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tower defense

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 ...

Plants vs Zombies 2 photo
Plants vs Zombies 2

PopCap announces Plants vs. Zombies 2


Plants vs Zombies 2 release dated for Spring
Aug 20
// Conrad Zimmerman
Prepare to defend yourself from an all new zombie onslaught as PopCap Games has just announced a sequel to Plants vs. Zombies. Scheduled for release in Spring 2013, Plants vs. Zombies 2 will feature new scenarios to keep...

Review: Starhawk

Aug 10 // Darren Nakamura
Starhawk (PlayStation 3)Developer: Lightbox InteractivePublisher: Sony Computer Entertainment AmericaReleased: May 8, 2012MSRP: $59.99 From the outset, Starhawk lets the player know that it isn't going to be just like all the other science fiction-themed third-person shooters. Set in a galaxy where small human colonies were set up to harvest a powerful energy source called rift, Starhawk takes on a space western genre not unlike that seen in Firefly. Players control Emmet, a mercenary of sorts, who is hired to protect the rift-mining colonies from raids by the Outcasts, a group of former humans who have endured so much rift exposure that they've become mutated. The space western setting is exploited to its fullest, complete with hoverbikes in place of horses, barren desert planets, and even a space train robbery. The music is an especially nice touch, with sweeping woodwind melodies that accompany vehicular movement and combat, and more understated background music while traveling on foot. Vehicular combat is central to Starhawk, as it was in Warhawk. In addition to the aforementioned hoverbikes, there are also trucks (complete with a mounted machine gun, of course), tanks, and the eponymous Hawks. Hawks are like small fighter jets that can transform into bipedal mechs, which is every bit as cool as it sounds. There are a handful of missions that require the use of Hawks, but many are open ended, letting the player choose how to deal with the threat. The really surprising gameplay addition that helps to make Starhawk especially unique is the Build-and-Battle system. At the cost of some rift, Emmet can call his partner Cutter, who is constantly orbiting the current area, ready to drop supplies down for Emmet's use. It starts off fairly simple, with things like walls and turrets, which call to mind a very Iron Brigade feeling, but it expands from there to include customly placed bunkers, sniper towers, jetpacks, reinforcement areas, garages, and even Hawk landing pads. The substantial amount of freedom given is a huge plus; for instance, a player can be defensive with walls and turrets, or instead put up a landing pad in order to take control of a Hawk and go on the offensive. With the Build-and-Battle system, Starhawk does a decent job at keeping missions feeling fresh. There are frequently multiple possible solutions to a particular problem, though on some levels your capability is limited in order to encourage variety. As one who never became entirely comfortable flying a Hawk, I can appreciate the levels that require it, but I can appreciate even more the levels that allow it as an option alongside other equally viable and completely different paths to victory. While the gameplay and setting are interesting, the story itself falls a little flat. A lot of it is told via graphic novel-esque cutscenes. While the cutscenes look great, the backstory is not particularly well conveyed. At one point, there is a big reveal of the evil mastermind behind all of the raids, and it's clear that Emmet is emotionally affected by it, but it isn't explained to the player why that is until later, and by then, the moment has passed. Near the end, there is another scene that is clearly meant to be emotionally heavy, but with a disconnect between characters Emmet cares about and characters the player cares about, it seems melodramatic at best. It is not the worst videogame story ever, and it certainly gets points for being relatively unique, but Starhawk won't be winning any awards for its narrative. Of course, when it comes to shooters, many can overlook mediocre storytelling if the main focus of the game is in the multiplayer. Herein is my biggest disappointment with Starhawk. After enjoying the campaign immensely, I expected the multiplayer to be a deeply tactical, team-based affair. And it certainly tries to be that, but few small issues compound to keep it from being truly great. The most noticeable problem with the multiplayer is the lag. It is a strange breed of lag, where the player's own movements and actions are never delayed, but the consequences of those actions are, and by significant fractions of a second. For instance, when playing offline, a few shots from the default assault rifle will explode a barrel of rift. The same number of shots will do that online, but the explosion won't occur immediately, causing the player to waste several shots. More frustrating is the PvP combat, where a rocket can detonate near an enemy infantryman, but far enough that there may be doubt about whether it would be a kill, causing the player to wait until the explosion presumably registers on the other end before the kill is counted. Most annoying is melee combat, which frequently devolves into both combatants circle-strafing and slashing at thin air until one teleports onto the other and delivers a deathblow. While the lag does not make Starhawk unplayable, it definitely creates some irritating situations. Once the player becomes accustomed to the strange lag, the balance issues begin to pop up. The game is titled Starhawk, so it is not surprising that the Hawks play a central role in the multiplayer, but they are really a dominating force. If one team has more skilled pilots than the other, it is almost an automatic win. The Hawks are faster than any of the land vehicles, and they are equipped with enough countermeasures that they are incredibly difficult to take down from anywhere other than another Hawk. Naturally, given their speed, maneuverability, and strength against infantry, they are a perfect spawn-camping weapon. A particularly unsportsmanlike Hawk pilot can camp an enemy's spawn in mech form, stomp on any infantry that get near, fire a huge assortment of weapons, and quickly convert to fighter form to make a getaway if things get too heated. The relative power of the Hawks is pretty well known, and a game mode exists that specifically excludes Hawks from being buildable. Unsurprisingly, these are some of the most popular game modes online. Past the Hawks, each player can also earn one Skill to equip. Many of these are small bonuses, and not unlike Perks seen in the recent Call of Duty games. Some of these include extra ammunition, always spawning with a particular weapon, or the ability to survive a vehicle explosion. One Skill in particular seems overwhelmingly powerful, and as a result, most players who have it use it. It allows you to destroy enemy buildings and vehicles with melee attacks, which is something that can normally only be done with grenades, rockets, or vehicles. Grenades and rockets are not infinite, so unless a bunker is nearby, they aren't a viable option for building destruction. Vehicles are expensive, and prone to destruction themselves. Melee attacks are infinite and quick. There is simply nothing more disheartening than saving up rift for half a game to spend it on one of the most expensive buildings only to have one lone enemy ride in on a cheap bike and madly slash at it for a few seconds to topple it. Another thing that makes multiplayer less enjoyable than I had expected it to be is actually not the fault of Lightbox at all. For a game that requires as much coordination as Starhawk, there are disconcertingly few people playing it with headsets. It is a pretty common tactic to begin a match and immediately spawn a hoverbike corral, then hop on the bike and rush the enemy before they can put up significant defenses. It is not an awful tactic to employ, but it becomes increasingly less useful the more teammates do it. The total number of buildings per team is limited, and having a half dozen corrals wastes rift as well as slots for buildings. A well-organized team will have some players in charge of defense and others in charge of offense, but such a team is an impossibility if nobody communicates. Lastly, Starhawk features no mid-game team balancing. If a player drops out and nobody new joins, his team is at a disadvantage, causing a cascade of poor performance leading to more dropouts. While being switched to a losing team can be annoying for the one person who is switched, not having any functionality for it is annoying for the entire team that is put at a disadvantage. Otherwise, there are some cool ideas to be found in the multiplayer. In addition to the usual team deathmatch and capture the flag modes, there is also a mode called Zones, which tasks players with holding points on the map. As one team's influence increases around one of these points, the zone around it grows, providing a bigger area for teammates to spawn. Spawning itself is pretty well done, where the player designates his drop zone and careens toward the ground with a little bit of control over the pod. Landing on an enemy kills him, so spawn campers who are not paying enough attention can get some retribution, but most skilled players can easily avoid a falling pod. All in all, the multiplayer portion of Starhawk is not bad. The disappointment stems from the notion that it could have been truly great, but a few design decisions and strange lag keep it from achieving that. As a single-player experience, Starhawk exceeds expectations, and I can wholeheartedly recommend it for those who prefer to play alone, if only to try out the undeniably cool Build-and-Battle system.
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When Starhawk was announced as the follow-up to 2007's PlayStation 3 exclusive Warhawk, cynical gamers wondered if it would be nothing more than Warhawk in space. Going into this completely cold, I was expecting another ...

Preview: Ratchet & Clank: Full Frontal Assault

Jul 30 // Steven Hansen
Ratchet & Clank: Full Frontal Assault (PlayStation Network) Developer: Insomniac Games Publisher: Insomniac Games Release: Fall 2012 Returning in Full Frontal Assault is everyone’s favorite buffoon, Captain Copernicus Leslie Qwark. After losing the presidency (don’t ask me how he managed to win it in the first place), the galaxy’s greatest hero is despondent, lounging around in a fuzzy pink bathrobe and shunning the world. The good-natured duo of Ratchet and Clank visit their old friend to cheer him up when an enemy from Qwark’s past returns to threaten the galaxy, spurring Qwark to reassemble the Q-Force from Up Your Arsenal; naturally, Ratchet and Clank are conscripted once again. Now, this is all familiar if you’ve played a Ratchet & Clank game. The galaxy is imperiled, you’ve got to stop some bad alien dudes. The key difference in Full Front Assault is how you have to stop your opposition. The Grungarians, rough alien mercenaries working under the direction of the yet to be divulged lead baddie, have disabled planet defense centers, turning the galaxy’s defenses into a vulnerable array of Swiss cheese. This is where the new tower defense mechanics come into play. The single-player component starts Ratchet off at a tower that he will eventually need to defend. Here, you’ll find a weapon pod with a starter weapon, like his Combustor, and a few boxes. From this point, Ratchet can branch outward, searching for more weapon pods to expand his arsenal, collecting bolts, and shooting and exploding alien scum with his ever increasing arsenal. Full Frontal Assault will feature a sort of “greatest hits” of past Ratchet weapons, as well as a few ones. When you come across a weapon pod, you will be able to choose between one of three available weapons to add to your inventory. In Ratchet & Clank fashion, there will be plenty of more out of the way areas, like a hidden alien temple, which are more likely to contain powerful weapons. Abetting Ratchet’s travel needs are the handy hover boots from A Crack in Time, with some added flips and maneuvers. After a period of exploration, bolt collecting and alien blasting, you will get notifications that an attack on the tower is imminent and it needs defending, so you’ll have to mosey on over. Once back, you can spend your accumulated bolts on various tower defenses, like barriers that block enemies from crossing into the base on a certain path, turrets, mines, and so on. You’ll also be able to cleverly use your defenses in unison. For example, you can fit a path with a barrier and a time mine, the latter of which slows down all enemies in its blast radius. Then, you can add two flamethrower turrets across from each other, in front of the barrier. As enemies run it, the barrier will keep them bottlenecked, the time mine will slow them, and the flame throwers will barbecue them. Of course, there will be different strategies for base defense; hopefully a lot, given the repurposing of Ratchet’s wonderfully creative arsenal. You can choose to deck out one opening with defenses and let Ratchet handle the other by himself, for example. You could also center your defenses inside the base area and take on enemies in a more open area. When it comes to taking out enemies personally, the timeless, familiar Ratchet third-person gunplay persists. You strafe while shooting enormously explosive weaponry in a perpetual string of sideways flips, watching Ratchet’s tail mesmerizingly whip around. Seriously, there’s something so consistently satisfying about Ratchet’s sideways jump flips as you rein down explosives with panache. Aside from the Combustor, I spotted a few familiar weapons, like the hilariously deadly Mr. Zurkon, who floats over Ratchet’s shoulder, helping him kill things while spouting great one liners; the Cryogun, which freezes enemies, letting you shatter them into gorgeous little icy fragments; and, the Groovitron Glove, which tosses out a disco balls, rendering all enemies in its vicinity unable to resist the urge to boogey down. Still, it’s not a Ratchet & Clank game without a gun for turning your enemies into animals; in Full Frontal Assault, you can turn them into creepy orange goats that breathe fire at their former comrades. After you defeat a wave of attackers, you can go back to exploring levels until more waves are sent. Once you’re done with a level and ready to fully secure the planet, the Grungarians will send everything and the kitchen sink at you; take care of the final wave and you can move on to another level. Stages can be played solo or cooperatively. Thankfully, the cooperative play is both online and local, so when you’re playing locally, you’ll get the pleasure of looking at your friends of family with a damning glare when they choose fuzzy pink bathrobe Qwark before you do; Ratchet and Clank, of course, are also playable. Full Front Assault will also have a competitive multiplayer portion, which is still under wraps. Smart money is on (at least) one-on-one tower defense, which will undoubtedly be reminiscent of Up Your Arsenal’s brilliant siege mode, which the Insomniac folks are still quite keen on. You can annihilate all the things (well, except your towers) sometime this fall.
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You can never have too much Ratchet & Clank. The lively Lombax and rascally robot are lacing up their hover boots for yet another outing, this time in the form of a second downloadable PlayStation Network title, Ratchet &...

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The DTOID Show: Dishonored, Orcs Must Die 2, and 3DS XL!


Jul 27
// Tara Long
Evening, pumpkins. If you happened to catch today's live Destructoid Show amidst the repeated bouts of hacking and coughing, then you, sir, deserve a metal. A long, blunt stick of metal with which to beat me senselessly the ...

Review: Orcs Must Die! 2

Jul 27 // Allistair Pinsof
[embed]232017:44515[/embed] Orcs Must Die! 2 (PC)Developer: Robot EntertainmentPublisher: Robot Entertainment Release: July 30, 2012MSRP: $14.99Rig: Intel i5-2500k @3.30 GHz, 8GB of RAM, GeForce GTX 580 GPU (SLI) When Orcs Must Die! came out a year ago, it felt necessary to explain the tower defense genre. Now that Orcs Must Die!, Dungeon Defenders, and other games have changed the genre rules, I’m not sure if this is any longer necessary or even helpful. What you do need to know is that Orcs is among the best of the genre. It is as addicting and fun as PixelJunk Monsters and Plants vs. Zombies without imitating either. This sequel, released a scant nine months later, only builds upon the strengths of the original. Given the brief development of this follow-up, players wouldn’t be wrong for curbing their expectations before jumping into Orcs 2. This isn’t a sequel that drastically changes the visuals, mechanics, or setting. However, it is a sequel that addresses nearly every complaint lodged against the original and comes close to perfecting what was already one of the best games of last year. Everything from more customization to co-op make this a superior game. I personally prefer the first game’s levels, but even those can be played via DLC (free to those who previously purchased the original on Steam). Whether you play solo or co-op, you’ll be grateful for the changes made to the spellbook. The spellbook is now divided into different sections for weapons (now upgradable), traps, trinkets (providing passive and active buffs), and costumes (the dead end for those who have unlocked all else). You can upgrade each item up to three times, give it buffs, and add new abilities (for example, gain the ability to use wall arrows on the ceiling). You can invest so heavily in one item that you won’t be able to see as many traps and weapons in action this time. This is both a good and bad thing, depending how you look at it. If you want to see everything the game has to offer, you’ll need to play a lot more of it. On the other hand, players now have a good incentive to keep playing after finishing the story. Even when you max out all of your War Mage’s items after beating Nightmare mode, you can do it all over again with the Sorceress. The game’s clever additions don’t stop there. Returning fans will be happy to find that the crossbow is no longer forced into the loadout and that skulls can be fully refunded at any time. This gives players the freedom to experiment and try new traps out. There are a lot of great additions to the arsenal that you won’t want to miss out on as well. I spent the majority of the game with the blunderbuss (a shotgun with a serious wallop), ice amulet, wall arrows (which now slows enemies when upgraded), boom barrel dispenser, and coinforge. You’ll find your favorite loadout available from the previous game, which includes items featured in the Lost Adventures DLC. You’ll also find new items like the bone amulet which does major damage to a line of orcs. It also summons a bone golem. Or you can get physical with the dwarven hammer that deals major damage up close. Then there is the polymorph ring that turns the Sorceress into an ogre. There's too much new stuff here to list, but it’s all useful and fits the game perfectly. One minor frustration some players may have is that it’s hard to properly spec your character for both single-player and co-op. You’ll inevitably end up leaning on your partner for some abilities, but you’ll find yourself in a pickle when you play offline because of it. This is hardly a complaint though, especially with the refund skulls ability. If anything, it highlights how the co-op demands players to work in tandem and strategize together. I played the entire game co-op with Destructoid’s Holly Green and didn’t regret it one bit. With her Sorceress, she was able to deal damage from afar and apply the Ice Vents unique to her character, while I would ran headfirst into enemies and set up guardians at choke points. If you are worried the game won’t play the same with co-op: don’t! If anything, you’ll be missing your partner when you play offline. Orcs had a pretty rough end. The same is true in a narrative sense with Orcs 2, but it was the lack of progression that really made original end so abruptly. There wasn’t much else to do. Orcs 2 fixes this with endless mode, more unlocks, leaderboards, and a new skull system that will sink its hooks into you. Whenever my co-op partner wasn’t online, I’d replay previous story levels and get five skulls on them. If you play on War Mage difficulty, you’ll be able to obtain five skulls on levels: 4 skulls for not letting a single enemy into your rift and 1 skull for making the stage’s par time. It’s easy to manage at first but becomes increasingly difficult as you reach the insane later stages. There are also occasional skull drops that you can pick-up from dead enemies. As long as you don’t completely fail a stage, you are always making progress in Orcs 2. I didn’t play with the Sorceress until I already beat the story on War Mage difficulty, but I kind of wish I had chosen her from the start. Her staff is the best weapon in the game because it is capable of a variety of attacks. You can rapid fire it from afar with great accuracy, charge it up for an explosion, and use the alternate fire to charm enemies, making them attack other orcs. She also has a couple trinkets and traps specific to her. I can see myself playing the game all over again with the Sorcerress, since her speed, unique abilities, and arsenal give her a somewhat different feel. Although players can play as the same character in co-op, I highly recommend taking advantage of each character's abilities. Orcs Must Die! 2 is less Half-Life 2 and more Doom 2 when it comes to sequels. Its level design isn’t quite as good as the first, it doesn’t take any bold strides in storytelling -- though the dialogue is consistently laugh-out-loud funny -- but it perfects the original’s formula while adding some welcome additions to the series. Whether you are playing the story solo or going up against the never-ending horde in Endless mode, it’s easy to lose many hours to Orcs 2, especially when it offers so many incentives to keep playing. A year ago, I couldn’t imagine another game mixing tower defense and third-person action as well as Orcs Must Die! Clearly, I was wrong.
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These orcs. They really should just die. That doesn’t sound unreasonable, does it?

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Anomaly Warzone Earth on its way to PS3, adds local co-op


Jul 12
// Conrad Zimmerman
Anomaly Warzone Earth, the rather clever "tower-offense" game, has been slowly making the platform rounds, first releasing on PC in 2011 followed by an Xbox Live Arcade version back in April. Now, 11 bit studios has announce...

RTX: Killing orcs with a buddy in Orcs Must Die! 2

Jul 08 // Allistair Pinsof
[embed]230892:44314[/embed] Orcs Must Die! 2 (PC)Developer: Robot EntertainmentPublisher: Robot Entertainment Release: July 30, 2012 What you’ve heard is true: The orcs must die and your Apprentice (or Sorceress) is the body for the task. For those not so taken with the original OMD, it’s easy to write-off this sequel as DLC-grade fodder. I can’t say these naysayers are entirely wrong. In a previous age, this sequel would have been an expansion pack. In a previous age, that expansion would have cost as much or more than this downloadable sequel. So, let’s just get to the game. The biggest addition to the series is co-op play, which highlights the second biggest addition to the series: a playable Sorceress (yes, the villain of the first game). Having played a couple levels single-player and co-op, I can confirm that nothing is sacrificed in the transition. Single-player doesn’t feel nerfed and co-op doesn’t feel frustrating, assuming you choose the right partner. I had the benefit of playing beside my co-op buddy which may have made things easier, so consider that a disclaimer of sorts. Sadly, the game will not have local co-op. In addition to having most of the same traps as the Apprentice, the Sorceress has a her own set of traps, weapons, abilities, and trinkets (a new addition). Her larger mana resources make her ideal for long-distance play. Her default staff can send bolts rapid-fire or charged. Even better, the alternative fire coaxes enemies to attack their fellow orc, regardless of how advanced and large they may be. My favorite weapon, however, was this bone thing. I know, descriptive! While I didn’t get its name, I was in awe of the power it wields. Its primary fire summons a line of skeleton hands from the ground that grope enemies for massive damage. This is extremely useful for crowd control. The alternative fire summons a skeleton that fights alongside the player until defeated. The Sorceress’ specific traps were nothing all that special. I only played with one which temporarily froze enemies (her version of the Apprentice’s tar trap), so maybe the other three are more creative. Though the Sorceress is an exciting new addition, the Apprentice gets a fair amount of love in terms of upgrades in this sequel. No longer will you be forced to have the crossbow take up a slot. In its place will be numerous weapons to chose from, including a powerful shotgun. Regardless of which character you choose, you’ll be able to customize them in more ways than in the original. The player can now upgrade traps five to six times, changing their power and attributes. Weapons and trinkets (which give passive and resource-draining buffs in battle) will also be upgradeable, so you won’t need to constantly swap out your preferred arsenal if you don’t want to. Skulls were limited to player performance in OMD and capped at 290 skulls. Now, there are 1,700 skulls which can be acquired through rare enemy drops, fulfilling tasks (e.g. kill 1,000 orcs, perfect victory), and preventing orcs from reaching the rift. Co-op play works as you’d expect. There are more orcs and they are a bit tougher, which balances out the additional player. In response, players will need to use a greater variety of traps and have good communication in laying out a method of action. I can see things getting very frustrating, which makes me not want to play co-op. But, that’s just me: I’d rather not depend on others if I don’t have to. Though, it is fun to come to your buddy’s rescue and watch a plan play out as you imagined. One area I’m not impressed with is the level design and art direction. It’s as great as ever, it just isn’t very fresh. If you are just looking at screenshots, you’d be forgiven for thinking it’s OMD and not its sequel. There is a greater focus on environmental elements, however, such as mine carts that can mow down enemies randomly. I’m not blown away by the additions Robot Entertainment have made to the series, but when I love the original as much as I do, I wouldn’t say that’s a problem. Orcs Must Die! was one of my favorite games of last year and after an extensive hands-on time I feel confident saying this sequel will be one of my favorites of this year. It takes a lot to ruin a winning formula and the developer has only improved it, despite how minor these changes may be. Due to original’s poor XBLA sales, this sequel will be released exclusively for PC on July 30.
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[This weekend Destructoid is reporting live from RTX in Austin, Texas, the community based gaming expo for Rooster Teeth fans and everyone else.] Sometimes the right game comes at the wrong time in your life. For me that was...

Review: Toy Soldiers: Cold War - Evil Empire & Napalm DLC

Apr 30 // Maurice Tan
Toy Soldiers: Cold War - Evil Empire (Xbox Live Arcade)Toy Soldiers: Cold War - Napalm (Xbox Live Arcade)Developer: Signal StudiosPublisher: Microsoft Game StudiosReleased: April 25, 2012MSRP: 400 Microsoft Points each Evil Empire First up is the "Evil Empire" DLC. Taking control of the USSR in single-player was omitted from the original Toy Soldiers: Cold War, so it's fun to finally get to use this faction outside of multiplayer. Three new campaign missions pit the People's forces of the Evil Empire against the capitalist forces of the United States in hotspots like Korea, Cuba, and Volvograd. The Soviets have access to a couple of different helicopters, tanks, and a jet fighter in the three missions of the mini-campaign, which are all enjoyable to use even if you'll run out of missiles a lot. A new chopper unit, the Super Hormone, has also been added. The campaign levels themselves play like most of the Toy Soldiers levels you are used to, including a new giant tank boss at the end of the last mission. While each level is different enough to offer variety and plenty of fun, they are pretty basic "protect the rear from the front" kind of defense maps. All in all, the new mini-campaign offers more of the same, when "the same" is pretty good stuff to start with. Like the regular missions in Toy Soldiers: Cold War, campaign missions can be played either in solitude or cooperatively on three difficulty levels, and on the Elite (turrets require manual control) and General (turrets and vehicles cannot be manually controlled) modes. An extra multiplayer map, Fervor, and a new Survival level, Ironfisted, are thrown into the mix as well as a turret-operated whack-a-mole minigame called Pop-a-Pig. This minigame won't hold your attention for very long, but it's no better or worse than any of the other Cold War minigames. Other additions affect each aspect of the rest of the game outside of DLC, and these are a bit more interesting for those looking to extend their time with Cold War. A new type of Barrage, the Orbital Laser, can be unlocked for play in any mission. It's exactly what you think; a top-down laser that you can move around the map to lay waste to whatever is unfortunate enough to be below you. Furthermore, a new Survival modifier, Trauma, leads to the cost of one of your toy box's hit points whenever you place a turret, and stresses the importance of careful placement and planning. "Evil Empire" is a small expansion that benefits largely from your desire to play as the Soviets, with their variations on level-three artillery and anti-air turrets, and the Trauma modifier for Survival maps. Score: 7.0 Napalm The "Napalm" DLC is pretty similar to "Evil Empire" with differences in the Survival modifier and the new vehicle. Its mini-campaign is centered on the Vietnam setting for the U.S., meaning you'll be fighting Charlie in every level. Compared to the Soviet level design in "Evil Empire," the levels found here are slightly less conservative in nature. One level sees you covering a distant toy box with artillery, while another features three toy boxes, which leads to separate mini-clusters of defenses to keep each opening safe from intrusion by foreign objects. It wouldn't be called "Napalm" if you wouldn't be able to bomb the crap out of tanks and infantry with a fighter jet, which is thankfully included in one of the levels. A new Napalm Barrage can be unlocked for use in other parts of the game as well, similar to how the Orbital Laser operates in "Evil Empire." Likewise, an extra Survival map and a Versus multiplayer map are part of the package, and a new vehicle -- the Laser Tank -- is a fun addition. The Survival modifier in this DLC is Commando. Yes, you can finally play each Survival map using just the Commando, although using this on the "Evil Empire" Survival map leads to a Rambo who spouts Russian one-liners. This modifier doesn't always work quite as well as you would hope for, however, since the Commando is not very good at destroying aircraft. Despite having infinite rockets that quickly reload, you can find yourself overwhelmed merely by being too slow with dispatching aerials targets, as ground waves follow suit in quick succession and you need to cover multiple paths simultaneously. Compared to the "Evil Empire" Pop-a-Pig minigame, the new one found in "Napalm" is offers much more entertainment. Hang Time is basically Choplifter for Toy Soldiers, making you land to rescue POWs while timing attacks to survive. It can be challenging, and will undoubtedly make you play it longer than Pop-a-Pig. Besides, you can shout "Get to da choppah" while you play it. Not like you need a reason to shout that, but any particular reason to do so  -- no matter how small -- should always be embraced. "Napalm" will likely offer a few more interesting levels to Toy Soldiers veterans, thanks to the varied designs, and the new minigame will keep you entertained for a fair bit. Score: 7.5 When it comes to deciding which one you want, "Napalm" seems like the logical choice for most players. That doesn't mean "Evil Empire" isn't good, however. Both DLC expansions are solid and fun to play, even if the missions themselves don't really offer anything drastically new. It's a matter of whether you want to play as the Soviets or not -- mostly an aesthetic change -- and what kind of Survival modifier you prefer. Trauma is somewhat more interesting than Commando, while the latter modifier is slightly more gratifying as long as you have ground targets to blow up. Overall, both of the small expansions offer good fun in their own right, and the more you are into playing Toy Soldiers: Cold War in different modes and on different difficulties, the more you'll get out of either of them. If you can spare the points, though, consider picking up both packs. Not only do you get more content in one big bite, but the new Barrages and Survival modifiers are complimentary to all of the content, meaning you're that much more likely to play Toy Soldiers: Cold War again for a solid number of hours. The new content won't blow your mind, but if you've been meaning to jump back into this miniature defense title, it's as good a reason as any.
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The excellent Toy Soldiers: Cold War recently received two pieces of downloadable content in the form of the Soviet-centered "Evil Empire" and the Vietnam-focused "Napalm" expansions. While Toy Soldiers fans will likely want ...







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