Preview: Defenders of Ardania (PC)

SquareGo has forced me into a corner…. well actually more of a tower than a corner, and I do have an army. So it’s not all bad, in fact some of it is quite good.

I give an early hands on look at Defenders of Ardania, the uniquely different Tower Defence game from paradox Interactive.

My Hands-On preview is posted here.

Full text below the cut.

Defenders of Ardania – Hands On

Defenders of Ardania – Hands On

If there is one stalwart of the independent gaming industry it’s the Tower Defence game, having existed in some form or another since the days of ASCII and never really going away. They’re prevalent on mobile phones, flash websites and in full price releases. Chances are you’ve played them, possibly to death, but just in case, I will fill you in. You are usually under siege and must build ‘towers’ of some kind to defend from the constantly approaching waves of enemies.  The form of the bads can vary, as can the towers, as a quick glance at games such as Plants vs. Zombies or Titan’s Revenge show how stylistically the genre can vary.

Which brings us to Paradox Interactive’s upcoming high fantasy realm of Defenders of Ardania, where our player’s happy kingdom has been suddenly and most irritatingly attacked by the armies of the local liege Lord who turns out to be under the sway of a nightmarish Necromancer. So it’s up to our plucky Monarch to hold the fort (literally) against the encroaching hordes. However unlike most Tower Defence games, you also have at your disposal an unlimited supply of troops, which can be summoned in waves at the cost of the ever replenishing Mana meter.

To War!

So there’s a story of sorts to keep those of us that like that sort of thing interested enough to take note of the events. What’s more, the tutorial and instructing voice of the King’s man-at-arms is done in a brilliantly sincere Sean Connery brogue, with notable other cameo cliché impersonations popping up throughout.  In fact the presentation here is astounding, the graphics are finely detailed with fully rendered 3D buildings that can be spun around to view the battlefield from any angle. The sound effects hammer home the noises of war, as well as the spin and crash of magical explosions.

A Smattering of Wounds

The warfare itself is slightly different to your vanilla flavoured tower defence. As mentioned above, the inclusion of mirrored goals and forces changes the amount of work the player needs to keep track of.  However there were times that this proved the games undoing, as there are still obvious balancing issues needing ironing before the game’s release in December. Some of the levels introduced sudden bosses with poorly explained instructions, meaning there were more than a few reloads needed and on long levels, even with time acceleration that can be quite dull. Several stacked enemies early on also lead to the awkward situation where you can reach a very real stalemate as superior enemy towers will prevent your limited forces from getting close enough to defeat them, while never yet threatening the player.

Tools of the Trade

Additionally, the clever but initially intuitive control system stands out as being a little bit out of place on the humble PC. For a game that cries out to be mouse-driven, there are a whole host of keyboard only commands and menus that can’t be flipped through using the mouse, usually leading to moments of annoyance and hammering at the keys in despair.  Worse still, in the heat of frantic battle, it’s easy to spam the shift key until windows drops out, losing tens of minutes of a level.

On the Warpath

It’s still a title that shows more promise than it does problems.  The Tower Defence genre needs a swift boot up the mineshaft and this game could just be the one to do it.  All it needs is the final spit and polish and it could well be a force to be reckoned with.

Defenders of Ardania is released in December.



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