One of the fastest growing genres of gaming is the tower defense game. The basic concept of the tower defense is that you have a central location you are trying to defend from the opposing force. You are often given a wide variety of “towers” and “attackers” to help defend your center location. It’s a pretty cut and dry concept that is relatively simple to execute and can often appear generic. Enter Paradox Interactive’s Defenders of Ardania.
Let me first say this, the game is available on multiple platforms including the Xbox Live Arcade, Playstation Network, iPad, the PC and on Steam, which is the copy I reviewed, more on this later. It offers an online multiplayer, a storyline mode, and a skirmish mode. I will freely admit that while I tried all of them, I did not complete the story mode because of it’s rinse and repeat style of game play. It is unfortunate because the game does have potential. It is just the monotony and frustration that takes it from being an enjoyable game, to a laborious one.
In Defenders of Ardania gamers are introduced the “offensive/defensive” tower defense style. Players are presented with a new twist on the tower defense game, they are required to go on the offensive as well. While building the normal array of towers to defend their castle, they are also required to send a variety of units to battle other units and destroy the opposition’s towers as well. The AI is quick and is capable of building tower units to defend its tower as well. Sounds intriguing doesn’t it? Unfortunately, while the idea sounded good on paper and looks good in the game, it does have its flaws. First of all the biggest issue is in the fact that only certain units can attack each other. Others pass by each other without incident like they are walking around a Renaissance Fair. It makes it rather frustrating knowing that you have to dispatch a certain number of specific units in hope that the opposition dispatches the same units, if not they will walk right on by on their way to your tower. Healers walk right by soldiers. Strategically speaking I would target a healer to prevent them from negating the damage I have already inflicted. When I play a game that allows me to create the units that will attack or defend, I like knowing that they will actually fight. This leads to the second issue I have with this game, it takes FOREVER to win a level. I am talking start, go get a pizza, come back and it still not be over. It is not a game you can squeeze in a match while the wife gets ready.
This game is not all negatives though. The graphics work for it, crisp and clean without being too advanced. You can identify which units are which and the attacks are enjoyable visually. I would like to see more distinction between the towers though in the next game. As the game progresses and the battles become more intense it does become a little more difficult to differentiate between the towers, the available locations on the grid to place the towers and the paths to direct your troops.
One thing I would like to discuss specifically is the poor quality of the game on the Steam network. The game takes forever to fully download, even with high speed cable modem. One the game does load it is choppy and has a slow transition speed. I tried adjusting the settings and rendering, yet the game continues to run very slow. Having a laptop that is capable of running much more demanding games, this simple game should not have as many issues as it did. I would suggest that anyone who wants to try this game to consider purchasing it on either the Xbox 360 or the PlayStation 3.
Overall, Defenders of Ardania is on the right path to helping redefine the tower defense genre by allowing you to actually attack back. Unfortunately it did fall short in the execution. The game does present enough for me to consider checking out a sequel in hopes that they corrected the issues in this game. I would caution anyone interested in spending the $14.99 to purchase this game to seek out a demo prior to making the purchase.