When it comes to new entries in a crowded genre, say… tower defense, one tends to look immediately for small differentiators. Almost by definition, a crowded market is not likely to see a whole lot of revolutionary new ideas emerging, so new offerings need to push the limits of evolutionary improvements. It is through that lens that we will examine Defense Technica, an evolutionary tower defense game developed by Kuno Interactive. To be more precise, we will be looking at the PC version as delivered through Steam.
Go into this knowing that your reviewer is by no means an expert on the subject of tower defense games, and this fact is readily apparent when the game in question is, for want of a better description, harder than a gig as a Hollywood marriage counselor. Technica didn’t start out that way, mind you. In the first few levels it was all “ho-hum, another predictably linear path to certain death for those poor cretinous aliens.” Then, all of a sudden, it became “Holy cow! I can’t stop these vile hoards!!” Yes, even with their intended path to my beloved and precious power core drawn in a red line providing me with all of the information I would need to corral them into a steaming pile of death, aliens were getting through my inadequate defenses and chipping away at my core. It got even worse later in the game when the paths tended to get quite cluttered and could no longer be counted on to help plan adequate defenses.
“What?” you say, “Why were your defenses so poorly constructed?” Well, fair question. There were at least two forces at work against me. One was funds. It takes currency to build up more defenses after the freebies are overwhelmed, and I was distinctly lacking in said funds because I didn’t realize that I had to go find the areas where aliens had fallen victim to my defenses to scoop up little colored cubes that would increase my account faster than waiting for their mere deaths to appear in my bank. The second was that the nature of the aliens would change in later swarms; those early guys that were being decimated by machine guns would be replaced by different breeds that were bullet-resistant, but more susceptible to fire. What with the distractions of picking up dead alien cubes and making sure that the little buggers hadn’t changed their route to the core, it was easy to overlook the fact that weapons that had been working fine before were now nearly useless and needed to be replaced or reinforced with more applicable devices.
For awhile, I thought I had a reprieve. At some point, I received the ability to use ‘ether’, which is a mysterious, limited-quantity resource that can be used either to repair damage to the core or to make waste of large numbers of aliens, assuming you can get them herded into a large group that isn’t moving very fast, or moving at all for that matter. The ether bomb doesn’t seem to have any adverse effect on the core, so use as a last resort against a massive group of core attackers works just fine. It requires an investment of time that you may or may not have, but once the bomb is dropped it does a supremely gratifying amount of damage.
As time goes on, the game becomes a healthy mix of strategy and tactics. On the strategic side, careful husbanding of the resources gained through medals won during a given battle will allow you to purchase different types of upgrades for the standard weapons and/or other capabilities. There are also any number of defensive strategies that can be employed once the battle is joined. Sometimes its best to try to build up a nearly impregnable chokepoint, while other levels may require the flexibility of a running defense that can respond quickly to changes in route or the types of aliens at hand. Tactically, it is often a matter of quickly assessing where your strategy went wrong and determining the best way to recover from an unexpected onslaught.
One downside of the constant turmoil and rapidly escalating difficulty is that it is pretty easy to lose sight of the aesthetics of the game. It is attractively drawn, although with regards to the attacking aliens it can be hard to tell since they are moving so fast, and the sounds definitely serve to let you know that this is serious business. As with many multi-platform games, the controls on the PC can take a little while to master if using the keyboard and mouse. A spare Xbox controller is always nice to have around, although that too initially took some getting used to.
Defense Technica has just enough new wrinkles in the gameplay to avoid being tagged as just-another-tower-defense-game, but make no mistake: it is not a genre-buster. If you like tower defense (and if you’re good at it), there is nothing not to like here. Conversely, if you’re new to the genre, be prepared to have your innards handed to you on a fairly routine basis. The learning curve is steep at times, but never quite so steep that you aren’t willing to try to beat it just one more time, and another, and another...
* The product in this article was sent to us by the developer/company for review.
Tower defense games are a dime a dozen, but Defense Technica stands slightly above its peers with its modern presentation and some challenging new twists.
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