Trying to shake up a genre is not always a good move…
Personally, I love tower defence games. Over the past few years I’ve played many, ranging from one of the original mods of Warcraft 3 to the newest hitting the shelves on iPadsuch as Besiegement. There are hundreds of mediocre and decent tower defence games out there, and for one to stand it, it needs to do something a little bit special. Defenders of Ardania had basis and idea of being a decent game, however it was executed poorly.
First of all, Defenders of Ardania does look lovely. It has nice stylised cartoony graphics but it dogged with frame rate issues and block animations that stand out on screen. The character models look well crafted and the menus are all well designed and fit their purpose. The storyline is fair generic with the inclusion of wizards, dragons and monsters with a few hit and miss voiceovers.
Tower defence games of late have been based on one standard formula: build a variety of defences and fight of waves after waves of enemies. This is where Defenders of Ardania tries to change the formula. It lets players send its own soldiers back at the enemy which can prove for some quite exciting battles, and some very boring ones that end in many minutes of stalemates.
After playing about two thirds of the storyline and a few random battles online I felt I have a pretty good judgement of the game. Throughout playing I encountered many of the same design and gameplay issues that often left me to either defeat or exiting the game. They were not with the story line and the biggest will not be found in the story mode but rather in the simplest elements of the core game design.
The problem for me was the stalemate scenarios which you would encounter time and time again. In many other tower defence games, the player has only to defend a certain path or objective, which means you only need to focus on obliterating any enemies that you come into contact with. This is where Defenders of Ardania mixes things up. Each force sends their own troops and also has to build towers to defend their base. The game play is very tit for tat with each player losing a little health until finally one side makes the breakthrough and pushes ahead. I found this the case in many of the battles I played. The only advantage that the player has is that you can repair your own base but the computer cannot repair theirs (but online players can). Only a few select troops can actually attack each other, this means that you get soldiers just walking past each other and not fighting, instead going for the enemies base. This leads to boring and uneventful gameplay, leaving you with Déjà vu’ for most of the maps. Even with the game played on double speed, the pace is horribly slow. It makes the simple two player game turn into a lengthy saga in which you repeat the same actions over and over.
The design of Defenders of Ardania attempts to make it more of a real-time strategy rather than tower defence. However, due to the limited control you are allowed over your troops, it fails to work effectively. There are certain troops that after the first few minutes of gameplay become irrelevant because they are too weak, even once levelled up. Also each map has a certain amount of places which towers can be build, so even if a player uses all resources given to them they remain curbed by defensive limitations.
A standard tower defence game in which the player needs to fend off waves of enemies is included. The game actually removes the reason why tower defence games became popular in the first place, by limited where you can build towers in this mode too. Towers of Ardania has tried to shake up the tower defence genre, but in doing so has ripped out the features that let the genre flourish in the first place.
Multiplayer can take place between two to four players on any of the eighteen campaign maps. There is virtually no customisation options and the multiplayer further reveals the main weaknesses in the core design. It creates lengthy and uninteresting battles in which you could stop playing for 30 minutes and still stage a comeback. The games normally last longer that single player maps and the same stalemate scenarios are just as common. As already stated, in the single player you can heal your base but the computer cannot. In the multiplayer both of you can heal (on a timer) so matches seem to drag on for way to long. However, there will be players whom are better than others and may win relatively quickly but when two players of equal ability come face to face, the best way of winning is when the other player leaves due to it taking too much time.
Defenders of Ardania could have been such a good game. Some of the core game play design is puzzling and with a few changes could have been excellent. Instead the game insists on wasting the players time with needless limitations and wave after wave of opposing forces that result in boring gameplay and often stalemates. One player will of course eventually win, but it all comes down to a lucky break. The concept seems cool, but Defenders of Ardania simply can’t pull it off in game.
Disclaimer:All scores given within our reviews are based on the artist’s personal opinion; this should in no way impede your decision to purchase the game.