Defenders of Ardania – Preview

Tower defence games seem to have catapulted in terms of popularity over the years. Arguably due to the addictive and simple pick-up-and-play gameplay seen in Popcap’s “Plants vs. Zombies” warranting them as casual affairs playable in short bursts. In time, these games have evolved with each rival developer attempting to outdo each others games by mixing the traditional tower defence gameplay into other genres. Now Paradox Interactive are taking their own swing by integrating a little more strategy into the mix.

Defenders of Ardania is your typical tower defence game set in the more typical medieval time period. What better setting than a time of siege and castle turrets?

I promise you, in-game does not look like this

As you jump into the campaign of Defenders of Ardania you are thrust right into the tutorial. You play as the ruler of the kingdom of Majesty, a kindgom suddenly under attack by the people who were seen as allies not 5 minutes ago. Throughout the campaign, Sean Connery’s voice will advise you on the inner workings of the game and its playing field. In each mission, you hold a castle or base at one side of the map with various paths along a grid connecting your base to the opposing enemy. You spend your ever accumulating cash to construct offensive towers or blockades to defend your fort from the charging forces of your opposition. What makes this particular game different from others though is the ability to go on the offensive yourself. Rather than sitting back and watching your perfect set-up of walls and towers destroy each wave of baddies until the game finally decides that’s enough, in DoA you  play against the AI in the same manner. Rallying troops of your own to overthrow the opponents base.

The added gameplay element essentially turns Defends of Ardania into a promising competitive strategy game. The numerous paths available to the attacking troops allows each player to essentially close specific routes to lengthen the travel time of the enemy forces hopefully long enough for the other towers to whittle their health down, removing their threat.

The playing field is broken up into tiles with varying capabilities. At the start of a match, each player can erect towers on the green tiles around their own base. Each tower placed expands the players “territory” and opens up building opportunities across more of the grid. Certain tiles can apply affects on the towers occupying their place aiding their offensive capabilities or the player in some way. Each map generally holds a key point, such as a river, which, when occupied by a player’s tower, nets them a speedier income allowing them to keep a steady flow of units charging across the field.

The game grid tiles allow you to redirect enemies and pick out the best tower positions

With the ability to control an army of troops (to a degree) opening a number of strategic opportunities in each match, each playing needs to keep a steady stream of units charging toward their opponents. Multiple unit types specialize in speed, attack power, heath and abilities, leading the player to  pick the best mix of units to throw at the enemy at the right time, taking things such as stats, weaknesses and travel time into consideration. Tank units can be left to sponge the damage of the towers while your other units merrily skip past unharmed and reduce the opposing base to a pile of bricks. They presumably stand in there and take one for the kingdom. Way to go guys!

There is a few limitations in terms of set-up and strategy, else the game would just turn into a game of button mashing units out of your base. Yes, just like the food supply in your favorite RTS or the forge limit in Halo, Defenders of Ardania limits the amount of towers or units you are allowed on the field at any one time. This increases/decreases depending on the size of each map meaning you do have to think and adapt to the situation at hand.

Troops will stroll past opposing enemies towards the enemy base - Certain troops will hit nearby forces

Throughout the campaign, the story will often turn to throw some kind of boss unit into the mix to stir up the gameplay, making your seemingly impenetrable fortress rear it’s biggest flaws. As this happens, you will want to make use of another nice mechanic Defenders of Ardania has going for it, unit control. If a certain tower or enemy is proving to much for you in a tight situation, you can opt to re-route your unit squads across a less dangerous path or even attack the very threat that is at the root of your problems. A boss charging at your base will likely spell the end for your castle and, as such, you should be ready to rally your troops to the looming threat and cancel any immediate occupation plans you had for your enemy’s base.

Defenders of Ardania is still a month away from public release. While I did run into a few bugs and stability issues in my play-through of the game’s initial campaign, most of these will likely be ironed out in time for the release. None were particularly game breaking but they could cause annoyance if they crept up constantly such as random crashes and repeating dialogue. Ultimately the game will undoubtedly offer a nice inexpensive, casual change of pace from  the multitude of AAA releases heading our way and shouldn’t be overly demanding on most modern laptops/desktop hardware for you PC players. Unless you decide to jump into the multiplayer front. Then expect a lot of strenuous button mashing!

Defenders of Ardania will be available on PC, Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and iPad come December 6th


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