Defenders of Ardania
Reviewed by Didi Cardoso
Review Date Platform Genre Rating Production
2012-04-07 Xbox 360 Strategy T (Teen) Paradox Interactive

I don't think I've played a tower defense game since Lock's Quest on Nintendo DS, and Defenders of Ardania caught my eye as it seemed interesting and fun.

Defenders of Ardania tells the story of a conflict between humans and undead forces, which seems narrated by your Sean Connery sound-alike advisor. The narration is very well done, but at times the speech was just too long and I wanted to skip it.

The tutorial stages serve to ease us into the complex gameplay, and even if it does goes step by step so we can learn the basics, it still seems overwhelming, since there is a lot to learn.

While this is essentially tower defense, there is an offense component since you also get to attack your enemy. Basically, you can build structures to defend yourself, and you can send troops to attack the enemies' base. You can deploy groups of five units at a time, choosing from different types of unique attack, defense and speed abilities. Simultaneously, you must make sure that your base is protected by placing towers that will attack enemy units as they come into range. You will also learn how important placement is, by building towers on higher ground or using walls to block off paths and redirect the enemy towards your structures. Later on you also learn about the effects of upgrades, magic spells and resources, which adds a few RTS elements to the game, without making them too prominent.

Eventually you will move on to do battle in more colorful stages, and here is where it becomes more difficult to figure out what is going on. With so many details in the field such as fire, explosions and particle effects, it's easy to lose track of things. It's also easy to mix up your towers and the enemies', because they look exactly alike. No distinction whatsoever, which made me waste time trying to click on the wrong ones to upgrade them and eventually figure out that it's not working because that is NOT MY TOWER! Argh! Eventually I discovered the little banner than hangs out from the battlements in either red or blue, but with so much going on all the time, there should have been something more obvious to help me distinguish my own structures right away, such as different architecture.

While most stages require you to think carefully before you act and plan a strategy, others seem to just rely on repeatedly sending troops after troops. At times, destroying the enemy's base will unlock a "boss fight", which can turn the tides pretty quickly. There were moments were I was celebrating a certain victory as the opposing faction's castle HP was about to reach zero, and then all of a sudden my base was gone, and I never even saw why. The levels don't seem to be consistent in difficulty, and they will alternate from something stupidly easy to what seems like a battle of epic proportions.

Defenders of Ardania also offers a multiplayer option, where you can play with friends in a 2 vs. 2 setting, or each player for themselves in a free-for-all, definitely making the experience more entertaining.

Overall, Defenders of Ardania is not overly innovative, but it has some nice features that help make the gameplay sometimes fun, sometimes frustrating, but always interesting.

Special thanks to John Lee and Paradox Interactive for providing a copy of this title.