It might sound a bit dumb to talk about another tower defence game after my post about this declining genre. Just like some of you, I'm still suspicious yet surprised to see another title attempting to steal the App Store crown, and for that reason alone, I have to leave skepticism to the side and give a try this new game that brings back memories of the Age of Empires saga.
Defenders of Ardania [iTunes Link - iPad only] by Paradox Interactive is a fantasy-themed tower defence game that combines the classic building mechanics with an offensive element that includes troops and spells. The goal of the game isn't only to protect the castle from the incoming waves - you'll have to penetrate the enemy lines, gain resources and take down the enemy base.
The start of Ardania isn't a smooth ride, perhaps for the ported nature of the game - the game was released on other platforms earlier this year. Instead of going through a first mission learning the basics, there's a rather cumbersome screenshot manual and text that tries to teach you about the whole universe and tactics.
This is pretty much like the old days reading the paper game instructions or the cryptic Kairosoft help menus. I wouldn't mind any time of the year, but if you launch your game the same week as Infinity Blade II, I'm going to be thinking about awesome tutorials all day long.
Fortunately, the game pace and difficulty in the first campaigns allow you to experiment and try the entry-level towers, troops and spells, but it still feels like learning around the clock. Maybe it has something to do with the impressive visuals and small details that dress the repetitive action.
As I have already mentioned, the buildings and atmosphere reminds me a lot of some PC strategy games, making deploying units and analysing the enemy moves a real pleasure to the eyes. The animations are more fluid that what you would expect, the environments created for the different scenarios/levels are at a very high standard and are a welcome addition to a genre that never put much attention to these in the past.
The game mechanics involve securing resources and kill enemy waves to be able to place strategically your towers - nothing new here - and sustain your impressive arsenal. Pretty much every unit and tower is matched and as the game progresses, it'll be more challenging to be protected of every menace.
Everything, however, remains quite balanced and at no point you feel the opposition is superior. The enemy also starts from zero and the three different races you can play with also have same unit types, spells and towers (on different appearance).
All this mixed with four different game modes and the 15 different scenarios make for a seriously compelling iOS title. I haven't been able to try the multiplayer since the version I tested is giving some strange Game Center problem, but I take it as a nice treat in the next update. The epic skirmish mode allows you to try the different races and maps plus all the units and towers before you unlock them in the missions.
Overall, Defenders of Ardania manages to mix bits and pieces from your favourite strategy games, the classic tower defense gameplay with kind of easy difficulty at a very high pace. At least for once, a TD game doesn't feel like waiting for waves until completing the level. If you're a fan of the genre, don't be turned off by the lack of tutorial - you'll be playing mission after mission naturally before you realise.