A world devastated by a huge flood. Strange glowing rocks and flowing fluids seep up from the ground like blood oozes from a wound. Magically infused natives go to war against technologically advanced conscripts in a never ending war for territory. Vile villainous goblins encroach upon the world of the civilised from a looming epicentre of the cataclysm which caused this rift in the world.
Sounds awesome! Where are my spells? Ok how about my gun? Oh its tower defence, really?
Lets get this built up before the hordes overwhelm my stone towers and steal all my precious yummy Prime. This is Prime World: Defenders. Looking at it initially it does look just like your normal run-of-the-mill tower defence with nameless swarms of enemies walking down pre-determined routes while you build enough defences to stop them. A tried and tested mechanic we will all agree. On the contrary, Prime World: Defenders changes it up into something incredibly addictive and great fun whether you’ve got 5 minutes or 5 hours to play. A lengthy opening cut scene present in a beautiful hand drawn graphic novel style FMV pulls in even the most critical gamer to at least hear what its talking about. It helps also when this scene is voiced by the best voice actor in the bunch. The rest are frankly laughable but if anyone came here looking for a deep and involving story with twists and amazing vocals you’re probably looking in the wrong genre, sorry.
That’s not to say that at any point in the 10 hours I’ve pumped into this minion masher the story has felt like an afterthought to try and give you some reason to believe in the world. It actually does, pulling you into its literature and world in a way which is neither over serious or laughably lazy. Building a foundation for you to use, ironically to build a foundation, in the world upon which to build towers you get pulled into the lore and the search for Prime. Prime is the new element which rose up during the apocalyptic event bringing a new spin on the end of the world. Its not the end its an opportunity. Infused with a combination of technology and magic the towers you’re going to be building feel like they would fit. Even the crazier energy cannons and lightning guns have a steam punk magic mixed with technology feel to them.
As any tower defence player will know and even those, like myself, who drift in and out of the genre the premise is thus. Your arena of combat is a path which the AI will send enemies down while you have space around the area, as well as sometimes in the path to make the enemies go a way you determine, in which to build towers to either destroy the foe or indeed hinder their progress with slowing abilities. Simple and yet elegant in their design the areas presented in PW:D are of a small enough size that you do not become overwhelmed but not so small as to feel cheap. Especially during slightly later missions where unbreakable rocks change the possible layout from game to game and give you unprecedented scope to try different strategies within your tiny spaces.
The towers at your disposal are not only pretty cast but also very customisable. Within a matter of an hour of play you’ve got the basic towers you’ll need ranging from the close range area of effect dragon shaped fire towers to the crude looking poison towers which are rudimentary barrels with a pipe on the end. They all fit the world though, none feel out of place even when you get to the meat of the game. Combining tower cards of the same type allows you to unlock the option to upgrade your tower in play which basically makes it twice or even four times as powerful as its basic iteration for the same price as a fresh new tower. Do I upgrade that tower, or build another of the same kind? These thoughts are what make the gameplay more exciting and bring you to think harder about everything that you do in the game right from the word go.
Feeding into this is the games greatest system. Collectible cards. Each tower, each spell and even cool little artefacts are given to you for completing post tutorial levels in an ingenious way. You finish the battle and are presented with a selection of 5 cards which are then shuffled and turned face down. You then get to pick one for free and can pay an initially small sum to take a gamble at a second then a larger sum to try for a third. If you see a tower or a card you really want prepare to either get on your lucky pants or be prepared to pay a little of the in game currency to try and get the card. Some are going to read that and think they have to play for 30 minutes to get a chance at a usable card but would be wrong. As stated below, each game normally only lasts for five minutes and you can speed up the easier ones to farm experience or currency or even cards. Even if you don’t get the card you need you can get something.
This is where the other way to upgrade your towers comes into play. Instead of going the levelling route you can enter the forge and fuse different cards into one card to make that one card more powerful. For instance I have a level 1 Stone Tower which is slightly better than the basic archery tower. To make it more powerful I can either try and try to get another stone tower to let me upgrade the tower during a game, or I can fuse it with other cards that I may not even want to make the basic tower more powerful. The best bit of all this? You can combine both mechanics to give you a slowing tower that slows the enemy 30% more than it should which can be levelled up three times during the game to make it four times more effective than its basic incarnation. This is the system that takes Prime World: Defenders up from the slew of normal tower defence games to something greater. Add in another customisation system in leveling that unlocks new things for you to buy in the in game store and unlock new talents such as an extra slot for towers or for magic.
Oh yes magic. See this is how deep this game is, over 1000 words in and I haven’t even been able to slip in magic properly. Aside from making towers the ability to throw down minefields, bring down crashing explosions of pure Prime energy and throw bombs onto the field to devastate opponents. Ok its not the games biggest feature but its nice especially when you combine it with the fusing mechanic to bring icy and fiery death to a tower fight. Who needs knives
When you fail or set up your defences wrong you don’t lose anything apart from the time you spent here. Which is never too long. Five minutes was my longest clocked battle on a hard map and often maps can take even less time to play, which when you take into account that you have to grind sometimes is a blessing from the tower defence gods. Nothing is lost apart from a few minutes of your time which aren’t simply lost to the aether. These minutes are stuck in your head to teach you of the mistakes you made in order to bring future greatness.
The games problems are few and far between. The frequently repeating maps while they may seem a little dull to get changed up from time to time. However seeing the same area 5 times in a row does grate a bit. Added to the sometimes grating voice overs from NPCs which throw you off and make you sometimes shout at the screen. That’s all I can think of! Honest. Alright apart from possibly the fact that grinding can take a little too long in preparation for boss fights its nothing over the top. Not once while actually playing do you find yourself thinking that. You just strap in and watch the time fly by
In conclusion, Prime World: Defenders is very addictive. Tower defence might be a niche market but this is one of the most accessible entrants, just be sure to use the forging and be prepared for a little grind at boss levels. If you’re a tower defence fan pick this little gem up. If you aren’t then give it a little try if you’re intrigued by the genre. I can’t think of another example which will ease you in more easily or take up more of your time that this game.