by Davneet Minhas
reviewed on PC
The tower defense genre is one of the most widespread gaming genres. Entries exist on a variety of platforms ranging from videogame consoles to smart phones, from Facebook to casual gaming websites. They can exist as disposable freeware or as stylistic PC Game of the Year candidates, such as Pop Cap’s Plants vs. Zombies.
Colony Defense, Mana Bomb Game Studio’s inaugural title, is a tower defense game that tries to rise above the detritus of the genre with a $10 price point and an attempt at innovation: full 3-D planets to defend. Outside of this added dimension, Colony Defense should be familiar to anyone with tower defense experience.
At the start of each map, you are tasked with using limited funds and an assortment of defense towers to defend a number of colonies against invading aliens. As aliens range in size and speed and even mode of transportation – some crawl along the ground while others fly – defense towers come in a few varieties. The Flame Thrower Tower is very effective against fast units and continues to damage invaders even when they’re out of range. Stasis Towers slow the enemy by 50% but do no damage. Air to Air Missile Towers, as implied by their name, defend against airborne but not ground targets.
Despite the game’s wide variety of weapons, you’ll find yourself sticking to the reliable and versatile Laser Towers which can attack both air and ground units. They are also very effective when fully upgraded – each invader you destroy nets you income, which you can then spend on more defense towers or upgrading existing towers to increase their range, damage, and rate of fire. But if you purchase too many towers of one type, the aliens will develop a resistance to that tower, like cockroaches to bug spray.
After defending each planet, you also receive one talent point, or two if you successfully defend without losing a single colonist. You can spend these talent points on permanently increasing tower attributes. You can even decrease the cost of building or upgrading a tower.
An Added Dimension
As alluded to before, Colony Defense doesn’t task you with defending typical flat terrain. You have to defend colonies on a full 3-D planet. A different number of alien bases and colonies pepper each planet. As you progress through the game, these numbers increase, as do the intricacies of the paths between invader spawn points and colonies. While an early level may have only one path for aliens to reach a colony, a later level may have five paths that zigzag and cross over each other.
But that’s not the biggest consequence of the 3-D world mechanic. Such convolution is achievable in 2-D settings. The biggest consequence is that you can’t see everything at once – half of the planet is always hidden, no matter how fast you rotate the view.
At the beginning of each level, you have a very short amount of time to learn the terrain, plan a strategy, and build defense towers before the alien invasion begins. In later levels, it’s almost impossible to learn the intricacies of the planet before the aliens arrive, so you constantly have to destroy and build towers to deal with invaders as they draw closer to your colonies. This provides for some exciting and tense gameplay.
But the 3-D planet mechanic can also prove frustrating. Just when you relax after establishing a seemingly sustainable and adequate defense, aliens will openly travel along a path you never noticed before and wipe out your colony – all before you have time to react.
Ultimately, Colony Defense’s 3D mechanic feels like a gimmick. It isn’t particularly innovative or revolutionary; it just adds an unnecessary dimension to a saturated genre. As a result, the game doesn’t really provide a different experience from any other tower defense game, a fact compounded by its generic art design and bland sound.
The $10 price point has historically been reserved for experimental indie games or ostentatious casual games – games with innovative mechanics or presentations or both. Mana Bomb’s title doesn’t fit into either of those categories. It is certainly enjoyable, and it doesn’t have any glaring flaws. But Colony Defense feels like it should be a free-to-play browser-based Flash game.
Not worth the price tag