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tower defense

Uber photo
Uber

Uber is trying its hand at tower defense with Toy Rush


Look for it at the PAX Prime Indie Megabooth
Aug 15
// Jordan Devore
The next game from the makers of Monday Night Combat and the upcoming Planetary Annihilation is going in an altogether different direction. Toy Rush is a card-centric tower defense title built for mobile devices. If, like me...
PixelJunk photo
PixelJunk

PixelJunk Monsters headed to Steam with online co-op


Yet another re-release, but ... co-op!
Aug 02
// Jordan Devore
Even though I'd rather get my hands on PixelJunk Inc. than double dip on yet another Q-Games title, PixelJunk Monsters Ultimate is tempting. It's coming to Steam on August 26, 2013 with local and online cooperative play, game...
PixelJunk photo
PixelJunk

PS Vita gets PixelJunk Monsters: Ultimate HD on July 30


Release info locked down for revised Monsters
Jul 17
// Jordan Devore
Double Eleven is giving PixelJunk Monsters a fresh coat of paint for PlayStation Vita later this month. PixelJunk Monsters: Ultimate HD will launch on July 30 and July 31 for North American and European PlayStation Network us...
Steam Workshop photo
Steam Workshop

Orcs Must Die! 2 adds Steam Workshop support


Mods for traps, weapons, and more
Jul 12
// Jordan Devore
While I didn't stick around with Orcs Must Die! 2 like I did with its predecessor, it still provided some decent action/tower defense gameplay. In a move that will hopefully breathe new life into the title on PC, developer Ro...
PixelJunk photo
PixelJunk

PixelJunk Monsters: Ultimate HD announced for Vita


Well, that's my day made
Jun 25
// Jordan Devore
This is the exact news I was hoping I'd get to cover following word of Q Games' collaboration with Double Eleven. The latter studio is indeed porting a beloved PixelJunk title to PlayStation Vita. PixelJunk Monsters: Ult...

Review: Go Home Dinosaurs!

Jun 08 // Casey Baker
Go Home Dinosaurs! (iOS [reviewed], PC)Developer: Firehose GamesPublisher: Firehose GamesReleased: May 9, 2013 (iOS) / March 14, 2013 (PC)MSRP: $4.99 (iOS) / $9.99 (PC) In Go Home Dinosaurs! you are an adorable little gopher tasked with protecting your barbecue from those dastardly prehistoric monsters of the game's namesake. Each level can earn you up to three steaks from your barbecue, and each hit you take from the incoming dinosaurs causes you to lose a steak through the dynamite rigged next to it as a last stand against the opposing forces. In many cases and especially in the later levels, the player will find great challenge in figuring out exactly how to preserve every one of those three delicious steaks. Why a gopher is cooking steak for his family or why he even coexists with dinosaurs is questionable, but irrelevant for the sake of the incredibly fun gameplay. The game has tons of humor and charm to spare, as each unit you place on the battlefield to help protect your barbecue spouts lines paraphrased from cult classic and popular movies  such as Full Metal Jacket, The Warriors, Aliens and even a few references to other videogames (some groan-inducing, such as the 'arrow to the knee' riff from the gopher in the game's store). At times, the game threatens to be cloying because of the constant repetition of these lines by your gopher squadrons, but thanks to the constant progression and inclusion of new units, you're mostly treated to more fun references as you get further along. The gameplay itself is incredibly fast-paced for a tower defense title. The little gopher you control can actually defend against dinosaurs by throwing rocks when you move him close, but you'll be spending most of your time with him (her?) collecting coconuts from trees in much the same way that you collect sunflowers in Plants vs. Zombies. The dinosaurs move along a pre-determined path, and it's your job to set up defenses along this path to properly eradicate the giant lizard menace. The dinosaurs themselves are cute and dopey, they come in a wide variety of Stegosauruses, T-Rexes, Pterodactyls, and others with varying attack patterns and speeds, and they can be absolutely relentless in their single-minded determination at times. The defense units you receive also vary widely and take up a certain amount of space and a type of shape on the battlefield, so it's necessary to plan carefully before each round to make sure you get the right kind of defense units that will actually provide useful against the dino onslaught. For example, in one of the later stages, I found a great strategy against the dinosaurs by setting up a couple of 'snow-thrower' gopher units that damage and slow down incoming forces and come in the most aggravating tetromino (zigzag) size for the battlefield, as well as a couple of 'boombox' gopers that slowly deplete enemy health within a certain area. With little room to spare, I chose to use my favorite instant power-up, a robotic gopher team that pops up wherever needed to attack enemies and collect coconuts for a limited time. Truth be told, for a good number of the levels I relied on this team for that extra little push, especially during moments in most levels when the dinosaurs rush the BBQ in great numbers. In a way, the instant power-ups you earn primarily through collecting coins at the end of most levels feel a little like cheating, as they don't require too much strategy beyond when to use them. In this sense, the game might seem to appeal more to a younger audience who may need the extra help. Don't be fooled however, as there are certain levels in the late game where surviving with all three steaks truly relies on timing your use of the power-ups in conjunction with the defense units and which ones you decide to use. Go Home Dinosaurs! will last you at least eight to ten hours if you're a skilled player, and certainly more if you're a younger or less familiar gamer. With its 4.99 asking price for a total of 60 levels, the game certainly gives you enough bang for its buck, and with adorable characters and often smile-inducing one liners, you'll be returning to it often for a tower defense experience that starts out casually and then truly challenges your brain and reflexes.
Go Home Dinosaurs! photo
You're drunk at our BBQ...
Go Home Dinosaurs! is a game that will draw immediate comparisons to Plants vs. Zombies. From its cutesy art style, to its carefully constructed tower defense-based gameplay, much of this iPad experience will recall hours pla...

Review: CastleStorm

Jun 07 // Ian Bonds
CastleStorm (Xbox Live Arcade)Developer: Zen StudiosPublisher: Zen StudiosReleased: May 29, 2013MSRP: 800 Microsoft Points CastleStorm, simply put, is a physics-based tower defense game. Think Angry Birds meets Plants vs. Zombies and you'll have a pretty good idea of what's in store when you boot it up. You spend the majority of the game manning a ballista that can fire different artillery at foes including a standard javelin, three spears at once, shots that explode with a button press after firing, Thor's hammer Mjolnir, and so on as the enemy sends troops and their own return fire in an attempt to bring down your walls. Targeting is fairly easy, though often touchy when battles become more heated. There's a certain level of precision needed, as the game encourages javelin headshots against enemy troops -- these reward you with additional money you can use to upgrade your stronghold, troops, and weaponry, while also being efficient. Speaking of troops, your comrades in arms help a great deal in battle. Levels often have multiple objectives, which allow for more than one way to conquer your foes, and your troops often play a role in these differing goals. If hurling giant heavy things at the front door isn't enough to bring down their stronghold, you can send troops in to capture their flag or to draw the enemies' fire or summon creatures such as hawks, dire wolves, brutish trolls, and more while you bring the house down around your enemies' ears. [embed]254343:49013:0[/embed] There are also spells that can protect troops, attack with powerful magic, and even allow you to briefly play as your team's champion, dealing out damage in a more up-close and personal manner. Your champion runs on a timer, so while getting in those close, quick kills it is important to make every attack count before they're returned to the castle. While controlling the champion, it's important to note that no one will be manning the ballista when you're out hacking and slashing your way through the ranks, nor can the champion capture a flag, so they're only there to even the score, not turn the tide. As with your troops and artillery, your spells and champion summon are mapped to a face button on the controller, and you can quickly and easily scroll through your different attack options with the bumper buttons while the battle rages on. While CastleStorm may not be your standard tower defense fare -- you don't really have to mine for materials with which to fight like in many strategy and defense titles -- there's still some management needed, and that comes in the upkeep of your...keep. Customizing your castle with the proper food stores and barracks helps keep your troops in fighting condition and helps to replenish your fallen heroes on the field. You're only allowed five troop types, so selecting which barracks will house what troops is key. Outfitting your castle is almost a game by itself, as the proper placement of the training grounds, barracks, and such is just another one of the many strategies you'll utilize in gameplay. The game itself has a playful, goofy look, and it's clear it doesn't take itself very seriously. Corny jokes pepper the storyline and visuals, from Gareth, the pompous Champion of the Kingdom, to the fat friar, to the king's right-hand toadie and all-around shady character Rufus, to sheep that chew the ballista's firing mechanism, troops that ride donkeys, and more. And while the bright, vibrant colors and lush background of the various battlefields add a nice variety to the visuals, the castle editor is another matter entirely. Rooms appear small, and often unrecognizable from each other, which makes customization take a bit longer as you click on every room that was preset to determine what's what. The sound in the game is minimal, with battle noise clanging, crashing, and crunching appropriately. There's not a lot of voice acting per se -- much of the story is driven along via scrolling text -- but the few voices present add a certain amount of character to the action and the people you interact with. Again, there's humor throughout and the minimal voice work punctuates the gags of the text and visuals. There's a few multiplayer options here too. Your standard split screen one-on-one battles offer some fun for two players, but there's also survival mode, where friends team up against other players or AI. The Last Stand Co-op is great fun too, where players control the heroes rather than man the ballista. The real meat and potatoes, however, is the campaign, which is where you'll end up getting all the good weapons and rooms for your castle to use in multiplayer anyway. If the tower defense game is your thing, CastleStorm certainly offers a serviceable option to the already busy genre. Between managing your troops, attacking with the ballista, and choosing when to cast spells or send in your champion, there's a lot of challenge present. And while there may be times when it can get repetitive -- honestly, what tower defense game doesn't? -- it's certainly worth a try, even if it won't set the world on fire. Just the enemy's castle.
CastleStorm review photo
Knights vs. Vikings, pre-ESPN
Hey kids! Do you like smashing stuff in Angry Birds, but wish it was just a bit more...medieval? How about a bit of troop management? Spells? Swords? Sheep? Less birds, more beards? All this and more await you in CastleStorm!

Review: Sanctum 2

May 21 // Patrick Hancock
Sanctum 2 (PC [reviewed], Xbox Live Arcade)Developer: Coffee Stain StudiosPublisher: Coffee Stain StudiosRelease Date: May 15, 2013MSRP:  $14.99 (PC) / 1200 Microsoft Points (XBLA) Sanctum 2 introduces an actual plot, if you can even call it that. Told through comic book-esque loading screens, the story revolves around the four main characters and an alien outbreak. Each plot segment basically consists of the characters going somewhere new and reacting to their surroundings or some event. It isn't in any way interesting, but it also isn't obscenely bad. It just is. The story does, however, end in a cliffhanger, likely to be resolved with DLC. At the very least, the art of the story bits is very nice to look at. Sanctum 2 blends both tower defense and first-person shooting, though the emphasis tends to lean towards the latter element. Gameplay takes place in waves, with the amount of waves depending on the specific map. The objective of each map is to protect the Core from aliens by killing them before they get there. Each wave will spawn a specific amount of aliens, the exact type and number being transparently displayed to the player beforehand. The shooting feels pretty much exactly like you would expect. "Aiming down the sights" has sort of been introduced, although it isn't very useful in most situations. Unlimited sprinting is also present, making Sanctum 2 feel a lot more like traditional FPS games than its predecessor. This isn't a bad thing, of course, since better aim control and faster movement are always welcome. Enemies have glowing red weak spots that take extra damage, whether it is their unarmored butthole or their head which curiously resembles a pair of testicles. There are four characters to choose from, each unique in their movement and weapons. They all feel different, and chances are that each player will find a character that suits their playstyle best. Call of Duty-style perks and a secondary weapon are customizable to ensure that characters can be further customized to your liking. The amount of perks that can be enabled at once as well as the perks themselves are unlocked with leveling, so higher-level players will be better at killing aliens. [embed]253972:48727:0[/embed] Tower resources drop in between waves and come in two forms: tower bases and actual towers. Tower bases are used to create a maze, forcing the aliens to walk much further in order to get to the Core. They are also necessary to host the towers themselves; a tower can only be placed on top of a tower base. Resources drop for each player in multiplayer, though if someone so chooses, they may steal other players' resources if they get there first. The resources always drop onto the map at the Core, usually forcing players to run back and pick them up. In multiplayer this has some extra significance -- if one player wants to pick up another players' resources (after asking, hopefully), they can increase the amount of towers they can build. In single-player, however, running back to the Core in between rounds becomes the definition of tedium. Occasionally, the tower-building phase of a round will be timed. While it may seem like this serves no purpose other than to frustrate, it does add a good amount of tension to an otherwise lengthy portion of the round. Instead of contemplating which maze layout is the absolute best for a round, the game challenges players to think on their feet, especially when it is required to run back to the Core to pick up the resources. These timed tower-building phases never seem to come before an incredibly difficult wave, so they serve as a good way to mix things up a bit for the player(s). Also mixing things up are the bosses, which generally rear their ugly heads during the last wave of most maps. These bosses usually have unique traits, like the ability to destroy towers and tower bases, forcing players to rethink their strategy. While the bosses feel appropriately challenging, losing on the last round sometimes feels inevitable depending on which towers players initially brought into the mission, since there's no way to tell what type of enemies or bosses will show up as the mission progresses. While there's a wide variety of towers to choose from, each player may only take a certain amount into a map at a time. The exact number increases upon leveling up, again making higher-level players immediately better than lower-level players. It is a cooperative game so it isn't a huge issue, but if a higher-level player plays with someone who is new, chances are that the higher-level player is going to be putting down most of the towers simply because they have access to more of them. Towers can be upgraded using resources up to level three, however the amount of resources needed to upgrade a tower is not displayed. This is incredibly frustrating and boils down to trial and error: dump resources into a tower, see if it upgrades, then decide if it is worth it to keep the tower as is. Displaying the number would immediately alleviate this issue and is a very odd omission. It is also oddly difficult to see the range of an individual tower. The only way to view a tower's radius is to look directly at it, at which point the radius is highlighted around the tower. However, since the player must be staring directly at the tower, it becomes difficult to see how far the radius goes for some of the longer-range towers.  Each player's health is hidden, but only to themselves; in multiplayer, looking at a fellow player will plainly display their health in numbers. Health does regenerate and turns the player's vision more grayscale as it decreases, but the overall lack of hard information displayed to the player in Sanctum 2 is almost insulting. Missions have way more replayability in Sanctum 2 thanks to the Feats of Strength mechanic. Players are allowed to include up to five Feats of Strength in any mission, each one increasing the difficulty and experience earned. These Feats include things like increasing enemies' HP, speed, and giving them regenerative health. This allows players to customize the difficulty to their own level, while simultaneously reaping more rewards for more risk. There's also an included "Easy Mode," which reduces the overall difficulty of the map. Each map can also be played in survival mode, which tasks players with surviving for as long as they can against an endless amount of waves. As mentioned before, every player in multiplayer gets their own drop of resources in between rounds. Other players can grab them if they get there first, so beware of jerk players who do so without asking. Others' resources are not displayed, making it a huge hassle to coordinate planting towers or tower bases. Voice communication on the PC version is also borderline useless since the volume is so low and cannot be raised; be prepared to text chat if you want to get anything done. The PC version as a whole seems like an afterthought of the Xbox version. There is no server browser, the leaderboards say "Gamertag" instead of "Steam ID," and player number is indicated by the Xbox controller ring lights. The game performs fine and has a healthy amount of options, but the edges are a bit rough on this PC port. Sanctum does look impressive, visually. The white laboratory theme from the first Sanctum is only a small portion of the sequel, with outside environments making up most of the campaign levels. Many of the enemies are carried over from the first game and look pretty much the same. The sound design is excellent, with great weapon sounds and music that sets the science-fiction atmosphere incredibly well. As a whole, Sanctum 2 feels confused. It isn't quite as much tower defense as fans of the first game would probably hope for, since more of the emphasis this time around is placed on the first-person shooting element. It also hides way too much information from the player, leading to a lot of guess-and-check strategies. The game remains a refreshing hybrid of genres, however, and many of the frustrations temporarily wash away as you lay witness to the last enemy in the last wave die, proving that your strategic planning and accurate shooting have paid off. 
Sanctum 2 review photo
A hybrid with good mileage
I think the first Sanctum game surprised a lot of people. It took the intellectual strategy aspect of tower defense games and combined it with the more action-oriented first-person shooter genre to create a unique, wonderful ...

Review: Anomaly 2

May 15 // Allistair Pinsof
Anomaly 2 (Linux, Mac, PC [reviewed])Developer: 11 bit StudiosPublisher: 11 bit StudiosReleased: May 15, 2013MSRP: $14.99 I either love or hate tower defense games with very little room between the two extremes. The dividing factor is basically "action" or the lack thereof. Waiting for impending doom is boring, but I won’t notice if you give me sun drops or coins to collect. Anomaly is all about action, which is what made the original stand out. As the name suggests, it’s a strange amalgamation of genres and design that is hard to qualify.The fourteen levels of Anomaly 2 take place from within two viewpoints. Off the field, the game most closely resembles tower-defense as you plan actions on a map that displays enemy towers that will meet your troops. Since you are the creeps, not the towers, you can choose different routes and even loop back to the beginning (though there isn’t often a good reason to do this). You also buy a variety of vehicles that offer defense, support, offense, or produce buffs, like slowing enemies down or temporarily cloaking the squad.[embed]253711:48673:0[/embed] On the field, Anomaly plays more like an action game as you frantically acquire and apply support to your squad via area-of-effect abilities. Directing an EMP blast that temporarily disables a heavy damage tower is as essential to success as a well rounded squad. Anomaly 2 refines abilities, getting rid of the lackluster mist and bomb drop and adding in an EMP blast and power-up that concentrates fire on a single unit. The mix of slow paced strategic planning and fast-paced, click-happy action gives Anomaly a unique and engaging ebb-and-flow.Subtle refinements to user interface and unit design make Anomaly 2 a better game, but it’s the addition of alternate roles for units and the vastly improved graphics that make this sequel a noticeable step-up. Each unit in Anomaly 2 has an alternate form which is accessed with a double click. Most of these forms are similar to each other, such as the gatling gun assault unit morphing into a walking mech with flamethrowers. I never used the Hell Hound mech outside the tutorials, but I found myself constantly switching the forms of my missile unit -- one offers a deadly direct shot while the other has a wider range but weaker attack. Doubling units’ abilities adds a greater variety of tactical loadouts and makes the action a bit more frantic as constantly switching between forms becomes standard procedure.I played the first Anomaly on my Nexus 7, so I had a hard time adapting to the control of a commander unit present in Anomaly 2 (on PC). Using touch controls to trigger abilities feels intuitive, so it was a jarring experience to find myself using a mouse to direct an on-field commander who acted as the trigger and spawn point of abilities, instead of my finger tips. This may be old hat for those who played Anomaly on PC or console, but it bugged me, nonetheless. I often lost my commander’s position when combat got heated, got stuck on geometry, and wrestled with the camera until things clicked several missions in. If you have the patience, I’d recommend waiting for Anomaly 2 on tablet. Doing so, however, may detract from the great visuals. The scope and scale of Anomaly 2 is much greater than its predecessor, as it features cutscenes, narrative-driven missions, and detailed landscapes. Each of the game’s 14 missions introduces a new mechanic, squad unit, and/or enemy tower. Some of the missions, such as one where you need to defend a base located in the center of a map, aren’t much fun but at least all of them have their own unique look and objective. From Rio to Antarctica, the game looks fantastic even if the levels are all propping up a painfully written and acted story. Thankfully, the cutscenes and dialogues exchanges are brief but not brief enough for a title destined for mobile. While the greater scale makes for a more exciting visual experience, the increased size of the maps also highlights problems from the first Anomaly. Halfway through the game, I started to feel fatigued as I settled into using the same strategies. I also found myself -- as I so often did in the first -- putting myself into a corner by draining my abilities or health right before a checkpoint, forcing me to restart from the beginning. All of this makes me wish the game's levels were divided into smaller pieces. While the framework of Anomaly makes for some fun strategy, it also paves the way for some frustrating issues. Multiplayer is an interesting but overall lackluster addition to the series. With a scant five maps (four of which need to be unlocked through play), it doesn’t seem the developer is considering it more than an experiment. I have a hard time gauging the success of this experiment, however, since my time with it found me in a couple amateur matches. One player sets up towers (the game literally becomes tower defense), while the other directs a squad (identical to singleplayer). Finding the right build flow for the tower defense side is essential, as the offending squad can quickly decimate the buildings. At the same time, the tower defense side can build massive forces (through towers that acquire more building resources) that can be near impossible to combat if not wiped out first. Whether seasoned players will eventually discover a balance to multiplayer is an issue to be addressed after release, but I can say that, as an amateur, it’s not very fun or rewarding.Anomaly 2 builds upon the original in every way, leaving me to wonder if this is as good as the concept of a deconstructed tower defense game can get. Anomaly 2 is an immediate and exciting strategy game unlike any other, but over time the repetition and lack of depth leaves something to be desired. It’s a welcome distraction on a phone or tablet, but the limits of the game are quickly noticed when played in long bursts on PC. For fans of the first that looked past these shortcomings, Anomaly 2 is a bigger, smarter, and better looking game.
Anomaly 2 Review photo
Earth Offense Force
Don’t let the screenshots fool you: This isn’t the game you think it is. The first Anomaly was an unexpected sleeper hit that found a successful formula on flipping tower defense on its head by putting the playe...

Plants vs. Zombies 2 gets July release and new subtitle

May 06 // Allistair Pinsof
[embed]253193:48546:0[/embed]
PopCap photo
Don't most decent videogames have a sequel out by now?
PopCap beat us to the punch by relabeling its game Plants Vs. Zombies 2: It's About Time within a new teaser trailer that also reveals the game's July release. This trailer was announced on the official Plants vs. Zombies Fa...

Anomaly 2 photo
Anomaly 2

Pre-order Anomaly 2 and get an extra copy for free


That you can then gift to a friend
Apr 30
// Hamza CTZ Aziz
Anomaly 2 is coming out on May 15 for the PC, mac, and Linux, and pre-orders have now opened up where you can get 10% off of the $14.99 retail price. Not only do you get a small discount, but you'll also be given an extra co...
Defense Grid 2 photo
Defense Grid 2

Defense Grid 2 lives on despite Kickstarter falling short


Kickstarted sequel will be on Windows, Mac, and Linux in 2014
Apr 25
// Alasdair Duncan
The Kickstarter campaign for Defense Grid 2 was an odd one; instead of pitching purely to make a full game, there were rewards to expand the original Defense Grid at various tiers. So although the team only received enough ba...
Defense Grid: Containment photo
Defense Grid: Containment

Impressions: Defense Grid: Containment


Tower defense on steroids
Apr 22
// Joshua Derocher
Defense Grid: Containment came about from a Kickstarter campaign intended to raise enough money to create Defense Grid 2. Sadly, Hidden Path Entertainment didn't get the funding needed to create a full sequel to this amazing ...

Review: Dillon's Rolling Western: The Last Ranger

Apr 19 // Jonathan Holmes
Dillon's Rolling Western: The Last Ranger (3DS eShop)Developer: VanpoolPublisher: NintendoReleased: April 11, 2013MSRP: $10.99 The Last Ranger is largely about speed. You can walk if you want, but it's rarely a good idea. You're better off rolling around at top speed at all times, collecting all the resources you can before the sun goes down, and protecting your property from little rock guys at night before they wreck all your stuff. Balancing your attention between the macro game (awareness of the passage of time and the location of items/enemies/allies in a larger area) and the micro game (navigating through the immediate space as quickly and efficiently as possible) is the key concept here. That balance creates a pretty interesting internal conflict for the player between focusing on the here-and-now while also planning ahead. The better you can do both of those things simultaneously, the more likely you are to survive.  It's an interesting idea delivered with a lot of confidence. The graphics look impressive for an $11 eShop title, the art direction is both moody and inviting, and the music is the right mix between non-intrusive and catchy. This cute-but-serious old west cartoon world does well to provide a surface level expression of the game's underlying themes of enjoying the moment while being driven by the dread and desperation of a wild world where safety is never constant. It's the best Rango game never made. [embed]251529:48225:0[/embed] Just like in the first game, there are cool power-ups to discover or purchase for Dillon, and strategically placed combat towers strewn about the field of combat. The Last Ranger also gives you the option to team up with mysterious rangers. The ranger dynamic brings more to the table than just an A.I. co-op partner. It also provides a few surprises, new gameplay elements (which I don't want to spoil for you), some additional story, and sense of cutthroat culture to this world of adorable talking animals. Also new to the sequel is the train system, where you're tasked to stop protecting stationary villages for a while and instead guard a rolling steam train. Giving you a moving target adds to the tension a bit, but it doesn't feel substantially different.  Problems also pop up with the interface. The controls are initially counter intuitive, as the combat overworld setups are totally different. This doesn't make a ton of sense, as on both the overworld and in battle you're still doing the same roll move using the touch screen. You just have to control the direction of that move in a totally different way. The game doesn't explain this to you either, which led me to play the game wrong for the first ten minutes or so.  Once you get the hang of them, the controls lend themselves pretty well to the design. Using the touch screen, circle pad, and L trigger (which can be flipped for lefties) gives you everything you need. Though streamlined, you can still pull off cool combos in combat and feel a sense of variety in traversing the environment. It works great when the fixed camera in the combat screen doesn't hide enemies from you, which is fairly often.  Then there is the tedium. There are a few enemy types, but you'll spend far too much time taking on the variations of the same relatively defenseless rock guys over and over again. The same is true of the game's levels. Every field lends itself to it's own unique strategies and cosmetic differences, but the feeling of sameness sets in fairly quickly regardless. That's exacerbated by the punishing replay system. When you screw up really bad (which will likely happen a fair amount as the game is designed around tempting you to goof off), you may have to replay ten or more minutes of content in order to rectify your mistakes. While it's fun to see yourself improve in the process of turning past failures into total victories, it's not always satisfying enough to fend back the feeling of being re-fed some food you've already chewed and swallowed. Like a lot of country music, The Last Ranger suffers from being repetitive and overly simplistic at times. Thankfully, it's very well performed, infectious, and packed with plenty of personality. If you play in occasional 20-30 minutes burst, you may never grow tired of this composition, but if you try to marathon through this album of outlaw armadillo hits, you'll be tempted to put the thing down for good.
Dillon's Rolling Western photo
Going, going, Goron
Dillon's Rolling Western and it's sequel, The Last Ranger, feel like cut bonus content from The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask. Dillon, the series' titular protagonist, has nearly identical moves as Goron Link. The game's thr...

Steam sale photo
Steam sale

Steam has the Orcs Must Die! series for 75% off


Both games and their DLC for under $10
Apr 03
// Jordan Devore
Robot Entertainment is running a worthwhile Steam sale on Orcs Must Die! ($2.49) and its follow-up ($3.74) over the next day that marks the third-person action/tower defense games 75 percent off. Rela...
Dungeon Defenders II photo
Dungeon Defenders II

PAX: Dungeon Defenders II co-op mode revealed


Sequel stays true to its roots with four-player co-op
Mar 23
// Alasdair Duncan
We learned a few days ago Dungeon Defenders II would have a new competitive MOBA mode but today we had the reveal trailer for the traditional four-player co-op that hooked me and friends so well. It looks like we'll be playi...
Sanctum 2 photo
No Mac version planned
When the original Sanctum came out, it took the indie world by storm. As a first person tower defense game in 2011 (that kicked ass by the way), it was pretty unique. Coffee Stain Studios looks to repeat that success wit...

Preview: Anomaly 2

Mar 20 // Sterling Aiayla Lyons
The preview build that I got to look at featured the first handful of levels in the game, including three tutorial levels, the first three missions, and a prologue level. The absolute first thing that popped out at me was the production level that Anomaly 2 has over its predecessor. The menu feels slicker, the pre-mission dialogue is fully voiced, and even the in-game cutscenes are choreographed with a lot more flair. The prologue level opens up shortly after a helicopter crash, following the small surviving team as they try to recover data to a weapon that can help humanity reclaim Earth from the alien invaders that have conquered it after the events of the previous game. The level opens with a monologue setting the scene of the world's state. There also feels like there's more dialogue between units when the squad leader, controlled by the player, manages to link up with the other survivors of the crash. This opening level also introduced me to the big new mechanic that Anomaly 2 has. The units can now transform into a mech form on command, offering a greater emphasis on strategy and real-time reaction. The prologue introduces the first new unit, the Assault Hound, which has a Gatling Gun that fires faster the longer it keeps attacking. When the squad encounters aliens held up on both sides of a narrow canyon, this unit turns into a flamethrower-wielding Hell Hound. While the concept of a rate of fire that increases over time is retained, this form is more capable of attacking on both sides of itself at the expense of range. The three tutorial missions reintroduce the two staple gameplay mechanics from the previous game. At any time, the player can hit a button, or scroll back on a mouse scroll wheel, to zoom out to a tactical view to alter the planned route through a level. This functions pretty much identically to how it did before, right down to the interface. The other returning mechanic is the ability to arrange the layout of your squad, which once again functions almost identically. There are small changes, primarily with the squad interface, to allow you to transform units from the menu as well as selling, buying, and upgrading them. Upgrading a unit will enhance both forms of it, so there's no need to worry about paying twice per unit for a single level of upgrade. The presentation of the tutorials are really phenomenal as well. They take place in a virtual reality simulator in a truck of a moving convoy, as they head on a mission to infiltrate New York City and rescue a trapped scientist. Because of the hostile nature of the world, there are a lot of scenes during the tutorial where the simulator almost gets destroyed when the convoy is assaulted. The "graphics" glitch out, with sound and communication stuttering during these moments, and it helps add weight to the sequence. After the third tutorial, you're given free reign outside of the simulator as you push towards the building the scientist is trapped in. A hint of this can be seen in the prologue mission, but the alien dominance is really shown in the level design. Though the recognizable buildings of a city like New York are shown, they're all run down, and dilapidated, covered in the snows of what looks like a perpetual winter. All across the levels are alien structures, much resembling metallic roots, or tendrils, sticking out of the ground, and pulsating as if collecting energy or something else. The world feels more than just war-torn. It really feels beaten, and the units of your squad absolutely feel like they're the last ones fighting in the world. Of course, presentation is one thing, gameplay is another, and the gameplay here feels just as solid as in the previous games. Strategically planning a good route, managing skilled use of commander abilities, and squad arrangement are all still very important to victory as well as earning a good score. Since there are more real-time elements available, players can indulge in a faster-paced game if they feel like it. If not, any of the real-time elements can also be accessed through some way that also pauses the game, and allows time to think about the strategy. The levels also feel more dynamic than I remember from the first Anomaly. New aliens burst forth from the ground in the middle of missions and at times, force a last moment re-planning of my route through a level, or other times, require me to transform my units suddenly. I'm sure that most of this is scripted for when your units pass certain points in the level, but the effect is still cool. It's hard to say how "deep" this aspect will be in the full game, however. From the mission selection map, it looks like the game may encompass a global scale. At the very least, it seems as if the game will span across the continental United States, and possibly some areas to the south. Hopefully, this remains true, and the single-player manages to have a nice chunk of content and a lot of levels to go through. If all else fails, the multiple difficulty levels will add replay value, especially with the scoring system. Anomaly 2 is slated for release sometime later this year, and it's a game I recommend you keep an eye out for.
Anamoly 2 preview photo
Anomalize harder!
Anomaly: Warzone Earth had one of those experimental ideas -- controlling the troops that rush past towers rather than the defensive structures themselves -- that turned out to be really cool in practice. I don't know for cer...

Dungeon Defenders photo
Dungeon Defenders

Dungeon Defenders II announced with MOBA mode


Playable at PAX East booth #968
Mar 19
// Jordan Devore
Ahead of PAX East, Trendy Entertainment has announced Dungeon Defenders II for Windows, Mac, iOS, Android, and web browsers. After a bunch of ports and even more DLC, it was only a matter of time before a follow-up happened....
Sanctum 2 trailer photo
Sanctum 2 trailer

Sanctum 2 trailer has a whistling alien


First-person tower defense
Mar 15
// Joshua Derocher
While this trailer doesn't really show a whole lot of what's coming in Sanctum 2, the game sounds like it's going to be a lot of fun. Keeping in line with its predecessor, it's a first-person shooter/tower defense hybrid wit...
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Monday Mind Teasers: Kingdom Rush


Aaaaand, there goes eight hours of your life. Sorry about that.
Mar 04
// Tom Fronczak
You poor, poor gamer soul. It's getting late and you were just about to sign off and go to bed. Then you checked the new Monday Mind Teaser. You fool. It's no secret that this is one of the most addicting flash games ever mad...
Plants vs. Zombies photo
Plants vs. Zombies

PSA: Plants vs. Zombies free on iPhone and iPad right now


How do you not have this game yet?!
Feb 21
// Hamza CTZ Aziz
Plants vs. Zombies is free right now for the iPhone and iPad. You can get the game for free until February 28, so you better act quick if you somehow don't own this addictive as hell tower defense game yet. Seriously, what is wrong with you?! That's it for the news, so here's Laura Shigihara performing her Plants vs. Zombies theme because it's just the best.
Dillon's Rolling Sequel photo
Dillon's Rolling Sequel

Dillon's Rolling Western: The Last Ranger hits this April


Now with train!
Feb 14
// Patrick Hancock
Dillon's Rolling Western looked like a nice tower defense game, but the original game was bogged down by an incredible grind. A sequel, titled Dillon's Rolling Western: The Last Ranger, was announced at today's Nintendo ...

CastleStorm crosses tower defense with Angry Birds

Feb 05 // Abel Girmay
CastleStorm (Xbox Live Arcade, PlayStation Network, PC, Mobile)Developer: Zen StudiosPublisher: Zen Studios Release: March 2013 CastleStorm is an oddity that's not the easiest to explain. Each match is a battle with the same objective: destroy the other team's castle. The main method of destroying a castle is to hurl projectiles at it until the superstructure collapses. The projectiles themselves come in a variety of forms, including a single standard, one that breaks off into smaller pieces, a few bomb variants -- stop me if this is sounding familiar. While it is certainly Angry Birds inspired, CastleStorm is hardly a retread. Depending on the map you're playing, there are a variety of secondary objectives that can really put the screws to you, testing your ability to multitask. During my playthrough, my secondary objectives were to guard a convoy of peasants running from enemy forces, and capturing a center, neutral flag. It's here that CastleStorm shows its strategic sensibilities. Operating on a traditional resource system, you can spawn troops for a cost to fight battles. Since fights are on a 2D plane, there is little in the way of micromanaging units, resource gathering, and the like. Running the fantasy gamut of mage, archers and warriors, your troops are AI controlled, though you can use your projectiles meant for the enemy castle on enemy units, if you absolutely crave direct intervention. There is also no real resource gathering, as they will simply regenerate over time. So without a direct element of control in the minute of battle, CastleStorm seems simple enough right? Wrong. While no one given objective was in itself a challenge, it's when I had three -- even on normal difficulty -- that the real juggling act starts. Hurl a couple of bombs at the enemy castle, now spawn warriors to cap the flag, set the archers to take out enemy infantry, get mages on the field to assist the peasants; oops now I'm dead because the enemy took out my castle. It really takes a minute to settle into a good rhythm for each map. There's a good amount of planning that takes place outside of battle, mostly in the form of the castle editor. From here, you can create your own fortress, complete with barracks to spawn extra troops, labs for resources, and so one. Custom castles can be used online too. While I didn't get to see it in my demo, you can expect CastleStorm to ship with co-op, survival, and adversarial modes when it's released next month. Certainly an interesting approach to tower defense, and one worth watching out for.
CastleStorm photo
Storm the castle!
CastleStorm is definitely not a game that's easy to draw a frame of reference for. One part Jenga, and one part tower defense, this mash up certainly draws from opposite genres to get its own formula going. Once it's off though, its may surprise with just how tasking, and fun, it can be.

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Defense Grid's Kickstarter expansion revealed


Containment will add new maps and challenges
Jan 16
// Alasdair Duncan
Hidden Path Entertainment has revealed the new expansion for its popular Defence Grid: The Awakening, which was funded through a recent Kickstarter campaign. Arriving later this month, the expansion, titled Containment, will...

Review: Shad'O

Nov 03 // Alasdair Duncan
Shad'O (PC)Developer: Okugi StudioPublisher: Okugi StudioReleased: September 4, 2012MRSP: $9.99 In Shad'O, you control William, a young boy who is attempting to fend off the forces of forgetfulness and shadows to retrieve his memories before they're lost forever. Aided by his childhood teddy bear, William will travel to different locations of his dreams in an attempt to beat back an ever increasing fog that threatens to cut the link to his past. In each level, there is a memory that the shadows are trying to destroy and that's what he must protect with his army of patchwork tower companions. But as William salvages his memories, is he better to have left some things forgotten? Shad'O brings a few interesting dynamics to the tower defense genre, most notably the fog that envelopes most of the level. At the start of a level, most of the map will be swathed in fog and it's only by placing units that you can disperse some of the gloom. It's an interesting dynamic -- you'll be forced to place units not only for their offensive abilities but also so you can get a better idea of what type of enemies are incoming along the main paths. You can place units near some light beacons at the beginning of a level and from those points, you can expand your forces to reveal the rest of the map. Maintaining these units is vital as it's easy to get swamped with foes after losing advanced positions. [embed]235064:45641[/embed] However, at its core Shad'O really is fairly traditional tower defense -- enemies attack along a strict path (or paths) and the units you place are all fairly standard (e.g., the shooter, the laser, the area-of-attack, and so on). At the start of the game, you have the three basic offensive units and the primary energy retrieval unit; it's only after the first boss that you'll be given access to more units with further ones unlocked later on. Shad'O isn't great at giving feedback as to what towers are effective against certain enemies. With the necessity to reveal more of the enemy path, expanding quickly with lots of cheap units reaps as much reward as careful placement of more expensive and powerful ones. While units can be upgraded to more powerful and effective versions, you have to unlock the ability to do so after completing a level. You have the option of unlocking up to another two tiers of upgrades or choosing a variety of spells to gain access to instead. Upgrading a unit in battle is as easy and the fact that each upgrade only costs the same as the initial unit cost, it's an appealing route to take. However, many of the spells are invaluable to progression and can greatly swing the tide of a battle in your favor. Indeed, one particular spell that removes any stun effects on your units became the only way I was able to beat the first boss level. Having a single unlock after completing a level is a big gamble, but a poor choice will stay with you for the rest of the game. Once you complete a level, you're able to replay it in Nightmare Mode which ramps up the difficulty and rewards an extra unlock. These become vital -- stacking spells and upgrading units are a must as the game offers an increasingly steep challenge in later levels. Also available are bonus stages where there is a tweak on the gameplay formula; the reward here is a special permanent bonus or buff. Levels might have a random draw aspect to the units available or a particularly inventive scenario where you have a battlefield full of fully upgraded units but are only able to activate them one at a time. Shad'O never takes advantage of its dream setting to make some really interesting levels; despite some eye-catching backgrounds, the levels are always on a 2D plane and look fairly similar. Likewise, the unit and enemy design are fairly standard. The friendly units are like patchwork toys made up of mismatched felt, but there's some charm to see them fully upgraded with their out-of-place weaponry. The enemy units are blobs of inky shadow with little to tell them apart. When they're bunched up in a crowd, it can be hard to tell what specifically is incoming. The cutscenes are composed of still images with little animation but they convey William's sense of confusion and his gradual understanding of why his memories have been disappearing. Shado'O offers a solid tower defense experience, albeit one that doesn't take advantage of its unique setting and story. While mechanically sound, despite some frustrations when it comes to unit placement around the fog, it's nothing you probably haven't played before. Tower defense newcomers should head for Defense Grid: The Awakening, but if you're looking for a different style of game in the genre, Shad'O might give you some fun hours. 
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Maybe not the tower defense of your dreams
Tower Defense games are fairly common these days but despite the rigidity of their design, developers still manage to take the basic tenets of the genre and make some interesting titles. Sanctum, Anomaly: Warzone Earth, and P...

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Defender's Quest headed to Steam and other platforms soon


Another chance to dive into this rad tower defense
Oct 24
// Jordan Devore
Every so often, a tower defense title is able to pull me in, utterly disrupting my ability to function as a productive member of society. One of the more recent games to claim that victory was Defender's Quest, which not near...
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When I read that Ratchet & Clank would gain a traditional third-person entry later this year, I pooped the bed. I literally pooped the bed and you should never poop in the bed. But, after playing the game, I deeply regret...

Review: Tower Wars

Sep 10 // Caitlin Cooke
Tower Wars (PC)Developer: SuperVillain StudiosPublisher: SuperVillain StudiosReleased: August 14, 2012MSRP: $9.99 The basic premise of Tower Wars is simple: like most tower defense games, you protect your castle against an enemy army by placing different types of towers in their path. However, this is only half the battle -- the player is not only responsible for ensuring the safety of their castle, but in charge of launching attacks against the enemy’s castle as well. This isn’t your grandma’s “plant towers and wait” type of tower defense title; this is true war at hand and every second there’s something to be done. The objective is to maintain a balance between breaking down the enemy’s castle and protecting your own. This is done by buying and upgrading a variety of towers and units with gold and Battle Points, another type of currency. Gold is naturally accrued, however the main source of gold comes via the miners which players can buy within the mines scattered about the playing field. Battle Points can only be achieved by sending out troops toward the enemy. Units will gain BPs when they cross over enemy lines, and will accumulate a bit more depending on how long they stay alive. Towers and their upgrades can be purchased with gold, while your army units, miners, and their upgrades are purchased with a combination of gold and BP. There are three maps to choose from, each containing a field of hexagonal tiles where towers can be placed. A dotted line leads from the enemy's castle to yours, where their army marches to attack your castle. These paths can be altered depending upon where players choose to build towers. Ultimately, the idea is to prevent the enemy from walking straight into the castle gates by winding them through a path laden with a variety of towers. Eight types of towers grace the game -- some are your basic tower defense types (arrows, ballistics, shield diffusers) and others are a bit unique (a giant mallet, a wind tower, molten lava factory, etc). Along with most games in this genre, they can be upgraded or sold to efficiently attack enemy armies. Each player starts out with Mr. Moopsy, the basic grunt unit. After accruing more gold and BP, players can unlock and purchase a variety of different units including Baron von Pepto (healer), Madam Sudsie Lennor (shield boost), Stanley Clunkerbottom (big unit) and many more. Upgrades to the units can be purchased to buff health, armor, shields, speed, or to increase the accrual of Battle Points. The castle can also be buffed with additional armor or gunners, which comes in handy when the enemy army has moved past your towers and breached your gates. Tower Wars comes with a few modes -- a tutorial, Classic TD, and the main Tower Wars game. The tutorial is a cute and informative way to learn the features and even allows you to play against a computer until beaten. However, it seems to gloss over important details and could benefit to teach more about the specific mechanics of the game and how to use units and towers to the player’s advantage. Classic TD (Tower Defense) is exactly what the name implies: players survive for as long as possible building towers against an enemy army. The main game, Tower Wars, can be played in either ranked or unranked mode. In ranked mode, you can invite your friends to play 2v2 or 3v3 against other players, or have a 1v1 game with a matched player. In unranked, you can invite friends to play up to 3v3, though there is no match setup for this mode. One of the main issues of the game is a lack of story or single-player mode. After the tutorial, players have the option of either settling for Classic TD mode (which can get stale very quickly) or going straight into a ranked match if they don’t have other friends to play an unranked game with. Without even a practice mode, I found it hard to jump straight into ranked as most of the players were well versed already. Another issue I ran into was queue times -- for a 1v1 quick ranked play, it would sometimes take up to five minutes to find a match. Co-oping with a friend in either 2v2 or 3v3 would take upwards of 10-20 minutes, to the point where I was wondering if anyone was playing this mode at all. Tower Wars is unique in its own right. The graphics are polished and the overall mechanics are solid for an indie game. With a smart-looking steampunk theme, it strikes a balance with being not quite serious and not quite silly -- something in between that hits the right note. However, it seems as if there is some work to be done to make the game a complete, playable success. The learning curve is quite steep as there isn’t much help from the tutorial and there's really no way to practice or grow the skills necessary to beat players in ranked mode. Queue times are off the charts, and in the meantime, there's no Tower Wars single-player mode to play with. That being said, SuperVillain Studios is working hard to add functionality to the game. They’re frequently cruising the Steam forums, taking in feedback, and making small tweaks to satisfy players. This has given me some hope in terms of a more complete package; as it stands now, these issues are a bit cramping. Hardcore tower defense fans will certainly enjoy Tower Wars, as they will be the most likely to spend the time and energy required to research tower and army strategies. What this game offers currently is not going to be a blast for the majority of gamers, unless they happen to have a group of friends who already own the title. Tower Wars is completely functional and full of spirit; however, lack of a single-player mode and unruly queue times will likely leave many gamers unfulfilled.
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Tower defense games are somewhat an addiction of mine; instinctively strategic yet part determination and endurance, these titles have always delighted and frustrated the wits out of me. Lately, there’s been a surge ...







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