Saturday, June 16, 2007

Immortal Defense Review

Immortal Defense, developed and published by Radical Poesis Games & Creations.
The Good: Addictive gameplay that feels fresh and original because of the neat visual style and theme, challenging, cooperative missions with the AI, surprisingly not that repetitive
The Not So Good: No level editor…yet
What say you? A tower defense game done right: 7/8

Defense games are an interesting niche in the pantheon of arcade titles. While some people might be satisfied by simply shooting things, “tower defense” games add a flavor of strategy to the mix, as you must place shooting objects in appropriate locations to destroy incoming onslaughts. I have reviewed a few of these games in the past: Meteor Mayhem, Core Defender, and most notably Epidemic Groove. Tower defense games combine two things I like, shooting things and strategy, and it’s been almost a year since the last one, so it’s time for some Immortal Defense. You are defending your home planet from evil invaders in a dimension beyond hyperspace, probably located near Uranus (the jokes never get old). Will Immortal Defense serve up enough originality to make it stand out against the ever-increasing horde of tower defense games?

Immortal Defense features very distinctive graphics that makes it stand out against the ever-increasing horde of tower defense games (well, I guess that answers that question). While most games in the genre feature castles and the like, Immortal Defense uses an outer-space-alternate-universe setting that works quite well. While the graphics are relatively simplistic, the combination of the unique enemy shapes and great effects are effective. Immortal Defense certainly has a chaotic feel to it without being overly confusing. The sound, like the graphics, is excellent as well. The sound effects are understated and not annoying in large doses when the action becomes intense. Immortal Defense also features some excellent background music. Immortal Defense shows that independent games can still have distinguished graphics and sound that are very effective.

Immortal Defense is a tower defense game, where you construct defenses to destroy incoming enemy units. While this sounds like it could become boring after a while (and it usually does), the unique presentation and difficulty goes a long way in keeping the mechanics interesting. Immortal Defense uses a plausible explanation why the enemies are marching to their doom along fixed paths, although I won’t spoil it here. You must hold out for a specified period of time and prevent a number of enemies from reaching the end of the path. There are six 16-mission campaigns to play through; this provides a lot of content to keep you busy, although a level editor would extent the game even further (there are plans for this as a future addition). The first thing you’ll do is place “points” around the level that shoot at the enemies traveling along the path. There are a good variety of points in the game and each of them has their own strategy to maximize their usefulness. In addition, using points in concert with each other can increase their effectiveness. There are the normal shooting points, but there are also points that can only shoot at right angles, ones that deploy mines, support points, and ones that increase their effectiveness over time among others. You are limited in the number of each type you can place on each level, but additional points can be earned if your existing points are especially effective. Each point costs an amount of cache to place, and more cache is earned by destroying enemies. Points can also be upgraded for a price that increases their attack, range, or speed. Points can’t be placed on top of each other or on the path, but other than this, you are free to place them anywhere on the map. This gives the user a lot of freedom in making effective defenses and there is always room for improvement in your creations.

The controls of Immortal Defense are simplified and everything in the game can be accomplished with the mouse. Your cursor automatically fires at the nearest enemy, although if you’re firing at lot at the enemy using the cursor, you are in serious trouble. You can focus your weapons on a specific enemy by clicking on it, and points are placed by holding down the left mouse button until it is charged and releasing. Different points can be selected with the mouse wheel or the number keys. You’ll encounter twenty-six different enemies with varying speeds and strengths; you will begin to loathe certain enemies as they are exceedingly difficult to destroy. Immortal Defense is a very well designed game that is easy to control and has a lot of replay value because of the freedom granted to the user. The limited suite of points you have to choose from means you have to (gasp!) think about your placement and how your points will work together to destroy the enemies. Each point has its advantages and disadvantages and deciding whether to place newly earned points or upgrading existing ones is an interesting decision. Immortal Defense is a very challenging game; this is good, since you just can’t plow through it like a lot of puzzle or action games and it requires some thought to be successful. Then I noticed I was playing at difficulty level 30. Out of 100. Man, I stink.

I really like Immortal Defense. Even though it’s essentially the same as any other tower defense game, the unique presentation goes a long way in making it feel different. You would think that it becomes repetitive after a while, but the gradual introduction of new points and enemies along with the varied path design and open nature of the point placement makes each level slightly different. Plus, each level lasts only a short amount of time (on lower difficulty levels) so you don’t get tired of a particular puzzle. The structure of the game gives you the freedom to play the same level again and have a completely different outcome. The controls are also very straightforward and the learning curve is almost non-existent. Immortal Defense also has a decent story that can be skipped if you’re just interested in blowing stuff up. The graphics and sound are both top-notch and round out the original theme of the game. If you like games with a defensive tilt, you should definitely check out Immortal Defense: it is a breath of fresh air among a stench of similar clones.