It’s been a bit of a Yin and Yang week on the Xbox LIVE Arcade and if Shoot Many Robots was the wild and reckless, beer guzzling, party animal then it’s time gto say hello to Defenders of Ardania, the chinstroking, thought provoking, slower paced, tactician.
Defenders of Ardania enters that already well-saturated market known as tower defence and hopes to have enough about it to make it a worthwile addition for gamers with a number of similar titles at their fingertips.
So, the important question, how does it shape up?
And that all important answer is, well, so-so.
A quick rewind first though. Before completely writing off Defenders of Ardania it does have a new trick up its sleeve. Alongside the traditional tower defence, players are also treated to a bit of tower offence.
This twist on the gameplay means that alongside defending yourself from the marauding troops you now have the power to build your own units and send them off to wreak havoc on your enemy.
It’s a very nice addition to the play and keeps things a little more lively than is the norm in tower defence.
There is also a long-winded story threading each new scene and encounter in Ardania together. This tells the tale of how you are leading the human forces against the undead and also threw in some dwarves and elves for good measure. All the script is voice acted and although it’s full of very solid performances I personally just found it a bit of an irritation at times, it was just a wee bit too long and predictable.
The opening tutorials will put players on the right track and do go into great detail about the many facets of the game but, if you happen to be taking your first baby steps into the world of tower defence then it could seem frighteningly over-complicated, even if you’ve played a few before there’s still an awful lot to take on board.
You get to send out five units at a time to assault the enemy base and these units all range in speed, armour and attack capabilities, at the same time you need to ensure your own base is well protected, this is done via the placing of defensive towers which open fire on attacking intruders. There are the usual upgrades on offer as the game progresses and little tactical pieces to take note of to gain the advantage, such as placing a tower on higher ground vastly improves it’s capabilities and blocking off certain routes to ensure the enemy forces have to pass your strongest defences.
When you’re finally ready to head out alone the game does a lot of good things. The screens are vibrant and full of detail and the game moves along at a steady pace and finding the right balance between defence and attack takes some serious amount of strategic thinking.
Unfortunately there are also a number of annoyances and problems along the way. The graphics although looking the part also, at times, make it difficult to see what the hell is actually going on. It’s almost impossible to differentiate between your own towers and those of the enemy. The levels themselves seem to fluctuate between being either far too easy or reaching a mind-numbing stalemate situation. There were times when I felt I was just robotically sending out the same units over and over until eventually the enemy base fell, this consisted of pressing one button five times and then waiting a while before pressing it again (this could have just been my own lack of tactical nous though.)
Pleasingly Most Wanted Entertainment have seen fit to give players some action over Xbox LIVE, and this may just be the game’s saving grace.
The multiplayer is a far more challenging, rewarding and fun place to stay when in Ardania. Upto four players can duke it out in 2v2 or free for all modes and facing off against players of a similar ability makes for some superb and engaging battles. Of course this requires that little ingredient of there being other players online, but with this genre having a solid fanbase and Defenders of Ardania being a decent title hopefully this won’t become an issue.
All in all Defenders of Ardania is a solid and worthwile addition to the tower defence market. It isn’t as ground breaking as I would have hoped but, especially online, it still has the power to entertain for a few hours or more. The graphics look good but occasionally interfere with play, the dialogue is fine but often overlong and the gameplay is entertaining without being special.
Fans of the genre will almost certainly find much to enjoy here, moreso if they’ve a few friends to enjoy it with, but those after a more casual gaming fix or about to take their first plunge into tower defence it might be best looking elsewhere. Ardania is no place for newcomers.