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Defenders of Ardania (Xbox 360) Review

‘Light’ real-time strategy elements, meet highly addictive tower defense mechanics. I think you’re going to get along just fine.

Delegating resources to different areas to deal with differing threats from multiple directions is part and parcel to the addictiveness of Defenders of Ardania, an inherent time-sink of a tower defense game that delicately incorporates grid-based real-time strategy tactics into its structure. The gorgeous, rich fantasy world of Majesty in which the story casually plays out within thrusts some mighty magic into the fray but the most important addition, one which ultimately gives the game a major pull, is the ability to both attack and defend.

For a tower defense game, having two-way fights is a bit of a formula shake-up and that all-important delegation of resources is given a wide berth to be expanded and experimented with because of this. No longer do you just have to choose which tower is best for which position: your own wide selection of troops can deal with different threats from your enemy’s own troops and towers and you have to make more choices. The game expectedly operates in a grid-based format whereby you can’t have troops running all over the shop, instead heading towards the enemy bases on the shortest available path.

Towers can be placed in defensive strategies also to slow down your enemy’s progress but it can slow down yours too if you’re careless; with different tower types offering crucially varied attack styles, placing the right tower and choosing the right troop type to accompany this can swing games vitally in your favour. Troops – be they warriors with cumbersome strength, stealth-based armour-shed speedsters or tower/unit attacking infantry – will ultimately win you games (you can apparently win games without towers but it’ll probably take you a considerable while) but you’ll lose games if you don’t put the right towers in the right places.

The skies are open to both sides of the fights which also strongly factors into your decision-making and fight outcome, and if you plan out both ground and aerial routes during the rather splendidly scripted and organic dialogue bits that prelude fights you’ll find yourself taking control before the madness begins and the towers emerge en-masse. Balance the ground and air defense/offense division at the first chance you get: it’s always important to consider aerial combat as a strategic option for both yourself and your enemy… or enemies.

Four player matches are available in both the single player and the online matches – only some of the 17 levels are compatible for four though – and for the most part you’ll have to fight alongside someone to deal with two separate batches of incoming threats. The skirmishes can get intense – it may be worth a quick practice or two in the Skirmish mode on later levels to hone your tactics, response speed and efficient usage of the 24 towers and 24 unit types – and four players moving around confined spaces has the potential to overwhelm. I wouldn’t consider the 2v2 campaign matches overwhelming mind you; in all these matches neither the enemy nor friendly AI provided any significant threat to their respective foes.

If there is one main criticism I’d have of this game is that the difficulty is only ramped up when the odds are tipped heavily in favour of the enemy, the 1v3 match I most recently experienced proving to be a somewhat tumultuous stumbling block in an otherwise well-balanced series of challenges. Look to play some local/online co-op if you can: Defenders of Ardania has the potential to be a superb four-player multiplayer experience and once you figure out how to operate the fairly sure-fire strategy that most of the AI foes can’t deal with you’ll want to find new faces to fight, with new tactics to deal with.

Final Thoughts:

Paradox Interactive and Most Wanted Entertainment have largely got this one right: Defenders of Ardania – formerly an iPad tower defense game – is a richly detailed, gorgeously presented pick-up-and-play tower defense that won’t deter those unfamiliar with the RTS genre but will offer plenty to the well-versed.

Come for the concept and cool campaign, stay for the great gameplay and graphics… but only if you have someone else to play with. As the challenge begins to lose its balance you’ll want to find a buddy to keep the good times going: Defenders of Ardania is more than good enough to convince someone else to buy it too.

About Harry

An overzealous film watcher, videogame journalist, university student & bagel eater. Susceptible to bargains and biscuits; fears roller-coasters and strangers.

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