Defenders of Ardania fills a certain niche that consoles don’t see a lot of and that’s the multiplayer RTS/Tower Defense hybrid. Okay, admittedly, maybe that’s a niche that isn’t filled a whole lot of anywhere. Created by Paradox Interactive, returning patrons to the real-time strategy genre, and published by Deep Silver who released last year’s Dead Island, does Defenders of Ardania have the spark of creativity and newness that the downloadable market demands? Or will this Tower Defense game be forced to concede ground?
It feels odd, calling this game a hybrid of Tower Defense and Real Time Strategy, as Tower Defense games are literally the mutated midget babies of RTS to begin with, having started life as a Starcraft mod. However, a hybrid of the two genres is exactly what this game sells itself as. With an emphasis on creating an opponent that is designed as an equal and theoretically another player sharing the battlegrounds instead of just a computer controlled wave of baddies to deal with, there seems to be genuine spark behind the idea of making a tower defense game for two – or four.
The game, while following a formulaic setting, manages to evoke the feeling of a magical fantasy world that hides just outside the borders of the corridors of the current skirmish. The color palette isn’t exactly the most inspired or awe-evoking, but it’s fluid and can on the rare circumstance manage to recreate a sense of epicness and weight to the current battle at hand.
Hybrid Mechanics Are Self-Defeating
If it seems as though the HOT section is lacking, it’s not because this game doesn’t try and at least make it out of the gate as a functional and working tower defense game, but overall the game simply doesn’t work as a compelling concept with even less compelling gameplay. The idea to bring multiplayer RTS design philosophies to tower defense was a noble one, but also one that should have been avoided altogether. What makes tower defense so compelling is the idea of using tower building strategy to power through each successive wave of baddies. However, with two people sharing the battlefield, there are extremely severe restrictions on where towers can be built and, most egregiously, how many.
Eventually, even after the game opens up, its array of mechanics and game options, the game comes down to the selection of warriors you throw at the opposing base, which is an outlandishly tedious chore. Even with the game’s meager speed up option, early matches eventually become nothing but grinding enemies out onto the battlefield, waiting for them to get done, and then grinding more, and can last for a long time. Later on, with the new mechanics in place, it can become more interesting, but only barely, and not enough to compensate for the lack of excitement and the time it takes to get there.
Unlike other recent downloadable titles like WARP and Shoot Many Robots, Defenders of Ardania has no personality of its own. It is such a mangled mash-up of tired clichés and bad Sean Connery impressions. Where the game attempts to stand out, its overly drawn out dialog sequences, it manages to remain trite and uninteresting. Its brief foray into comedy also remain unfunny and simply embarrassing to listen to.
Unacceptably Slow Difficulty Curve
To its credit, Defenders of Ardania is able to crank out a reasonable amount of depth and the occasional spurt of intentional strategy. The best way to ease players into the world of the game and its rules/limitations is to keep certain skills locked up until a later time where the player will not be overwhelmed by the numerous mechanics. However, it was a grave mistake to make the games good points often take hours to get into. It could easily be over two hours before a ‘tower upgrade’ feature is unlocked.
Let it not be said that all critics are heartless, cruel hopesmashers, so to phrase it constructively, it may have been a better idea to unlock mechanics during battles instead of from battle to battle, the skirmishes themselves often being needlessly lengthy. As it stands, the game is a slog and remains as much until the game opens up and even afterward during especially slow battles.
Occasionally, there comes a game that simply has no right to exist, a game not only bad, but so devoid of newness or innovation or even worthwhile rendering of tradition. Defenders of Ardania comes dangerously close to being this. Taking a fairly neat idea, a multiplayer tower defense game, and doing its best with it, but instead of expanding both mediums with the idea, Defenders creates numerous limitations on its own game to make the enterprise work. Aside from downloadable console platforms, the game is also being released for iOS and it sure feels like it. For those looking to waste a few precious, bored minutes, the price may not be worth the experience. Anyone else looking for more substance in their gaming need not apply. Defenders of Ardania is not for you.
[Editor’s Note: Defenders of Ardania was reviewed on the Xbox 360 hardware. The game was provided to us by the publisher for review purposes.]Defenders of Ardania Review,