Author Topic: Alien Defense Review  (Read 5119 times)

Jubal

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Alien Defense Review
« on: February 03, 2022, 12:24:24 AM »
Alien Defense - a review by Jubal

Game Type: Indie/Commercial
Genre: Tower Defence / RTS

Link: https://store.steampowered.com/app/1868840/Alien_Defense/

Graphics rating:
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I spent a couple of hours playing this game, got up to the 11th wave before being defeated: I don't think what I saw hugely merits a re-play, but it might do if more updates come later, and I've definitely found worse uses of two quid in my time. This is essentially a tower defence style RTS: you build up a base, and troops, and steadily larger waves of enemies come at you until you're defeated. The theme is (with exceptions) sci-fi, and the enemies are very much grub/swarm style aliens though your own forces include a lot of alien/demihuman/robot creatures (and an utterly bizarre array of 'heroes'). Between waves you can upgrade units, and also you should take forces out to "hunt" the docile versions of the swarm enemies, which cover the rest of the map. This, and minerals, are your two important resources: you get additional troops randomly dropped at the end of each wave, but can make some droids of your own as well.

The good parts of the game are mostly in the technical competency. The game handles its RTS-style build very smoothly, few major movement complaints (once or twice a unit got left behind when I moved a group), and the balance and buildup felt reasonable. The graphics were likewise smooth, and mechanically it was fine. So the basic structure was well executed. There were elements of the look that could be improved – the fonts are at times very boring, and the button to buy a hero is not in English (not sure what language the script actually is).

I think there were two or three big areas that could have pushed this from "this is fine" to "I'm actually invested in this game" for me, and they're connected by the theme of worldbuilding. Firstly, physically, the map is a featureless grey plain with your base in the bottom corner, and the developers clearly have the necessary skills to find some assets on the unity store, possibly add some elevations or impassable areas, and just make it something other than a flat grey square to wander around, and things might feel a lot more interesting. Given that you have to micromanage the hunting parties between waves, making it a bit more interesting is pretty important.

Second, and also not technically complex: the single biggest failure of the game is in the narrative design, which is to say that there isn’t any narrative design. And it looks like it has the capacity for one, too – you’ve got various humans and demihumans dropping on a space colony that’s manned by robots and being attacked by bugs, but why? What for? Is this planet strategically important, are there citizens you need to protect? Are you as the player representing the military, or a company, or the galactic government? Do we know anything about these aliens that we can apparently extract resources from but also are swarming to kill us? It would take very little effort to add a few descriptions that get across the feeling that the scenario is interesting and quirky rather than arbitrary. This is doubled down on with the heroes. What’s up with the heroes (other than that they’re probably all pre-purchased assets bundled into this on that basis)? Why am I in a sci-fi game but can hire a knight or a vampires or a pirate? Who ARE these people? I don’t say this to say it’s bad that there is this bizarre array of heroes, but if they’re going to be there then they should be individually named and get some little biographies or something which would again turn it from “this is bizarre” to “this is a fun mash-up setting”. I do get that English might not be the devs’ first language, but honestly this would make a world of difference.

Third, and finally, as a bigger set of thoughts: this game is built like an RTS, and I can't help feeling that to really improve it should have the courage of its convictions and become something more like one. If the game set a win condition for the game so players have something to build towards, and utilise a more detailed map by making resource gathering more interesting (wider array of enemy huntable monsters, limited gatherers per mine and not having them all at base), then it could be quite a fun RTS. Most of the technical groundwork needed to do this is already in the game, and it could go from feeling just about worth two quid to something easily worth double that with a bit of depth added even with very few mechanical changes.

Anyhow: if you want a competently built but narratively kind of a void RTS-tower-defence to spend an hour or three on and do a couple of runs of, this will provide you with about that amount of entertainment. It does have the technical execution level of something rather better, and I hope the devs look at improving or building on it.
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