Defenders of Ardania | Review (Xbox 360)
Tower Defense games are pretty much a hit or miss genre. You either really like the amount of strategy it takes to excel at them, or find it incredibly boring to just sit there and watch enemies walk down a fixed route as your turrets shoot them down. There is a lot that can be attributed to the negative opinions of tower defense games, one of them being that they are just all so a-like. Out of all the thousands of tower defense games that exist they all really work the same way. You set up your towers, turrets, monsters, or whatever you have, and you wait as the enemy has all the fun attempting to attack. Don’t get me wrong, defending yourself is an essential part of surviving any type of situation, but haven’t we all heard that the best defense is a good offense? What happens when the people you control realize they might just win faster if they attacked too? If these questions have ever plagued you, then have no fear, for Paradox Interactive’s Defenders of Ardania might just be the answer to your woes.
Originally an iOS game with critical acclaim, DoA has recently made its way to Xbox Live Arcade, offering new ways to play tower defense. One of those is of course, being able to not only defend yourself against waves of attacking enemies, but also going on the offensive and attacking them back. This is a key aspect that makes DoA more immersive than other tower defense games, because it completes the game play. No longer are the levels just lines on a board, they’re now a battleground with each side’s soldiers hoping to survive the no man’s land of deadly towers in order to defeat the enemy. There are 3 different races to choose from: Humans, Nature, and Underworld. The Nature race units have lower health but move faster, The Underworld race are slow but can take quite a few hits, and as with most games, Humans are in the middle, being the most balanced. The game offers three game modes: Campaign, Survival, and Multiplayer. Campaign takes you through the world of Ardania, which you may recall from Paradox Interactive’s Majesty games. You are traveling from place to place, as you and your men try to figure out what has caused the dead to rise from the grave again after hundreds of years. Survival mode essentially brings back that classic tower defense gameplay we are all accustomed to by having you defend wave after wave of enemies. Multiplayer is, well, just you against other players online. To give the game more of a medieval fantasy feel they’ve even added spells which can be used during the game alongside your units.
Starting off with the good, The game looks good. This is in part because 90 percent of tower defense games are 2D flash games, but none the less it’s not a bad looking game. The graphics are really shown off, in the later levels of the campaign, where it looks like all hell is breaking loose on the battlefield. It’s a chaos that I always enjoy, but others may not feel the same way, and might think it’s too hectic to keep up with. If that person is you I suggest you stick to two player matches on multiplayer, anything beyond that will surely give you a headache.
Unfortunately, while DoA’s concept is a good one, it’s execution is pretty sub-par. The gameplay suffers from an unbalanced resource system. This is because you are limited to the amount of troops and towers you can have on the field at once, always leaving you with more resources that you actually need, and severely harms the core strategic elements that tower defense games should offer. This also affects the length of the matches, because the limitations prevent players from eventually overpowering one another and claiming victory. Two decent players can easily have a match last any from 45 minutes to an hour with not much happening on either side. It causes a long unappealing stalemate that ruins whatever fun you may have been having with this game. The spells available make this problem even worse, because by mid game you will have an unnecessary abundance of resources, you can just spam the heal spell every time your health gets too low. Luckily enough the AI in Campaign mode doesn’t have the ability to do this, but when you’re playing online expect it to be abused beyond belief. You’ll get to the point where the game is just annoying, and every time your opponent recovers from being at the brink of defeat, you’ll ask yourself what’s the point of even being alive anymore. While the graphics may be appealing, that too gets ruined when the game suffers from horrendous frame rates. the sound effects, and the soundtrack itself become extremely repetitive, add that on top of the fact that you probably have to sit through these problems for a long period of time, and you’ll probably decide that Ardania doesn’t deserve to be protected, and abandon this game altogether.
Ultimately, while Defenders of Ardania spawned from a great idea, with all its flaws it makes the case that Tower Defense games should be left in the world of handheld devices and Newgrounds.com, and have no business on a home console. This game will seem cool for the first 5 minutes of the first match you play, but when you realize that you’ve just spent 5 minutes making absolutely no progress, the frustration will start to set in, and that’s not what you look forward to in an arcade game. You’re looking for something that is easy to pick up, easy to get into, and fun. FUN being the most important. I think I’ll stick to Grave Defense HD on my Touchpad.