Defenders of Ardania|
I've played tower defense games on a number of platforms ranging from portability of my phone to my PC and now my Xbox 360 with the release of the Xbox Live Arcade title, Defenders of Ardania via the Xbox Marketplace. For those not in the know, the tower defense originally spun off the more prominent real time strategy genre. By removing the offensive combat you are left to defend a home base from an onslaught of enemy waves. There plenty of tower defense titles out there, but Defenders of Ardania tries to incorporate the Tower Defense back into the Real Time Strategy by adding offensive elements.
The story in Defenders of Ardania starts off when you wake to find your enemies almost at your front door. You immediately set off to quell the attack and find out why someone would attack you so brazenly without warning. Your adventure through the fantasy based world of Majesty is narrated by a purple robed advisor that sounds like... well all I can tell you is that someone at Most Wanted LOVES Sean Connery. The same narrator delivers all the tutorial lessons as you play the career.
I will say that Defenders of Ardania is a pretty involved tower defense/offense experience. There is a lot of different commands at the tips of your fingers and they somehow managed to fit them comfortably into the 360's controller layout. Building a tower is as simple as selecting a usable grid and pressing A, selecting the tower and building it. Selecting troops and spells are just a click or two on the D-Pad and using the required buttons to activate your choices.
With each level that you progress through you are going to gather important allies like the axe wielding Gilbon or the super sneaky Lilyann. You will also gain powers such as spells and buffs that will come in use, like repairing your castle when it takes damage. All of these resources are good but only if you know how to use them effectively. Defenders of Ardania has two fronts that you must use simultaneously to be able to stop your foes from overpowering you. The first is the core mechanic of building defenses such as ballistae, spear throwers and walls to create your own death gauntlet for the enemies to try and get though.
Creating your defenses is your first and foremost priority in Defenders of Ardania. At first you only have assess to two types of towers but you will unlock others later. During each map you can only have a limited number of towers on the field at a time, requiring you to plan more strategically. There are even critical locations on each map that can garner you extra resources or a farther attacking radius which are perfect for ballista towers or whatever suits your strategies. If you plan well you can almost be assured victory. There are stipulations to where you can place towers as well. For instance you can't place a tower in the middle of the battlefield until you expand your defenses toward it. Each tower has a land gain bonus in every direction and that allows you to move forward across the field. Each tower can also be upgraded or even sold to fortify your positions or regroup them in a pinch. The tower defense mechanics here are solid but that's only the beginning of the fun.
Defending your lines is only going to result in a stalemate when the enemy is doing the same on their end. To actually defeat your enemy's castle you have to use the RTS features to send your own waves of allies along direct open paths to the enemy stronghold. While that sounds good, your basically just sending troops on their merry way into almost certain death and hope a few get through to damage the other castle(s). The sad thing about sending troops out is that once I did I would almost forget about them or stop sending troops out all together because I was concentrated more on seeing that my defenses were still working. While its nice to see Defenders of Ardania reintroducing tower offense back into the mix I can't help but feel that it just doesn't mesh right with all the other chaos that is happening on the field. This is especially true when I can get away with using the same unit strategy on almost every level to great effect. Sorry I'm not telling my secrets.
One of the more pleasant aspects of Defenders of Ardania isn't its unofficial Lord of the Rings subtitle. It's in the graphics, which while not exactly polished are still impressive even with all the explosions, towers and units that clutter the screen. The other side is always spamming enemy waves at you and if you’re doing the same and using the same race it can get a little confusing. The only way to tell them apart is the coloring and of course the way they are marching to their potential deaths. If you can find a few other people on LIVE to team up or go against the already large amount of graphical chaos, while mildly entertaining, turns into a collective gathering of personal verbal repenting as you hope you come out on top. As far as the sound goes the music is appropriate to the fantasy setting, though takes backseat to the explosions and sound effects that are going off every few seconds. As much as I enjoy hearing an imitation of Sir Connery's Scottish charm, I just laughed at their attempt to add a bit of culture to the title.
A tower defense title such as Defenders of Ardania needs a little variance in the gameplay and Most Wanted doesn't disappoint on this front. As I mentioned you can team up with other player in the online 2 on 2 multiplayer mode for starters as you wage defense and offensive tactics with another ally by your side. You can even team up with another player online to enter into Team Survival mode. Of course you can put your skills to the test in a free for all against three opponents. I did enjoy a couple offline options in the Skirmish Mode as well that allowed you to replay the story missions again with different circumstances like surviving with limited resources that don't replenish or the removal of offensive capabilities.
Defenders of Ardania is a fairly enjoyable tower defense title that has its ups and downs. The core tower defense mechanics are awesome, easy to pick up on, despite game delaying tutorials from the Connery clone, and solid amongst the chaos. The addition of RTS offensive features however don't seem to fit into the grand scheme of things nearly as well as it could have. Neither the less Defenders of Ardania is fun and worth a try.