None Shall Pass!
High fantasy seems to be the soup de jour in the games industry nowadays with games like Lord of the Rings, Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, Game of Thrones, Kingdoms of Amalur, etc., etc., either having just been released or are just beyond the horizon. But something that hasn’t been beaten to death is the Tower Defense genre and since high fantasy lends itself to that discipline rather naturally (think castles and stone forts), enter now Defenders of Ardania ready and willing to fill the gap. This isn’t your typical Tower Defense title though as it interestingly mixes in some RTS elements that encourage you to think both offensively and defensively as well.
As the ruler of a prosperous fantasy kingdom, your wealth and resources has obviously attracted a horde of malcontents who wish to raze you for every last coin you may have. But by implementing some serious strategy, you can weather the storm of both human and demonic foes. To ensure your victory though, you must also march your army down the enemy’s throat with wave after wave of your own soldiers.
The ideas that Defenders of Ardania throws out there are all well and good, but like so many games that try to cross-breed game play types, a failed marriage between two or more elements can lead to a bigger disaster than had a single game play style been used and failed. The Tower Defense base works fine as you place ballista, spearmen, archers, and various other well equipped fortifications around the battlefield map. Even the magic spells in your inventory work to help even the odds as space runs out quickly on the field for you to place your towers. But the RTS element is woefully under-developed as each wave you create of soldiers must walk a clear path towards your enemy’s castle and they are as mindless as the towers you place. You let them go and forget about them. So although there is some strategy there as you must pick what units to send and what paths for them to take, you can mostly forget about them after you create them and hope they carry out their pre-ordained mission.
The worst part of this is that once you create a sound enough defense, as the old sports adage of “defense wins championships” was taken to heart it seems in the game design, your enemy has typically done the same and you can’t muster the proper offense you need to win as your mindless drones march to their doom over and over again, often resulting in long drawn out matches on even the easiest difficulty settings as you try to force your way past a virtual stalemate. One nice thing about the game though is the multiplayer as when you insert human error into the equation, there is a better chance for a match to progress at a decent pace, or if a stalemate does occur, for one player to get tired and give up.
The sound is irritating as well as your narrator and chief advisor sounds like an awful Sean Connery impersonator and he may be the best of the voice actors you come across as you move through the levels. The visuals are at least bright and vibrant enough to offer some distraction from this, but there are a lot of pretty games out there I’d rather devote my thinking power to.
When all is said and done, Defenders of Ardania was a nice concept, but poorly balanced execution and a tired, unoriginal story keep this from being anything special aside for maybe some Tower Defense diehards who have been waiting for something to come along in the genre.
SUMMARY: The marriage of RTS elements with a Tower Defense base fails to work as smoothly as necessary for this game to be anything memorable.
- THE GOOD: Beautiful, stylized high fantasy setting
- THE BAD: RTS and Tower Defense elements don’t blend as smoothly as necessary
- THE UGLY: Bad Sean Connery impersonator serves as narrator
Defenders of Ardania is available on Xbox 360 (XBLA), PS3 (PSN), PC, and iOS. Primary version reviewed was on Xbox 360.