Since the genre’s early genesis as a custom map for the original StarCraft, tower defense games have stuck largely to the same formula. The player is beset by increasingly potent waves of incoming enemies, and the only way to deal with them is with complex patterns of defensive structures.
And sure, that’s all well and good, but sometimes, don’t you just want to fight back? Wouldn’t it be great to take the fight to the enemy instead of being constantly forced on the defensive?
That’s the concept behind Paradox’s upcoming tower defense-inspired strategy game, Defenders of Ardania. Infusing standard genre gameplay with a dash of real-time strategy, Paradox is hoping to add a competitive edge with their own take on the style.
So what does Defenders of Ardania have to offer? Hit the break to find out.
Defenders of Ardania is set in the same world as Paradox’s Majesty series of strategy games. As such, you can expect a lighthearted romp through a vaguely satiric fantasy world full of beer-guzzling dwarves, mages constructing impossibly high towers, and Sean Connery impersonators. A mysterious darkness is gripping the land, and you’re just the person with the gumption to do something about it.
And what will you do, exactly? Why, build towers, of course! At its core, Defenders of Ardania plays very similarly to a traditional tower defense game – enemies will come at you in a constant stream, and it falls to you to construct a series of defensive buildings to route them properly and effectively deal with them before they reach your base.
Where the game differs, however, is that there are other players in the game doing the same thing as you. This means that in addition to seeing to your base’s own protection, you’ll also have to send out minions to funnel towards your enemy in the hopes that some of your troops will filter through their own maze of death and reach their headquarters.
What makes this compelling is that the same resource is used for both towers and troops, meaning you’ll have to carefully consider your situation and decide where the bulk of your money needs to be spent. Confident in your own tower maze? Start spending money towards cranking out attackers. Your enemy sent out forces you weren’t prepared for? Better cut back on troop deployment and alter your defenses as necessary.
There are three playable factions in Defenders of Ardania – Humans, Nature, and Underworld. Each has different towers and units with varying abilities, but they all more or less fall into distinct groups. Each of the game’s towers is built for a specific purpose and usually directly counters a unit type – high-range splash damage towers for clumped up units, movement-impeding towers for disposing of particularly nasty foes, anti-air towers to deal with pesky flyers, and so on. Money can be spent upgrading a built tower to increase its effectiveness.
Units fall into classes based on their goal. Soldiers are general all-purpose troops, tanks are designed to take a great deal of punishment from towers, runners move quickly and can make a mad dash for the enemy stronghold, just to name a few. Units can also carry a number of unique abilities as well. Some are able to attack enemy units as they pass by, some can heal, some can even launch deadly spells at enemy towers. Keeping these abilities in mind can go a long way towards determining the proper unit mix to deploy at a given time.
As you deploy troops, that specific class of unit will gain experience points and eventually level up, increasing the stats of any further units you deploy as well as giving them a nice visual upgrade. Eventually, consistent use of a single unit type will allow you to deploy a hero, which is a beefy, souped-up version of that class that’s almost certain to do some serious damage. Beware, however, as overreliance on a single unit type can allow your enemy to more easily counter you with the appropriate tower.
Accumulated money can also be spent on other various RTS-style upgrades, such as reducing troop costs and increasing income levels. In addition, each faction has the ability to cast a number of devastating spells that can quickly change the tide of any given battle. These spells typically have high costs and long cooldowns, so they’re best saved for when they can make the biggest impact.
Maps in Defenders of Ardania are nice and varied, offering a number of different paths units can take between bases, which savvy players can route using their buildings to their strategic advantage. The entire map isn’t free reign, however, as players may only build structures on spaces within a certain radius of a building already constructed. The rewards of expansion are high as certain special squares on the map can be claimed by building on them, offering everything from increased attack range to an income boost.
While it has a bit in common with a real-time strategy, you won’t be micromanaging your units to any significant degree – once built, they’ll bolt down the most direct path to the enemy. However, you can manipulate them to a certain extent. Players can choose which enemy their forces head towards, and can even set a rally point – deployed troops will head to the rally first before the enemy, allowing for some specific pathing strategies. Players can even mark specific enemies as “bounties” if they want their towers and troops to focus them down to the exclusion of all else.
Defenders of Ardania boasts the kind of bright color scheme and soft visuals you would expect from a lighthearted fantasy adventure. Towers are distinct and allow you to easily distinguish between their various functions while still giving their respective factions a unique visual identity. The game’s soundtrack is full of the kind of grandiose scores that wouldn’t feel out of place in any given high-fantasy film.
All in all, Defenders of Ardania looks like it is set to offer a distinctive twist on traditional tower defense gameplay. With the inclusion of online multiplayer, it could definitely find an audience with those of a competitive mindset who long to match wits with a live, human opponent rather than survive wave after wave of mindless AI controlled goons.
Look for Defenders of Ardania to hit PC, Xbox Live Arcade, PlayStation Network, and iPad on November 22nd.