by William Thompson
reviewed on PC
Defending the onslaught
I built my towers hoping that they would be enough to defend the onslaught of the marauding enemy. The tower built with catapults was placed in a way that itís far reaching capabilities would put a dent in the slower enemies as they marched towards my castle. Those that were quick enough or armoured sufficiently to evade the boulders raining from above were soon destroyed by my towers full of able archers as they got closer to my home. Wave after wave of their forces were thrown at my stronghold, barely scratching the huge brick walls of my fortress. Little did they know that I still had a few tricks of my own, for I was amassing my own force that would not only impede their march towards my home, but destroy their own fortress once and for all.
My warriors were quick and although many were mowed down by the enemy towers, those that eluded the volley of arrows did a great deal of damage to the opposition bastion. My well protected Clerics moved their way through the opposing towers like snails through an obstacle course, but most reached their destination intact, denting the once imposing enemy stronghold. My dwarfish allies continued pounding at the enemy gates just as my gold resources allowed me to send forth another party of fast moving warriors, the enemy distracted by the battleaxe wielding dwarves. My warriors surged through the towers and stormed the enemy castle, bringing another decisive victory. I am still ruler of these lands.
Moving into position
Iíve played my fair share of tower defence games over the years. Some of them have even had some interesting touches to them that separate them from the rest of the crowd. Most are fun in their own way, but much like the invaders in a standard tower defence game, they still basically follow the same path. As you may have guessed though, Defenders of Ardania has added a real-time strategy feature to the tower defence game. Not only do you have to defend your own tower, but you must also destroy those of your enemy.
Controlling the play is relatively simple. A board game like overlay indicates where you can place your towers. To begin with, only areas closely surrounding your home castle can be selected. Once the desired location is chosen, a simple matter of selecting which of the available towers is best suited for defending your castle. Placing the tower then opens up further areas further away in which you can expand your defences. In most levels, a central location serves as a bonus to resource collection, so gaining possession of this square becomes important. Itís not necessarily a game breaker, but it helps, especially in later levels. But apart from the tower placement, units can be sent out from your castle to attack the enemy stronghold. As the game progresses, units can gain rank as that unit type performs well in battle. Ranking up enough unlocks a hero unit for that unit type. Many levels will not require you to use the powerful hero, but itís certainly fun to see your hero destroy the enemy castle.
Unfortunately, towers and attacking units, as well as special spells such as lightning bolts all cost resources. Resources can be gained by holding the central or critical points as well as from destroying enemy attackers. Resources can also be spent on upgrades such as those for making units and towers cheaper. Resources donít really become a problem though, because as long as the enemy throws his troops at you, youíll gain resources.
From a visual standpoint, Defenders of Ardania is a colourful experience. The land is lush and green as befits a land worth defending. The landscapes vary from city skirmishes to beachside battles as well as corridor clashes. Each area has its own ambience. Castles of various colours depict each of the combatants, whilst bolts of lightning and explosions of colour can litter the landscape during the hectic battles. Unfortunately, this leads to the major issue I had with Defenders of Ardania. Some of the levels can become crowded with towers and marauding units and it can be difficult to identify your structures from those of the opposition despite the tiny flags hanging from them. Units can follow the same fate, but since your units head towards the enemy citadel it is much easier to differentiate. But when an ally enters the fold, things can get tough.
Another issue I had on certain levels was the monotony of continually sending out your armies to destroy the enemy castle. In the latter stages of the battle, once youíve set your towers in defendable position, it is just a matter of time before you overrun the enemy. And to destroy their castle, you must send out your units to damage the building. There doesnít seem that much of a strategy involved in doing so, apart from determining which of your units will get through to the opposition stronghold in one piece. The AI can seem lacking in that regard. Later levels do require a little more planning, but I found that there was never a shortage of resources and you could continue throwing units at the enemy without fear of defeat.
Listen to the battle drums
The audio on the other hand is of a high quality. Although the sound effects are pretty standard with the usual arrow fire and catapult launches. But the background music is great. The music matches the period nicely, with some dramatic undertones at various points. The voice acting is superb though. Your main advisor has a Scottish accent like Sean Connery, whilst other characters have accents that are clear and easy to understand. A text version of the dialogue is also included, so that if you find the rough Scottish accent hard to understand, you can just read along yourself as the story unfolds.
None shall pass
It is often hard for developers to successfully blend game genres. But with Defenders of Ardania, the blend between tower defence and minimalist real-time strategy works reasonably well. The visuals, although clear and colourful, could do with a slight adjustment to reduce the clutter on the battlefield or make it simpler to determine your own army and towers from those of the enemy. But the resource management, especially later on in the game, gives Defenders of Ardania just the right feel of an RTS edge. The audio is nice and the controls are simple. This is definitely another of those tower defence games that are hard to put down once you start.
The RTS function gives a fresh outlook to the standard tower defence genre
Certain missions can become monotonous as you wait for your troops to destroy the enemy castle