TITLE: “Defenders of Ardania”
DEVELOPER: Most Wanted Entertainment
PUBLISHER: Paradox Interactive
GENRE: RTS (Tower Defense)
RATING: Rating Pending.
PLATFORM: Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 3, XBox 360, and iPad.
RELEASE DATE: December 6, 2011
Paradox Interactive has been quite busy pumping out self-developed and published titles on various platforms, and this time they are working with a Hungarian company called Most Wanted Entertainment in order to bring yet another real-time strategy title to various platforms. This latest endeavor, however, isn’t a ‘grand strategy’ title like “Supreme Ruler: Cold War” or “Senguku,” but rather the game falls under the ‘Tower Defense’ genre of titles.
“Defenders of Ardania” was stated at the 2011 Games Developers Con to be planned for a Q2 2011 release, but the game has since been pushed back until the end of the year. This was obviously, no doubt, because Paradox and MWE wanted to ensure that the game was in its best form before seeing an official commercial release. Both MWE and Paradox want to promise the player something different than your standard ‘Tower Defense” title, but do they truly deliver on this?
The game is presented as a larger campaign, consisting of a series of battles that each have their own related story. The tutorial mission shows that your homeland is under attack by someone named Sir Foxwalde, and thus it is your job to defend your land and push back the invading forces. Yet, defeating Foxwalde’s army is not the end of the battle. Rather, it seems his power has farther-reaching grasps than you might initially guess, and thus it is your job to save the people of your lands from his evil powers.
Once we look past the story, however, we can get a good feel for what the game truly is like. At the start of each battle, you have your own fortress to defend from your enemies. The ultimate goal is to seize certain targets (or destroy them), defend your own keep from your enemies, and ultimately take control of the enemy fortress. Both yours and the enemy’s keeps have the power to generate various ground troops that are used to take control of targets and ultimately invade the opposing side’s keep. By activating the game’s built-in grid feature, you can gain a quick look at what is passable and impassable on the terrain, where you can build structures, etc. This is important because the game isn’t free-roaming; instead, your units must walk on certain areas of the grid that are predetermined, and their movement is simply inhibited by yours and your enemy’s placement of certain structures (such as, of course, towers).
You begin each round with a set amount of money available to you that you can use to build structures, and a certain amount of points that you can use to field ground troops. Each ‘unit’ has its own cost as to how many points it can use, and each has its own strengths and weaknesses. For example, a squad of three spear-wielders will cost you 3 points to field, yet they have relatively average defense, average movement speed, and average attack power. On the other hand, Rogues can move very swiftly (thus usually arriving at their target alive), but their defense and attack are somewhat low.
Success in this game, more than anything else, is largely dependent on where you build your towers. Certainly, you must select the units you dispatch to destroy the enemy keep with care, but the placement of your towers will determine how swiftly you can dispatch the enemy units and prevent them from sacking your own keep. As a result, the game does require some strategy, but not nearly as much as you might hope for. In the earlier missions it is certainly possible to simply place towers near your enemy’s keep, dispatch unit after unit to siege them, and just relax and wait for your victory. Later on you will have to worry about placing towers in higher elevations and other strategic maneuvers, but even then it’s not nearly as complex as you might hope.
One of the biggest complaints I have with the game in its present form, outside of the simplicity, is that the hotkeys used don’t make a whole lot of sense. Rather than using something like “W” to enter the Wave Menu to select which troops to field, the game asks that you use “Q” to do so. To select a waypoint for your troops to focus on capturing or holding you have to select “Y.” These are just examples, of course, but that requires far more memorization or reference to a help-file than really should be necessary in a game where, in theory, seconds matter.
Still, beyond all the meat of the game, “Defenders of Ardania” uses nice, rich graphics, maintains a very smooth frame-rate throughout play, and presents the player with a nice soundtrack. While these don’t certainly improve the game and make it that much better, it is at least something that they did right.
If the game were to commercially release today, I would not be able to give it too much higher than a “C-” or “C” at best. The reason for this is simple: While the game is entertaining in its own way, it doesn’t live up to its promise about being a completely different tower defense experience. Instead, if I look beyond the graphics and music, the game feels very ‘done.’ In fact, it reminds me of “Saga,” an MMORTS that started out in 2007. I think that if the developer and Paradox work to put a lot more uniqueness into the title with the engine they already have, a lot of promise exists. But as it stands now, it’s hard to recommend to someone looking for a real strategic experience.