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RipTen Review: Defenders of Ardania (PC)

If you’re a fan of tower defense, you’ll want to try the new multiplayer game Defenders of Ardania by Paradox Interactive. While Plants vs. Zombies broke the pathing mode, DofA breaks the defense-only mode of traditional tower defense games. The storyline of DofA takes you to Ardania, the world of Majesty, where you’re tasked to defend the land now under attack from a former ally. Who, or what, provoked this attack? Grid by grid you’ll move through the map and discover the cause of Ardania’s plight.

The single-player version takes you through a tutorial of gameplay, starting with one-on-one zones and progressing to larger maps, more opponents and varieties of towers and troops. {a note to laptop gamers: you can’t get through the tutorial without a mouse and scroll wheel} Many of the game controls and available options for towers and armies were not obvious and left us a little frustrated with the game. There’s a lot going on when you’re building towers and sending out armies to defeat your opponent(s). This is definitely a game where it pays to RTFM – after digging in to the game manual you’ll have a good grasp on the game controls, the tower and unit capabilities, playable races and many other details needed to play the game. A lot of the information in the manual is alluded to in the early parts of the tutorial but doesn’t become clear until you’ve invested several hours of play time.

The music and imagery was as good as expected from a $15 game but the voice acting left much to be desired. As Brandon says, “Sean Connery is not an accent!” After the first few campaigns we turned the sound off and just read the story-mode text.

Does the bear sound like Sean Connery too?

We had the darndest time getting a multiplayer game started. It turns out you need to click on each player spot to send the invite (we used our Steam accounts) to each friend to join the game. If you invite someone to play before you’ve clicked a player spot that person sees an error message. Again, we must remember to RTFM. Multiplayer mode is where you can choose which race to play, which color you’ll be on the map and the settings for your game. You can choose to play one on one maps so you don’t have any AI in the mix or you can select a multiplayer map and have human and AI opponents. In this mode, it’s definitely helpful to have knowledge of the different racial abilities, the tower offensive and defensive capabilities and the skills of your infantry.

There are three playable races in this game: Human, Nature and Underworld. Other than the obvious visual differences in the races there isn’t much difference in abilities of the towers and attackers. Each race has eight attacker types with abilities similar to other tower defense games. Tank units are slow and don’t inflict much damage but can take several hits before falling. Fast-moving units don’t have much armor and have a greater chance of suffering one-shot deaths. Melee and ranged DPS are the core attackers and flying units can stay out of range of most tower defenses.

Wouldn’t want to be under that attack

Your towers also have varying abilities. Some are good against flying attacks, others provide resource bonuses, some provide short-range attacks and others provide wide-range AOE damage. If you pay attention to the units your enemy sends out you’ll know which kind of tower to build. Each race can build eight different types of tower. Like all tower defense games, you need resources to build towers, deploy units, cast spells and purchase upgrades. In Defenders of Ardania resources regenerate slowly over time and from the destruction of enemy units and towers. Some units can damage your towers so be prepared to have some reserve resources for repairs and upgrades.

On each map you have a cap to the number of towers and mobile units on the field. Tower placement is limited by three factors; the size of your territory, your available resources and the maximum number of towers you can have. Each tower you place expands your territory. Special markers on the grid can give you a boost to resources or attacks. Once placed, your tower can’t be moved. If you decide to build a new tower elsewhere you can sell an existing tower and regain a few resources.

Unit deployment is the new twist DofA brings to the genre. Usually in a tower defense game you’re subject to wave after wave of attacks and your only objective is to defend your position. Not so here. In campaign mode, each grid has an offensive objective you must complete before your own base is destroyed. There are no breaks between waves and completion time of each grid is entirely dependent on the offensive and defensive choices you make. Are you weak to flying attacks? Erect some anti-flying towers. Are your enemy’s attacks slow and spread out? Send in your runners. The better you are at judging and balancing your enemy’s strengths and weaknesses the quicker and shorter your campaigns will be.

If the towers and attack units aren’t enough to win your campaign, there are several single-use spells and global upgrades at your disposal. You can reduce the resource cost of towers and units, increase your resource limit, repair your base and make special attacks. Your offense gains XP each time a unit is deployed. When the XP ring is filled, the unit type will upgrade to a maximum of level 3. Upgraded units have better stats and abilities along with a higher resource cost. Your defense doesn’t upgrade automatically but you can spend resources for two upgrades per tower.

Defenders of Ardania is a lot of game for little money. After you’ve been through campaign mode, switch to skirmish mode and play again with two different settings – survival or limited resources. Turn your friends into frenemies in multiplayer mode. No matter how you play it, this is a solid game that tower defense aficionados will love and most others will enjoy.

Here’s the rundown:

+ Tight gameplay
+ Lots of depth to the game – play different races and maps
+ Multiplayer option for when you’re sick of playing the AI – up to 4 players
- Playing offense and defense at the same time can be overwhelming for novice players
- Story mode a bit long-winded

8 and 8.5 represent a game that is a good experience overall. While there may be some issues that prevent it from being fantastic, these scores are for games that you feel would easily be worth a purchase.

Defenders of Ardania was developed by Most Wanted Entertainment and published by Paradox Interactive. It was released for PC and PSN on March 14, 2012 in the United States at $14.99 MSRP. The publisher provided copies of the game to RipTen for review.

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