    Moral Warnings: Instances of blood; mentions of a goddess and how the bad guys want her power; everyone uses magic

    In terms of the tower selection, there actually isn’t a whole lot to choose from, unlike other tower defense games. There are only four towers to choose from in Origins: the standard fast-firing archer tower, the strong mage towers, rune towers which throw huge rocks that do area of effect damage, and barracks towers. Barracks towers are unique from the other towers as they send out soldiers on the field to impede movement. What Origins lacks in quantity of towers, they more than make up for it in quality, as each tower has four levels, with a split path for the max level. Each max-leveled tower can be further upgraded with unique abilities to grant them devastating and even life-saving results.

    What separates Origins, and the series in general, from most tower defense games is the usage of heroes, as well as the usage of reinforcements. Heroes are a special unit that can be directed around the field to help out in defending the kingdom, and each hero has a slew of abilities to combat the horde. At first, you start off with only Eridan the Ranger, but as more levels are unlocked, so are heroes. Each hero also has voice acting and unique lines, with some lines making cute references. Reinforcements are one part of your repertoire that you can manually spawn every 15 seconds and place anywhere on the map to act as a second line of defense. The other two abilities you have are the ability to cast lightning on the map, more or less acting as a “panic button” in case you screw up royally, and hero-specific abilities which can range from simply more damage, to even stunning a group of enemies.

    With every level completed, you can earn up to three stars depending on how many lives you lose. Your hero also levels up with participation as well. You can use these stars and experience to upgrade tower/ability efficiency and hero ability, respectively. You’ll want to make sure you’re getting at least two stars per level as the later levels can get pretty hectic. If you earn three stars, you unlock the Heroic and Iron Challenges for that specific level. Heroic and Iron Challenges are tough to beat, as they are not only harder versions of the level you completed, but with different enemies; you only have one life for each, so you can’t afford to make even one mistake. For all the above mentioned, it can get a bit annoying when aiming for 100% as most levels in the game can last upwards to 20 minutes and the complete lack of a fast-forward feature means you have to sit through all of it. As not one level will let you gain three stars if you lose more than two lives, this can be truly heartbreaking during the last stretch.

    Kingdom Rush Origins
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 86%
    Gameplay - 19/20
    Graphics - 8/10
    Sound - 6/10
    Stability - 5/5
    Controls - 5/5

    Morality Score - 77%
    Violence - 5/10
    Language - 10/10
    Sexual Content - 10/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 3.5/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 10/10

    There is always a lot going on within Origins, especially in the background. All of these amusing theatrics add life to the game, but not every little thing going on in the background is just for show. It might just be worth interacting with every piece of scenery you can. The game can get very intense as well, even on the casual setting. I thought this would be a game that I could only pay half of my attention to, while watching something else on my second monitor, but that wasn’t always the case. Keep in mind that just because there is a path from the enemy spawn point to your base, doesn’t mean they will always take that path. They will utilize shortcuts, multiple pathways, and sometimes new pathways open up as the waves go on. Each level also contains a gimmick. Most of these gimmicks help you out, while some can be harmful (as well as obnoxious). All of this was definitely a lot more than I expected from a tower defense game.

    There are some cases of blood shown, when enemies and allies are hit by sharp objects, such as arrows and bladed weapons, and when killed by said weapons leave a small pool of blood at their death spot. The nature of the game is fairly cartoon-like so I wouldn’t call the depiction realistic in the slightest. Malicia’s goal is to obtain the ancient power of the elven race, which was granted by a goddess according to the narrative. A lot of magic use is present, from the enemies to some of the heroes.

    Kingdom Rush Origins may not be my favorite tower defense game, but it manages to be a very competent take on the genre. With a lot to make it different from all the others, it may just be one of the best in its genre. If you like tower defense games, you’ll most likely enjoy this one too. There are about fifteen standard levels in the game that took me about 6 hours to complete, with even more levels and heroes unlocked in future updates after you complete those so there is plenty to come back too. The Heroic and Iron Challenges will really test your mettle if you’re looking for a challenge. Even though the absence of a fast-forward function for the third entry in the series is pretty annoying, and the removal of endless mode from the PC edition for the strange reason being "the PC version lacking microtransactions," Origins manages to do a lot right for tower defense kind everywhere. I could probably safely recommend it for most children, even if blood is present in the game in rather small quantities. When buying for either the computer or mobile markets, keep in mind that the mobile versions have in-app purchases on the offset of being cheaper, while the computer versions have (almost) everything included with the $14.99 price tag.

  •  

    boxart
    Game Info:

    Kingdom Two Crowns
    Developed By: Noio, Coatsink
    Published By: Raw Fury
    Release: December 11, 2018
    Available On: Nintendo Switch, PC, Playstation 4, Xbox One
    Genre: Sidescrolling tower defense
    ESRB Rating: E10+ for everyone 10 and older: Fantasy Violence
    Number of Players: 2 offline, 2 online
    Price: $19.99
    (Humble Store Link)

    Thanks to Raw Fury for a copy of this game to review.

    The Kingdom starts from simple things: some coins, a horse, and a king or queen. A camp is built, archers and engineers hired, and a wall constructed. Night rolls in, and brings with it the "Greed". The are creatures that are never satisfied, and never have enough. They will take everything you have: tools, coins, and even your crown. They will destroy everything in their path to get what they want. Unless... you can stop them.

    Kingdom Two Crowns is a 2D sidescrolling tower defense that can be played singleplayer, local co-op, or online co-op. Controls are simply moving left or right, sprinting, and spending coins. Coins can be used for hiring, bows, hammers, farms, and more. The archers hunt rabbits and deer, in addition to holding back the Greed. Engineers cut trees, build structures, push the catapults forward, and more.

    Kingdom Two Crowns
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Simple controls; beautiful music
    Weak Points: Crashes; bugs
    Moral Warnings: Ghost; violence; goo blood

    Some things can only be bought with gems, such as mounts and unit upgrades. Gems are limited per campaign. Once they are all lost or spent, there is no getting them back. People can be hired to work for you from the camps outside your base. The camps are limited per island, so be careful not to destroy them all when expanding. Coins aren't as limited if archers are hunting rabbits or farmers are working.

    There are five different islands to conquer. Initially, the plan is defense, but as the game progresses and new islands discovered, offense into the Greed's home becomes possible. The first three islands are fair, but as I progressed to the fourth and fifth island, the difficulty was too much. Each time progress is made by destroying a Greed portal, a large wave of Greed spawns. While this should create balance, the waves on islands four and five leveled my kingdom, no matter how many units and walls I produced.

    Kingdom Two Crowns
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 70%
    Gameplay - 10/20
    Graphics - 9/10
    Sound - 8/10
    Stability - 3/5
    Controls - 5/5

    Morality Score - 90%
    Violence - 8/10
    Language - 10/10
    Sexual Content - 10/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 7/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 10/10

    I've had the game crash on me when I boarded the boat once. Seeing the archers walk in midair to their post left me with the feeling the game could use a bit more polish. The pixel art is well defined and easy to understand what is seen. Audio was limited, but what existed was beautifully done. The controls are simple to grasp.

    The king or queen is guided by a ghost to the campsite on each island. The game contains fantasy violence between the people and the Greed. Usually the Greed don't kill your people, but rather take all their coins. The exception to this is the flying Greed when they grab the people. The Greed structures gush purple goo when destroyed, although this isn't as noticeable until the player raids the Greed's home.

    Kingdom Two Crowns was fun for the first two islands. After that, the challenges were repetitive and then unfair. The rapid change in difficulty left me wondering if I missed something. In addition the visual bugs and the crash broke the feeling of immersion. I loved Kingdom, but Kingdom Two Crowns may need a bit more work.

    -Sorrel

  •  

    boxart
    Game Info:

    Onion Force
    Developed By: Queen Bee Games
    Published By: Throwback Entertainment
    Released: Mar 2, 2016
    Available On: Android, Windows
    Genre: Action-Adventure, Tower Defense
    ESRB Rating: Not Rated
    Number of Players: Single-Player
    Price: $4.99 (Steam); $.99 (Google Play Store)

    Thank you Queen Bee Games for sending us this game to review.

    Mythology is rather interesting. So many stories can be told in such different ways. One story may be about a knight scaling a massive tower to save a princess; another story can be about gods and goddesses in a never ending struggle for power. Onion Force in particular is about a feeble group consisting of a fairy and three heroes tasked to save the last king from execution by the evil horde.

    Onion Force is an action-adventure tower defense game where the simple goal is to prevent the ever-increasing wave of enemies laying a beatdown on the sole remaining king of the land. To accomplish that mission, one must make use of towers placed in specific spots to halt the progress of the horde. Money is acquired from killing enemies and used to buy more towers. Each level has seven waves and thirty levels in total. Levels contain 3 difficulties, but easy is the only difficulty unlocked for the selected stage until you complete it.

    What separates Onion Force from other tower defense games is that you have full control of a character instead of the entire interface being manipulated by the mouse. Onion Force gives you three characters at your disposal: the Warrior, who is the sturdiest of the three; the Bowman, who uses quick-firing arrows to attack enemies; and the Wizard, who uses high-damage orbs to do area of effect damage. Since the Warrior does not have a ranged attack, he instead attacks by ramming himself into the enemies, bumper car style. This is the major reason why he has the most amount of health out of the classes. All characters can attack by ramming, but the Warrior takes the least amount of damage doing so.

    Eight towers in total can be used, with two towers being unlocked from the start. More are earned as you progress through the worlds. Towers can range from a sniper tower that shoots quick-firing arrows, a barracks that sends in reinforcements to aid you, caltrops and tar towers that slow movement speed, and the expensive, yet highly damaging generators that shoot lightning. Each level, completed appropriately (which typically means do not let the king take too much damage), will earn you one star on easy, and up to two stars on medium and hard. These stars are used to upgrade towers, and towers can be upgraded up to level 5, which makes them more powerful and more expensive. Keep in mind that once a tower is placed, it cannot be removed. Some people may see this as a downside and others might see this as another layer of strategy as it really makes you think of where to place towers.

    Onion Force
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Fast-paced gameplay; multiple classes; charming art style.
    Weak Points: UI has some issues; character balance is heavily in favor of the warrior class; stamina meter adds an unnecessary layer to the game
    Moral Warnings: Some language uttered, such as b*st*rd and d*mn; the last levels in the game are clearly based on Hell — featuring pentagrams and raining blood; one class type is a wizard, as well as wizard enemies, skeletons, and demons; bloodshed when enemies are killed.

    Onions act as another form of currency used to grant temporary power boosts during levels. Onions are found when breaking through the scenery, sometimes in treasure chests within the levels, can be potentially dropped by slain enemies, and sometimes given to you when a “perfect” level is achieved. Onions can enable such abilities like summoning tornadoes and gusts of wind to blow back enemies, or bombs and fireballs to deal large amounts of damage. Since onions can at times be hard to come across, it’s recommended to only use them when you really need to. The abilities are also a bit imbalanced as most abilities only activate when colliding into enemies, which the Bowman and the Wizard only rely on as a last resort.

    Controls are rather simple. WASD is to move around, the left mouse button is to do certain actions such as attack, consume hearts, pause the game, or purchase towers, and the right mouse button is to speed up your movement as well as exit out of medical tents prematurely. The scroll wheel on the mouse can be used to zoom in or zoom out. The controller options are weird and awkward, as the character can only move with the D-pad and not the analog stick. The controller options seems to only exist just so that they can say they have functionality, so it’s recommended to stick with mouse and keyboard.

    The gameplay can get rather intense as Onion Force doesn’t give you much room to relax and collect your thoughts between waves. Only seconds are given between each wave, while your fairy companion gives off some form of commentary, such as in a hint of an upcoming enemy or some lore about the world. Slamming into enemies is quite fun, and blasting enemies with projectiles is as well, and the little breaks between mean you have to quickly and constantly come up with new strategies, sometimes even on the fly.

    One rather annoying quirk exists within. All characters use a stamina meter, but while the Warrior can still attack with no stamina (he just takes more damage), the Bowman and the Wizard are wholly reliant on using stamina for their attacks, which further adds to the imbalance of the classes. The only way to recover lost stamina is to either use a heart, or occupy a medical tent. With the way stamina works, the game itself feels entirely designed around the Warrior class while the others were afterthoughts. The other classes still manage to be fun, but in their own way, even if they are not as effective as the Warrior.

    Onion Force
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 75%
    Gameplay - 15/20
    Graphics - 6.5/10
    Sound - 7/10
    Stability - 5/5
    Controls - 4/5

    Morality Score - 70%
    Violence - 5/10
    Language - 8/10
    Sexual Content - 8.5/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 3.5/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 10/10

    Onion Force’s art style is very reminiscent of Saturday morning cartoons, and seems to take inspiration from Warner Bros. cartoons as well as artists such as John Kricfalusi. The character designs are rather strange yet expressive, and may not appeal to everyone, but I found the style to be quite charming. The male characters have a silly cylinder shape reminiscent of cans. The enemy design has a surprising amount of detail put into the overall designs. Sound design is pretty standard. There are a handful of tracks within the game; I did find myself liking the last level's soundtrack more than the others.

    Even though the graphical style is quite nice, many issues exist within the user interface as well as the resolution. The UI can get in the way of certain actions, especially on certain levels, and the fairy’s text box when she speaks also at times gets in the way when you’re trying to build a tower. Onion Force also only seems to have one resolution, so when the game is in full screen, it can look rather blurry. Neither options have ways to adjust or alter so in the end, you are sadly forced to deal with it. I think an option to make the UI see-through or change the size of it would have been a nice feature, especially in a genre where visual clarity is extremely important. Some of the scenery can also get in the way of vision.

    At first, there isn’t much morally concerning in the game. There is some blood when enemies die, one of your playable classes is a wizard, and our fairy companion shows quite the amount of cleavage and leg. It’s better than the alternative as fairies in mythology were typically naked, or topless at the very most. As the game continues, more and more start to come to light. There are a few instances I noticed of the fairy character saying mild swears like d*mn and b*st*rd once. There could potentially be more, but truthfully, it’s kinda hard to pay complete attention to the dialogue and trying to set up for the next wave. Characters start to bleed more often and in larger quantities, skeletons and demons become more common enemy types, and the last area might be Hell, or at least the main villain hired Satan as his home designer. Because of this, there are pentagrams on some of the stones in the levels, and from what I believe also looks like something similar to the Eye of Providence.

    Onion Force does have its share of issues, and some are rather annoying. Besides that, Onion Force manages to be a solid tower defense game. I wouldn’t recommend it to people new to the genre as it can get quite difficult in some spots, even on easy, and the flaws may turn newcomers away from the genre. People with experience in tower defense or strategy games can appreciate the strengths it brings to the table. For only $5 and three difficulty modes, its worth the purchase for any tower defense fan, as long as the fans in particular are of a double digit age.

  • boxart
    Game Info:

    Siege Hammer
    Developed by: My Dream Interactive Inc.
    Published by: My Dream Interactive Inc.
    Release date: November 2, 2016
    Available on: HTC Vive, Oculus Rift, Windows
    Genre: Tower defense
    Number of players: Single-player
    ESRB Rating: Not rated
    Price: $14.99

    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Fun VR experience that can be enjoyed by people of all ages
    Weak Points: Slow paced; pause only works when pointing at the pause icon; no confirmation when upgrading defenses;  it’s easy to accidentally leave the level
    Moral Warnings: Bloodless violence

    Thank you My Dream Interactive Inc. for send sending us this game to review!

    We have previously reviewed VR Toolbox from My Dream Interactive and there’s a nice bundle that includes this virtual living space along with their 3D tower defense offering, Siege Hammer for $23.18. By purchasing the bundle, you save 20%. If you’re just looking for a fun tower defense game in VR, then this game can fit the bill for less than $15.

    Siege Hammer is family friendly despite the use of your hammer, turrets, and defenses that freeze and electrocute invading aliens. There is no blood or injury animations, just visible numbers subtracted from their health total/HP bar. The defenses alone are not very powerful so you’ll need to manually click on groups of enemies to do area of effect damage. The hammer takes time to recharge so you just have to keep clicking until it works again.

    The story is simple but functional. Your character, Blip, is the last of his kind and has been raised by wisps who are now in danger. It’s up to you and your hammer to save the wisps from invading aliens trying to get to your crystal. If an alien does get past your defenses, you can resume from the current wave and keep all of the wisps collected and defenses that you previously placed.

    Most of the levels start you off with very limited resources (wisps) and only a spot or two to place your beginning defenses. Every defense and upgrade is purchased from wisps you collect from defeated foes and ones that fall from the sky upon completing a wave of enemies. After a wave of foes have been successfully repelled, more places to put defenses will appear. You can only add defenses between waves while your shields are up. Once your shields are down, enemies will spawn in certain areas and you can only upgrade existing defenses provided you have enough wisps to do so. Upgrading defenses can easily be done by clicking on them. Sadly, upgrading is too easy and I have accidentally upgraded defenses that I did not mean to.

    There is a pause button which only pauses the game while you’re hovering over it. Unfortunately, when it loses focus, the enemies begin moving again. I found this out the hard way as I had a couple of gaming sessions interrupted by phone calls. Clicking on the pause button a couple of times (on purpose or on accident) will bring you back to the main menu. I booted myself off accidentally, but was happy to find that my progress was saved.
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 78%
    Gameplay - 17/20
    Graphics - 8/10
    Sound - 7/10
    Stability - 5/5
    Controls - 2/5

    Morality Score - 93%
    Violence - 6.5/10
    Language - 10/10
    Sexual Content - 10/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 10/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 10/10

    The game starts off with an introductory level which will introduce you to the basics of building and upgrading the three different types of defenses (turret, ice, Tesla coil). Once the basics are covered, you can explore three different realms with four different difficulty levels.

    There’s a decent amount of variety with the enemies. They have elemental affinities and the bigger ones have substantially more HP. There are some waves where the enemies are faster, but noticeably frail. Depending on the difficulty you play at, the hammer’s power and recharge time will vary. Like most games, the harder the difficulty, the stronger the foes.

    Some may find the game’s pace to be a bit slow. I found it fun and had some close calls and even lost a round or two. If you like tower defense games and are looking for one that’s safe for kids to play, be sure to check out Siege Hammer. I’m looking forward to how it’s going to shape up as it leaves Steam’s Early Access.

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Christ Centered Gamer looks at video games from two view points. We analyze games on a secular level which will break down a game based on its graphics, sound, stability and overall gaming experience. If you’re concerned about the family friendliness of a game, we have a separate moral score which looks at violence, language, sexual content, occult references and other ethical issues.

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