Defenders of Ardania [PC Review]
March 30, 2012
Last October, I had the joy of previewing Defenders of Ardania (DoA) for the PC. I enjoyed the game even though it was flawed, but flaws generally exist in betas. The full game released March 23rd, 2012 and not much has changed. If this review sounds redundant and very much like the preview it is for that reason.
“Your Majesty!” Players are greeted by the poor man’s Sean Connery. “Faux Connery” will act as a guide throughout the entire game. His presence is cute, but quickly becomes a nuisance. Luckily, players won’t miss anything by turning off the vocal portion of the sound completely off since there are title cards available for every spoken line. The story that players will embark isn’t anything special or new. Travel here, meet new people, get an ally, witness a talking bear and tree creatures. Faux Connery fills in the story within a paragraph; nothing so deep that it will require one to file an FTC complaint.
DoA is a tower defense game that also allows players to engage in offense and send units to destroy enemy castles. There are 24 types of towers and units that players unlock through the course of the game. There are three races, humans, natural beings and energies (i.e. bears), and otherworldly beings (i.e. vampires). During the single player mode players will only be able to play as a human.
Each level varies, both in size and how many enemies a player can face. Levels can be small and windy, or large and spread a player’s resources thin. When choosing a level from the map it will show how many players will be take part, from 2 to 4 on any given level. Once the story moves off the main island, map size and level layout become predictable. Often levels can become a bore as the player watches the same four towers and same three units moving towards an enemy tower in fast-forward.
Levels have limits to how many towers a player can construct and each unit has its own weakness against the towers. As the game progresses more towers will unlock; however, prices will go up. Resource tiles exist on the grid and if a player builds a tower on them, they will gain resources much faster – something that will help build those expensive fire throwing towers.
Resource tiles are set throughout each level. To gain control of that tile(s) players must simply build a tower on top of it. When money or magic is used, it auto-replenishes. By stock-piling all of the resource tiles, players will replenish resources much faster. In turn, players will be able to deploy units more often, repair or cast magic, like the Guardian spell, specific to protecting the player’s castle.
These resources aren’t just limited to the towers; they can help with unit upgrades. Upgrades can be made to every unit, which will lower their vulnerability to enemy attacks. Units include standard foot soldiers, tanks, dwarves, or flying things that directly target enemy towers. Units can become quite expensive, so when the upgrade for lowering the price per unit becomes available make sure to purchase it.
The real-time strategy elements to add a little spice to the basics of a tower defense game. Normally with the tower defense genre once a player sets up their towers it’s a waiting game until the waves of units run out. With DoA, there isn’t much real strategy needed – mark a destination and then spam the hell out of the enemy. This method can shorten a match. However, further into the game, players may find themselves in a stalemate with the enemy. Stalemates can happen because there is not automation for the units, So, if a player focus drifts away from deploying units, enemies will have time to repair and continually deploy their own units. While it adds something new to the game, it can also be a player’s worst enemy.
All of the hard work put into the single player campaign should reflect in the multiplayer matches. Most Wanted Entertainment pushed the focus of the game to be on the multiplayer aspect. Unfortunately, I say “should” because multiplayer is currently broken (and has been since release) and does not work. I have not been able to join on any multiplayer match, even with trying some of the port-forwarding suggestions from the DoA forums. Many others are facing this problem and who knows when it will be fixed. Until then, DoA should be considered a single player game that doesn’t offer much to fulfill any desire for a tower defense game with multiple replay value.
Out Of 5
Defenders of Ardania
Each tower and map has unique elements to them, but they tend to get lost. The more towers and units on the level, the more of a mess it can become. Loading screens used to portray fancy artwork and now look like they have been replaced by the low-res version.
The score of DoA is wonderful, not overly repetitious, and plays nicely in the background in-game or while sitting on the opening menu. Each creature and towers have their own noises and/or voices. In the midst of battle it can sound like a garbage disposal, but the effort to individualize is there. The voice acting was cheesy and not the good kind, Mr. Faux Connery.
Controls will take some getting used to even though it’s a lot of click here, click there. Changing the key bindings from the default never worked for me. Hell, whatever happened to less is more? Controls are bound all over the keyboard and even include clicking the mouse wheel button. You can also use a gamepad.
A tower defense game that combines RTS elements is a great idea. However, there’s just a lot of work to be done. The menus are better than they were in the beta; there’s a real difference between which menu you’re opening. But it would be nice if you could access the information given by faux Connery from there. You receive tutorials while in the middle of battle and can often miss what you were told. That can be absolutely annoying when it’s required that you complete that missed tutorial objective in order to finish the level. DoA has a lot of potential, but it’s not ready for consumption.
After a chuckle at faux Connery and some of the ridiculous things you encounter in the game, the repetition takes hold. After awhile I found myself trying to plow through the game without any enjoyment. I think the addition of multiplayer could fix some of this, but for now there's no way to know.