Finally the day has arrived! After 50 or so reviews on this site I have struck gold, and my first five star rating is ready to be handed out. Some will cringe; Nacho for example, when they hear it is a tower defence game. But it isn’t any old tower defence game; it is Defender Chronicles – Legend of the Desert King. Having named Star Defense the best tower defence game ever (review here), just to remove its crown less than two weeks later, feels strange. Defender Chronicles hasn’t just blown me away; it has consumed me for the last week. I find myself constantly thinking about how to solve a level, or what aspects of my hero and commander to upgrade. Defender Chronicles reminds me a bit of Dave’s favourite game, Puzzle Quest, when it comes to being addictive and getting stuck in my mind.
So why does Defender Chronicles deserve the crown of greatest tower defense game ever? First of all it really changes the perspective by turning it all into a 2D platform tower defense game. I was a bit sceptical at first but soon I found myself loving the idea. It makes for even greater planning when you have both enemies walking the set path, and enemies flying outside the set path. Your defences have to be able to ward of different kinds of attackers moving in completely different patterns.
Defender Chronicles includes small RPG elements giving you power to choose how your commander should evolve. You can choose to focus on having strong general battle skills or maybe focus mainly on having strong bowmen. It all affects the kind of strategy you will use when playing a level. You can also buy equipment for your hero enhancing different aspects such as attack power and walking speed. I would love even more of RPG elements in future updates as they really motivate me to play an extra time to gain some more experience.
The quest mode lets you unlock new levels as you go along, as well as replaying the already beaten ones to gain imperial credits, and level up your commander. There is a library letting you buy secrets such as extra levels, and the stats of your soldiers.
Wave after wave of undead, flying goblins and ogres attack you. At a number of preset build points you can set up a warrior guild or bowmen guild, later also mage guilds and unlockable secret defenders. The warriors attack with swords, and slow the enemies a little. The archers shoot at whichever enemy is in reach. Placing archers near warriors is a good idea since you can get more arrows in when enemies are slowed down. On the other hand archers are the only ones to kill flying enemies, and having them shooting walking enemies instead leaves you wide open to the flying pests. At the end of a levels stands your hero, he can kill most walking enemies if they don’t come in hordes. He can’t even attack the flying enemies. Different enemies also have different vulnerabilities and immunities, like skeletons for example are immune to arrows as they just pass between the bones. Mages use magic, and complement your warriors at fighting walking enemies.
You can upgrade your units, and even transform them into other classes. Warriors can turn into red berserks with much greater power. Knowing when to upgrade is key, upgrading quickly cost more than buying additional units. The two really important strategic considerations you have to make on a level is; where to put what unit, and when to upgrade what unit. This is what goes through my mind all day now, what unit and when should I upgrade to beat the Silver Keep level.
What else can I say, I was surprised when I started playing Defender Chronicles as I didn’t really think the screenshots looked that hot but once in motion it turns into a beast. Fun, addictive and challenging. But yes, it is a tower defence game meaning a lot of you are already sick of the formula. To me this is fresh, and I have it parked on my home screen, which has never happened before with a game I am reviewing.
Great graphics, zooming in and out is a joy to the eyes. Menus and map screen are all easy to read, and looks terrific. Enemies are varied, and easy to distinguish from one and another. The use of text, albeit being read aloud, instead of cut scenes is the only minor complaint in the graphics department.
The music is powerful, combining elements of classical and marching music, into epic bombastic arrangements. I love the cheesy voice acting both, male and female, even though I have read arguments that it should be removed. To me it further transports me into the world of heroes and evil kings being a bit over the top in delivery. The sound effects and the shouts of encouragement from your soldiers are great. It also adds to the urgency of the game when your hero shouts: “we lost this battle, but we can still win the war”.
Responsive touch controls with the pinch in/pinch out zoom. The game is hard, even on casual difficulty. I find myself replaying levels over and over to find whether it is best to upgrade or buy more. To me this is one of the more strategically unforgiving tower defence games out there. There is little room for error when planning, which I consider to be a good thing.
The game also has the important fast forward button letting you hurry along easy waves, and collect money in double time.
I have played this for more than 20 hours already, and I haven’t beaten more than half of the quest. You can also buy more levels in the library within the game using credits you have earned. According to the page on iTunes Chillingo will also bring more levels in future updates. There are only local high scores in the game. If you are tired of quest mode you can play it as an ordinary tower defense game in four different modes; freestyle, classic, classic extended and extended. Together with the four difficulty levels this game will last as long as you want it to.
Defender Chronicles is one of the best games for the iPhone in my opinion. The level of polish combined with fantastic gameplay makes this game one not to be missed.