Picture this. You’re an accomplished soldier who has been fully trained in the art of fighting for his particular nobleman. Suddenly, your neighbours turn on you, launching a series of seemingly endless and particularly vicious attacks on your master’s land.
You would be a bit annoyed, right? And if you met one of the aforesaid enemies walking towards your castle, intent on destroying it, you wouldn’t just ignore them, would you? You would at least say a rude word, right? The developers of this tower defence RTS think not.
They think you would just saunter past your very worst of worst enemies, without doing so much as showing them your bum. And here lies the central problem with this game: it asks you to destroy an opposing base at the same time as defending yours. It’s trying to do both tower defence and offence at the same time, and gets stuck somewhere in the middle. Somewhere in the no-man’s land of passive-aggressive ignorance.
A spin-off from the popular Majesty 2 series of real-time strategy titles, Defenders of Ardania adopts the same high fantasy universe. The towers you build to defend your castle are backed up by waves of your own troops sent to attack the enemy’s stronghold, while they too build towers and fire off cannon fodder. Occasional level-ups and unlocks mean you can unleash mightier warriors, and a waypoint system gives you the teensiest bit of control over where your troops go.
It may sound like an innovative shake-up of the tower defence genre, but it’s about as well-balanced as a triceratops on a razor-wire fence. Once your towers are set up and your tiny troops are making their merry way to their certain dooms, there’s not much else to do. You can try moving your towers, but with such small levels and large tower attack zones, it makes little difference where you put them.
The result is interminable matches, with even the earlier levels stretching on for hours. Fortunately, there is a bit of a learning curve here: you do have to work out how to stagger your waves of attacks to spam the enemy most effectively. Start with the slow tanks, move onto the slightly more lively fighters and then chuck in faster warriors. Oh, and press F4 to speed up time so that you’re not waiting forever. Then press it again when you realise your attack didn’t work and you need to build yet more wretched towers.
There are some likeable elements to Defenders of Ardania. There’s a pleasingly booze-obsessed voiceover, delivered by what sounds like a Dalek doing an impression of Sean Connery. And you have to admire the dogged ambition of the whole thing: its colourful, anachronistic levels and characters do go a little way to make up for the lack of fun. But this tower defence rebuild is shabby, and has too many cracks to stay standing for long.
A different take on tower defence, but one that needed more thought before being released on an unsuspecting public.