Review: Selknam Defense

The Selknam people lived in various parts of South America.  They were a purely nomadic people surrounded by cultures that had farming and agriculture.  Because of this they never flourished.  In fact they wouldn’t make contact with the Europeans until the 19th century.  During this time Christian missions were actually deployed to try and save the Selknam people.  European expansion into South America was pushing them out of their traditional hunting territories and causing their populations to shrink rapidly.

Selknam Defense re-envisions a world in which the Europeans came to kill them all off via mass genocide instead of sending aid.  As well they envision a world in which the Selknam people actually have a land and homes as opposed to being nomadic peoples.  I’m not sure I should be angered by how much re-envisioning of history there is in this game or happy that they chose to talk about one peoples in South America that basically no one knows anything about.

Regardless, the historical context of the game is 100% bullshit.

Moving on.

Tower Defenses have been around for a long time.  They’ve sort of transformed into the Sodoku of gaming.  Once you finish one there is no replay value whatsoever and you are forced to move on to another.  Some games. add in leader boards and such to try and keep you plugged.. but they never are.  Selknam Defense like every other tower defense game out there is a one off.

If you hate tower defense games, you can probably stop reading.

The game is a port from iOS so don’t expect too much.  It won’t have the deepness you see in Orcs Must Die and its $10 so you get what’s given.  It was designed around touch so there’s some severe design limitations there.

In the game you plop down Selknams who will defend your village against the Spanish… and pirates.  As you kill more Spanish you get more gold which you can spend on more Selknams to further defend your kingdom.

There are different sorts of Selknams that do different sorts of things.  Some will just do damage.  Some are tanky.  Some will boost stats.  Some will heal.  Some will stun.  As you pass levels and get stars you can unlock more Selknams to deploy on the field.

Once you get to around Level 8 the game takes off the kiddie gloves and gets hard.  You have about seven levels for understanding the game and then it becomes insanely hard.

In order to try and get you to replay old levels you have the unlocks and the stars.  It’s unlikely you will beat Level 16 with 3 stars the first time you try it.  However after having leveled up certain Selknams and unlocking others it might be possible to do it with a 3-star performance.

Tower defense games have a reputation of being very challenging.  This one is no different.  There’s nothing particularly great or innovative about it, it’s just another TD game.  If you’re looking to try out another one, go ahead.  Otherwise stick to something a little more mainstream.

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First Impressions: The Mighty Quest for Epic Loot

Ubisoft is pumping out the free to play titles like mad.  With three browser based games, a co-op RPG, a free to play shooter, they now add in this free to play dungeon siege game.

Maybe a rant about dungeon siege games.

I think one of the failures of dungeon siege developers is that they’re always trying to make and re-make classic dungeon sieging games like Stronghold and Lords of the Realm.  What you end up getting is crappy half done games like Citadels and Stronghold 3.

Instead these studios are afraid of innovating and giving us something new.

Leave it up to big corporate Ubisoft to be the innovators.

The Mighty Quest for Epic Loot is a twist on the dungeon builder genre.  Instead of building a castle you just get one.  You simply design the shape of it.  You deploy traps and minions to defend your keep from people.

This makes it closer to a Tower Defense type game, a perfect fit.

People will show up in your castle and have to get through your traps and minions.  The better designed the harder it is for them to beat your castle.

Here’s the kicker.

Let’s say they get through.

They get 10% of your total gold.

To be fair it’s done on a timetable and if they can’t get through in time they don’t get the money.

It means that you can design your castle simply around slowing people down, as opposed to beating them outright.

There’s a flip side to this of course.

It means you invade other people’s castles and steal their gold.

With the gold you can invest in new gear, items to use while sieging, level ups, traps,minions, and walls.  You level up, you level up your castle and you progress to get bigger and stronger.

The more gold you are earning the more you will need to spend to protect it.  Every time you die in their castle you give them 100 gold.

The revenue model of the game is purchasing premium coin in order to get bigger badder minions and traps to make your castle more secure.

But Ubisoft also announced they will be rolling this system back because it ruins the game.

The game has a weird app on Facebook.  It counts how many chickens have been slain and the numbers are ridiculous.  The top chicken killer of this week has 82,000 kills… that’s insane.

But it makes a lot of sense.

My daily morning routine is I wake up, turn on my computer, take the dogs out for a walk, feed the dogs, make breakfast for me and my girlfriend, walk the dogs again… and then I play games.

Well the morning I got this game I decided  I would play this game for a few minutes, just turn it on and I’d make breakfast shortly.

Well 30 minutes later I realized my girlfriend would be eating cold cereal.

Completing people’s dungeons takes about 3-20 minutes depending on how difficult they are made.  But you always feel like going going and going.  The idea that your castle can be raided by people really hurts over time.

They can take a maximum of 10% of your fortune per day… meaning that if you don’t play for ten days you will be broke.

Ouch.

The game is definitely fun and you’ll get tones of value out of it.  The downside is it uses Facebook-like hooks to keep you playing… which doesn’t entirely make sense without a mobile component.

Without Internet I Review: Plants vs. Zombies

Every now and then comes along a game so great… that World of Warcraft parodies it.

It kind of makes sense actually.  Blizzard was the company that popularized tower defense by making it into a mini-game for Warcraft 3.  They also after that created so many tools for people to create their own tower defense games to the point where tower defense has become its own genre.

So yeah, World of Warcraft paying homage to Plants vs. Zombies is absolutely no surprise at all.

What is surprising is who made it, PopCap Games.  PopCap Games have basically only really ever made one type of game.  For them to come out with an amazing twist on the tower defense is highly unusual.

Thanks for the notice zombies!
Thanks for the notice zombies!

Plants vs. Zombies is a game that everyone should try out.

The game starts off with plants.  Each plant has a role.  Some generate extra points for building more plants.  Some do pure damage.  Some do temporary damage.  Some do sporadic damage.  Some fire fast.  Some fire slow.  Some slow down enemies.  Some block enemies.

A great tower defense game has variety in towers you can place; the towers in this game (plants) are very diverse and very fun.

The zombie enemies are equally diverse.  Sometimes zombies blow up; sometimes they’ll hop over the first plant they come in contact with.  Sometimes they come out heavily armored.  Sometimes they are faster.

The goal of the game is to prevent the evil zombies from getting to your home.  To do this you plant plants in a square matrix six tall and twelve wide.  Waves continue to get stronger and stronger until you finally beat the level.  Beating the level gives you a new plant type to use in the next level.

The interesting mechanic of this game is that it keeps you occupied by collecting Sunlight (the points) instead of just accumulating it.

This and Orcs Must Die are the two go-to Tower Defense games.  They really did a great job shaking up the genre and are both made by exceptional people.

Review: Fieldrunners 2

Fieldrunners 2 is a tower defense game.  So immediately most people are going to automatically love it or automatically hate it.  It’s one of those sub-genres that is everywhere and people are very aware of.

Fieldrunners 2 is as far as tower defense games go, nothing particularly special.  It’s a tower defense game.  If you’ve played one… you’ve pretty much played them all.

But instead of emphasizing that fact let’s talk about what Fieldrunner 2 actually has to offer.

Synopsis

So tower defense works like this.  A group of enemies are heading towards an objective.  After so many of these enemies reach the objective you lose.

To stop them you have to build towers.  Towers are used to slow down the enemies through proper maze-like placement.  The enemies move in a predictable pattern so the placement of towers is key to strategy.

As well towers have types.  Generally speaking in tower defenses you have a few types.  Light damage are generally high in speed.  High damage are generally slow in speed.  Area of effect do low damage but spread out among a large group of enemies.  Snares will slow down enemies.

A tower defense game generally tries to make multiple of these types with varying strengths and costs.  Yes, costs.  Killing enemies will accumulate currency which is spent on even more towers!

The other thing it can be spent on is upgrading towers.  Upgrading makes their key effect more potent.  In this game upgrading is cheaper than buying, for this reason upgrading takes damage favor over adding new towers.  As well the upgrade cost is set so it’s more advantageous to upgrade the same tower over and over.. rather than upgrading multiple towers simultaneously.

The game has four different modes.

The first is rounds based.  You have to complete a number of rounds before you win.

The second is time based.  You have to kill a number of enemies before the time runs out.

The third is survival based.  You have to survive long enough to kill a number of guys.

The fourth is puzzle based.  You have to use towers to guide enemies into traps.

Okay there isn’t much variety here but truthfully that’s more variety than you get from most tower defense games.

You will play these three gameplay modes throughout the 20-map campaign.  Each of these missions has three difficulty settings ranging from Casual to Heroic.

Casual gets you 1 star, Normal gets you 2 stars, and Heroic gets you 3 stars.  Stars are used to unlock new towers.

As well your performance will give you a special currency.  This money is used to spend on items.  Items can be used in the missions to gain advantages.

Items will freeze, snare, damage, and reverse time.  The reverse time one is particularly clever because of the reference to Omega 13…. you know… a reference to that Tim Allen movie Galaxy Quest?  No… you haven’t seen it…. well you should…. anyway the reference is there… and it’s clever.

Over time killing people will build up a bomb resource.  If you let people through giant leaps are made in this resource.  The bomb when deployed kills off an entire wave.  This adds an additional strategic element to the map so often you can just drop a bomb on the final wave.

Much like most casual games you are competing with the world.  Instead of having individual scores for each mission, you get a score based on a group of missions.

One thing I really liked about this tower defense was how the maps were large enough to fit just your screen.  Tower defense games had this obnoxious feature of having these big giant maps and having obnoxious controls to get around.

The game fits into one still and so you can quickly place and upgrade towers.

Strengths

  •  Addictive Gameplay
  • Good Format
  • Simple Items

When I played the tutorial I was bored to death.  When I jumped into the next mission I was pulling my hair out trying to figure out how this is done on the hardest difficulty.  The gameplay is very addictive and my first sitting was seven hours.  This is a game designed for casual cell phone use.  So maybe this is a weakness?

Gotta love game devs who develop loading screens in their free time
Gotta love game devs who develop loading screens in their free time

The format for the tower defense is really good.  It uses a pretty classic format and having it all fit into one screen works well.  The tower pricing is good as you are left into a risk-reward scenario in which you are discouraged from taking risks… but taking those risks have insanely high reward.

All of the items used are nothing complex.  They’re simple, they’re fun, and they’re easy.

Weaknesses

  • Weak Information UI
  • Currency System
  • Wonky Leaderboard

While I was playing I tried to figure out exactly what a tower did.  I could only do this after placing is down.  After placing it down I found out a one sentence statement indicating what it counters…. instead of what damage it does… or range.  Most of the information you would actually want comes in after you use it.  Because of that it’s very poor deployment.

The currency system is terrible.  You get bonus for Twittering and Facebooking that you are playing but generally earning currency per map ends awful.  It forces you to replay maps over and over to grind up currency so you can get new towers.  I did everything without unlocking the new towers…. badass right?

The over world is hand drawn and beautiful
The over world is hand drawn and beautiful

At the end of my play session there were still a dozen towers I’d never seen and had no idea how they worked.

The leaderboard was really odd.  I did extremely well on one map getting multiple “Mega Combos.”  I thought gee that could be a high score.  I go to the leaderboard and it shows the total scores for each zone instead of each map.  I just felt it would be far more rewarding as a player to have high scores in terms of maps…. the devs don’t seem to agree.

The Verdict

The game is a tower defense so that just kind of means that you need to really like tower defense.

If you haven’t played tower defense, this is a great game to pick up to try it.  I felt the scaling difficulty left room for a person to learn how it works and the max difficulty made it challenging enough to give the game some play value.

The problem is that the game comes with three different prices for iPhone, iPad, and PC.  To this extent I would really recommend this for iPhone and iPad… but I’m very hesitant on recommending this for PC.

Sorry Fieldrunners 2… you’re just a boring old Tower Defense game…. and just not that worth purchasing.