Well another week and another set of reviews; this week we start off with the fantasy kingdom sim turned tower defense game, Defenders of Ardania. Based in the same world and using most of the same characters as Majesty 2 this game along with Warlock: Master of the Arcane looks to transform the Majesty universe of Ardania into something of franchise rather than just another fantasy kingdom. It’s really interesting to see the setting and characters used in such different ways but does this crusade lead to success or should this kingdom have stuck to defending to its own lands? As always read on and find out.
So starting off with the gameplay things are kind of a mish-mash of tower defense mechanics that have all been seen before. You have upgradable towers of all the expected flavours (bomb, air attack, slowing, Et al.), various defensive and offensive spells, economic upgrades, and most unusual the ability to send out your own waves of units. While it has been done before (Swords and Soldiers is what comes most readily to mind) that last one drastically changes the way a tower defense game plays and allows it to be multiplayer. The units you can send out are in general the standard Majesty classes which gain experience as a class instead of individually and once a class is leveled up enough you can send out its hero unit. This adds a nice balance to the opening half of a match with you trying to keep a good offense and defense going at the same time. Unfortunately after you have established your towers and bought your upgrades the back line requires little maintenance and you’ll find yourself haphazardly spamming units and just kind of lazily waiting for the match to end. Actually as this game has an oddly unstable frame rate (at least on the 360, it might be better on the PC) you find yourself waiting a lot as you watch the game try to catch up with all your fast paced menu browsing. Also don’t expect to have a blast with the multiplayer, in my time with the game I was unable to find a single match online.
One thing this game does have though is the generic to the point of absurd writing and patently awful voice acting that made Majesty 2 such a treat. The story is the incredibly simple “yo evil has risen, you should stop that shit” tale that has been told time and time again. On the way to stop the undead (because this is a fantasy story and what else would the evil be) you’ll meet new allies of different races and band together for the good of Ardania. It’s a ho-hum story but the super generic dialogue is made fun with the hilarious (and I’m sure intentionally) bad voice acting that has a fair to middling Sean Connery impersonator chew scenery like he hasn’t eaten for a month. The rest of the voices are equally awful in fun ways though aren’t as memorably good-bad as your Highlander loving advisor. Whether this is a good thing or bad thing is all dependent on your tolerance for silliness but honestly if the idea of a tower defense game based in the Majesty universe interests you than you’re probably already ok with things being less than serious.
Graphically this game is also kind of boring as it looks pretty much exactly as you’d expect. It’s your generic fantasy kingdom and all of the designs (and honestly probably most of the models) seem lifted straight from Majesty 2 and while that’s what I would expect thematically from the franchise it’s certainly not that interesting to look at. The same feeling goes for the Lord of the Rings style bombastic music that plays throughout the game and has mentally congealed into an amorphous blob of fantasy white noise in my memory. The whole game is essentially just a mess of fantasy tropes which, despite being done ironically, still makes the whole experience feel bland.
Sadly there really isn’t anything really special about this game to make it stand out. While Majesty 2’s more passive take on the RTS was an actual unique idea that helped carry it this game never really strays far from the standard tower defense formula. The tower defense genre is a crowded one and to really matter in it you have to innovate and do something that boldly stands out. For as much as I like Ardania and the Majesty universe simply being based in it is not enough to separate this game from the hordes of other tower defense games available. The fact this game costs a hefty fifteen dollars also does nothing in its favor as plenty of better games in the same vein are cheaper and do something more creative with the genre. So for a generally competent but sadly completely uninteresting tower defense game, Defenders of Ardania gets a 1.5 out of 5 stars. While some of the charm of the Majesty series exists in this title the off kilter frame rate, generic design, and bland to point of being boring gameplay ruin the experience. Oh well at least Warlock: Master of the Arcane looks neat, hopefully it’ll save the idea of the series branching out and really getting to do something special.