The strategic potential of building your own armies remains an undertapped feature in this tower defense game, which may borrow too much from its predecessor
When I first heard this game’s title I immediately thought of Majesty 2, a medieval sim game that takes place in the land of Ardania. Though Defenders of Ardania is related to the Majesty franchise it surprisingly shirks its predecessor’s medieval sim genes and instead fits firmly in the tower defense genre.
Tower defense games have been around for quite a while and every year there are tons of them released as indie titles and mods. I was curious as to how developer Paradox Interactive would tackle this particular sub-genre of real-time strategy.
Like many such games, Defenders of Ardania has you slugging it out with an AI or human opponent to try to wipe out each other’s base. You set up towers to defend your building against enemy troops while simultaneously sending out your own armies to destroy the opposition.
Following in the vein of Majesty 2, Defenders of Ardania is filled with bright colors and has a nice style to it. But sadly the graphics aren’t that polished and the game seems to use the same engine as Majesty 2.
In addition to borrowing graphics, Defenders’ music also uses the same themes as that of its strategy-game counterpart, which was filled with sweeping orchestral pieces. The voice acting, however, is rather horrendous. Aside from your stalwart Advisor the characters, such as Kilia the Elf, will grate on your nerves. The character sounds like an old woman who talks rather slowly. In fact, if I couldn’t skip the dialogue at the beginning of each campaign I probably would have stopped playing.
Speaking of the campaign, there are 18 missions to beat in the single-player Human campaign. The story itself is rather forgettable although I found myself smiling at the Advisor as he talked about each mission. I also found the end of the story to be rather amusing since you are informed about what happened to your companions after you completed the campaign.
However, in order to beat the game, you will need to get past the boredom you might experience. There were many times I became uninterested whether it was waiting for the characters to stop talking at the beginning of each campaign or playing against the AI.
The AI itself I found to be very limited. Once I placed my towers in strategic locations in order to stop its advances, things were very easy. I would just sit back, recruit units, and watch them march across the map to the enemy’s building. From that point on it was just a matter of coming up with the right combination of units to make it past the AI’s own towers and destroying the base.
The ability to recruit your own troops is something that isn’t really done in tower defense games. Normally, you just build up your towers and repel wave after wave of enemies. But you cannot control them. All you do is recruit and watch as they take the most direct route to the enemy base. The only way to have any control is by changing their path by setting rally points.
Getting past the enemy towers requires nothing more than the right combination of units or just the right amount to overwhelm the towers. There are many different types of units such as swarmers, tanks, healers, sprinters, fliers, and magic-users. Each unit has its own speed, attack, hit points, and actions.
Some units will just charge straight at the enemy base while others will perform certain actions along the way. Wizards and flying units, for example, will damage towers as they make their way across the map. Dwarven units, I discovered, would attack the enemy’s troops as they walked. Each unit has its usefulness but, in the end, you’ll find yourself using only a select set of them.
The same goes for the towers at your command. Some will cause area damage, hurt only single targets, slow enemy units down, attack only flying units, and help boost resources. Certain tiles on the maps will even offer bonuses such as increased range or more resources over time which you can use to build and upgrade your towers or recruit troops even faster.
Yet Defenders of Ardania’s main selling point is the multiplayer portion where two to four gamers can battle each other on the same maps you see in the single-player campaign. The problem is that, just like the single-player, the game can drag out for too long and become boring and repetitive despite playing against a human opponent.
When it comes right down to it the game just doesn’t keep you interested in it for too long. Yes there is a fair assortment of towers and units spread out over the three different races you can play as in the multiplayer campaign. But it seems as if your strategies will be very limited when it comes to destroying the enemy’s base.
Defenders of Ardania is a good game with some interesting concepts that need to be explored some more. An updated graphics engine and some better attention to voice-acting would go a long way. If Paradox could find a way to break up the monotony of each mission, the game could really shine through as a great tower defense hybrid.
Tested on PC