Domo arigato Mr. Martian Roboto
The 1950s were considered the golden age of campy sci-fi films, with aliens often invading Earth alongside giant animals, and, of course, robots.
Fortified tries to recreate the feeling of those films in a third-person cooperative base defense game, and does an alright job at it without being all that impressive.
Fortified (PC, Xbox One [reviewed])
Released: February 3, 2016
Fortified‘s story is quite familiar; robotic martians come to Earth and start destroying every living thing in their path, and it is up to four heroes to stop them. In this case, the heroes are made up of four different selectable characters ranging from a spaceman, a rocket scientist, a secret agent and, of course, a handsome captain of the team.
For my playthrough, I chose to play as mostly the rocket scientist as she was the only female character available. Each character has special abilities that they can do for a brief time upon filling a meter, and the rocket scientist’s allows her to fly around the map with endless clips of ammo and invulnerability. Her starting weapon is a grenade launcher that knocks enemies in every direct with each explosion, which is a nice way to delay the advancement of martians.
Each level plays out in a varying number of waves of enemies. Before each wave, players have the ability to stage defenses along the path enemies will be following as they attempt to blow up your base, or, in this case, rocket ship. Some stages only have one rocket; others have multiple and if any of them are destroyed, the level is lost. During waves, players can freely attack with their weapons of choice which have unlimited ammo but varying reload times.
After completing stages, characters gain experience points and upon leveling up gain points to unlock and upgrade weapons and defenses. Each character levels independently and has their own set of unlockables, though it appears there may be some crossover between characters. XP is only gained when completing levels for the first time on each difficulty, or by grinding the endless waves of Invasion mode, so you can’t cheese the system and grind the first level to unlock everything quickly. This keeps the game from being a total cakewalk, but it certainly isn’t hard.
I was able to complete the 12 stages on offer without much of a challenge. I believe I had to retry three or four levels, but that was typically caused by loading into the levels without needed defenses. Specifically, early on in the game, I was given the choice between unlocking a couple of options, and I didn’t choose the auto-turret that fires at flying enemies, therefore I got quickly bested in the next stage. Luckily, you can redistribute your points between levels as you see fit, and unlock the necessary equipment without any hassle.
While there are two other difficulties available — hard and the unlockable insane difficulty — they don’t feel like what I was hoping for. Hard limits you to 15 seconds between waves with a 15-second respawn timer, but otherwise felt the same as the normal difficulty. Insane only has five seconds between waves, enemies can kill you in one or two hits, and respawns are only at the start of each wave. The time between waves doesn’t matter so much as you can place defenses whenever, nor does an extended respawn timer for the most part. Insane mode felt mostly unfair and cheesy.
Multiplayer, on the other hand, is a bit more difficult in the sense that enemies take far more damage before keeling over. I would have preferred to see more enemies instead of having them be proverbial bullet sponges, but I guess this is intended to encourage players to work together — if only players did that. Can’t blame the developer for your teammates not communicating or working together, though. Overall the online experience was smooth, with no noticeable issues.
Playing Invasion mode with a high-level character felt far too easy, as I was able to build enough defenses to sit back and let them do all the work for me. That said, it is a nice addition, but only has three different maps to play on, so unless you plan on using it to grind XP, I don’t think it adds much longevity to the game.
While 12 levels may seem like a low amount, it felt just right to me. The game didn’t overstay its welcome and the levels were varied enough to remain interesting. Some of these levels have over 700 enemies to kill, with tons of them on the screen at the same time. Impressively, the Xbox One version didn’t have any noticeable framerate issues or slowdowns, keeping a pretty nice 60-ish frames per second. While the graphics aren’t all that spectacular, the art style stays true to the films of old that it is based on. As far as audio goes, get ready to hear the same song over and over, as apparently there can be only one. Somehow, I still found myself both humming it and hating it by the time the credits rolled.
Overall, I enjoyed my time with Fortified, but it is hard to recommend as a single-player-only experience due to it being too easy, and with no split-screen on offer, you’re going to have to make friends or play with randoms online. The entire story consists of three short cutscenes, so those wanting a deep narrative need not apply. If you’re looking for a campy romp with some friends and a few thousand martians, though, Fortified is easy to recommend.
[This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]