I once said long ago that I didn’t like tower defence games because they reminded me of the most horrific part of Real Time Strategy games. That being the part where your base is overrun by enemies and all your hopes and dreams of ever winning or mounting a counter attack are torn to shreds. Due to fact that seemingly every second game released these days sees you defending with towers I’ve since grown to enjoy the genre. I’ve also since realised my bigoted and narrow minded view stemmed from me being absolutely terrible at RTS games rather than a sound and logical understanding of tower defence. Tower Wars adds an offence component to the tower defence formula and not only is this yet another refreshing twist on a nigh infinitely mutatable genre but it plays out some where in the middle of a full fledged RTS and Tower Defence game. For me it’s like RTS with training wheels.
Like I so eloquently put it in our most recent HUDcast, Tower Wars is very much a RTS on rails. The maps are tight, resources are not fought over and you have no control over your offensive units. Of course you decide which units are built but once they are ejected from the barracks units will march in “single file and to the death” (as the game humorously puts it) along a path determined by the enemy’s towers. The titular towers of Tower Wars are where the player is given the most executive power allowing you to create a twisty labyrinths of death for your opponent’s troops to be annihilated within. For those of you, like me, unable to deal with the screen whirling hecticness of competitive online RTSs Tower Wars presents a lovely middle ground in between that and boring non-competitive tower defence. There’s enough to keep tabs on throughout a game to ensure excitement without the experience teetering over the edge into the overwhelming.
There are two expendable resources in Tower Wars: Gold and Battle points. Each match three gold mines are plonked randomly on your side of the map and also in the mirror position of your opponents. This may sound mundane but the placement of the mines will determine the way in which you can plot your tower’s on the map’s hexes. What this does is make each game a little different, even though there are only three maps at present, to prevent players from just creating the same tower routes over and over. The second resource, Battle points, is an interesting one and one that really ties the competitive tower defence aspect of the game together. Battle points are gained for the amount of time that your units are alive in the field. So the more time your units aren’t killed by your opponents defences the more points you have to spend on upgrading your units which in turn will allow them to survive longer. It’s a cool system that avoids direct competition over resources but makes your unit’s suicidal forays all the more important as is defending against your enemies.
I totally dig the art-style and steampunk aesthetic of Tower Wars. It’s a lovely, well presented game, no doubt about it. Unfortunately the units are way too small. The portraits of the units all look awesome, but when they are actually marching along in-game they are tiny and even when zoomed right in appear under detailed. This is a shame because everything else looks swish, especially the towers. Clearly there is some great artist on the team and they have some cool ideas and art for the units, but they’re just not big enough and get lost on screen. Most of the time all you can really depict is a health bar or a shield bubble when you should be seeing beefed up steam punk action figures stomping around the towers.
Tower Wars is a majority multiplayer affair. There is the inclusion of a single player tower defence challenge mode where you basically see how long you can survive. It’s pretty basic but a good way to practice constructing defences and learning towers for the main event. I’ve never had any problems finding a game fortunately. My worst experience was having to wait 10 minutes for a game which turned out to be a 3 vs 3 team match in which every body quit. Way to go guys.
Matches of Tower Wars can go on prohibitively long. Any match I played till the bitter end easily clocked past the hour mark. While none of these ever got boring it’s a pretty big time investment for a single match. I’m glad that the game can sustain an intense exciting experience for that long but ripping through a few shorter matches would be nice too. I don’t think it’s really possible to shorten the match time in a game that sees people competing to create the most impenetrable defences. This is where I think a single player campaign wouldn’t have gone astray; one you could pause and save. Also for a game bristling with so much personality I would really enjoy the opportunity to have deeper look into Tower War’s steam punk world. But for $9.99 the multiplayer is more than enough fun on its own.
I’ve had a lot of fun with Tower Wars. It’s yet another interesting take on tower defence with the shine, polish and art style to back those fresh ideas up. It’s a competitive tower defence that feels like an RTS on rails that will appeal to those hungering for something new in their tower defence soup. And for those who have been trying for years to get into online RTS games but never really worked out which direction to point your dudes in, here’s a game that takes that responsibility away from you and lets you focus on building lovely, lovely bases. Tower Wars is getting 4/5 stars.