Defenders of Ardania – Preview

It takes a lot to stand out for tower defence games these days. As the market is inundated with new ones constantly, developers have to come up with new ways for people to kill bad guys with well-placed structures. Some choose to go for a more up close and personal route, allowing the player to be on the ground while the enemy attacks; others don’t stick to the classic grid structure and allow for turrets to be placed anywhere; others still choose to blend the genre with other genres, such as the RTS. Defenders of Ardania is one of these games.

In Defenders of Ardania, you need to defend your castle by building a variety of different towers on specific squares on a grid so that the enemy troops can’t get in. So far, so regular. The two towers I got to use were a crossbow tower, which fires crossbows (obviously) and is good for taking out single enemies, and a catapult, which is more suited for groups. You can only build ten towers, so you have to work out the best set-up for the waves of enemies coming at you, although in my experience sticking to catapults seemed to work out OK.

The RTS flavoured twist comes in the form of having to attack the enemy base. You can choose from a variety of different troops to do this with, including swarmers, a small group of guys who are fairly quick on their feet and cheap to build, soldiers, who are slow but can attack other troops, healers, who… uh, heal, and assassins, who are fast but have low HP. You can queue up a bunch of units to send out, and then they walk along the fastest route to get to the enemy base. It’s a novel twist on the tower defence game, certainly, but it comes with its drawbacks.

For starters, every single tower square is fair game for both sides, meaning that the enemy can build a bunch of turrets right next to your castle and spawn kill you to their heart’s content. Obviously this works both ways, but then you end up in a stalemate situation where no one can attack because their troops are getting killed before they’ve even got their boots on.  Aside from that, the only unit worth producing is the swarmer. Every other unit walks too slowly and ends up with a face full of enemy catapult, meaning you just wasted your gold on an attack that could have been done by about five groups of swarmers. Which isn’t to say the swarmers are prone to attack, just that if a group of them dies they can be quickly and cheaply replaced. Throw enough swarmers at the enemy and you win, or so it seemed, so while the choice is there for other units, there really isn’t much point.

There are some bizarre control choices too. For example, why can I not click on a square to place a tower? Instead you have to hover over it and press Space. This could be because the game is being made for consoles too, which naturally don’t have a good clicking function, but then that just feels like a lack of attention to detail when it comes to other consoles. Also, why is the grid not shown by default? In a game where everything is based around these squares, why do I actively have to bring them up? It’s a minor complaint, as you soon get into the habit of switching the grid on at the start of a match, but it still baffles me.

Still, the game looks lovely. Even from a top-down perspective the environments are rich and wonderful, with some good water effects and a really nice, happy colour palette. Everything’s lovely and green and shiny, and it’s a real treat for the eyes. The towers are also quite impressive too, but the units look they could do with a little polish, and their dying animations go on for far too long.  The audio doesn’t quite match up to the loveliness of the graphics, however. Your main helper sounds like he’s doing a poor impression of Sean Connery, and all the other voices are also quite grating. The soundtrack, however, fits nicely with the environment but doesn’t exactly stand out on it’s own. It might be a little too late in the development to re-do the voice acting, but it would certainly help the overall package.

Defenders of Ardania still has a way to go before its release, so there’s plenty of time to iron out the kinks in the gameplay and animation. But the question is, can it stand up to its competitors? The promise of four-player battles (which weren’t available in the preview) is a tempting proposition, and for some quick fun it certainly seems like it could be a solid title, but with so many great tower defence titles already out there, it looks like the game might struggle to get noticed.

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One Comment

  1. [...] Any of you who know me will have seen my preview of Defenders of Ardania on GL (and if you haven’t seen it then you’ll undoubtedly have seen links to it on Facebook and Twitter). That was written during uni time, and was actually probably the hardest preview/review I’ve ever had to write, and one that took me the longest of any article I’ve ever attempted. I won’t go into the reasons why (that would be unprofessional), but you should definitely go read it, oh, say, here. [...]

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