Dare I say that this is another tower defence game?
Tower defence(TD) is a genre that has completely exploded due to the iOS, and other touchscreen devices. Easy to produce with a small team due to having little in the character department, and even less in the story aspect. The fact that they are always wave based, and can be paused for hours without any loss of momentum makes them perfect for the more casual portable platforms. Compared to the real time strategy game genre (RTS) that dominated the PC, and made a number of appearances on early portable devices the TD genre has completely dominated iOS. Not even the turn based strategy genre has managed to make remotely as much impact despite also being suitable for shorter sessions on the go.
With such a lucrative market developers are trying their best to bring something new to the table, and everyone claim to be successful at that. In reality there is only two variations of the game: the fixed path, and the free map. No matter if you force your critters down these set paths, or give the player freedom to create an obstacle course of death the most important thing is balance.
E.R.A is an ambitious project that tries to win players by having an immense amount of content. I have seen all individual aspects of the gameplay before in different games so there is little that is really new here. What I do like however is the really big maps, especially those with long winding paths giving ample opportunity for proper strategy.
There are three game modes in E.R.A: quick, endless and campaign. I have invested my time, and effort in the campaign found in E.R.A. This is definitely a campaign that gives a lot of value for your money in terms of content, and time. There are however some issues with balance that bothers me. First of all there is a hefty need for IAP if you want to upgrade the core stats of the towers at hand. Without IAP I never gained enough to even consider properly upgrading firepower for example. Furthermore the critters are not that balanced either. I found myself yawning for thirty waves just to have a wave that completely obliterated my HQ, and that wasn’t even the final wave. I have had similar experiences with Crystal Defenders from Square Enix.
If you fail a map in campaign mode you can use a lowered difficulty token that basically lets you start with as much money, as you need to build a strong defence right away. You only get ten of these so use them wisely if you don’t want to buy more using IAP.
With 100 different, albeit still quite generic, enemies that follow the path or fly through the air the game is packed with quite a lot of content. Fighting across seven different planets, and meeting six bosses this is a game that will last weeks. That is if you don’t get bored with having to wait for the really challenging waves. Moving about with the hero unit is the only thing had to do waiting during more or less the entire first world. There is a double speed option, but that makes it move at only what I call moderate speed. It needs a 4x option as well, as you can usually go five waves without building more towers.
The presentation is sleek with a planetary main menu, and easy to understand options. What I think the game is lacking is a zoom in option when playing. That would make it more interesting to see if there were any real difference between all the different enemies. Maps sparkle, and glow with the energy inherit in the soil, crust or ice. A lot of effort has gone into making it all pretty, and it certainly is. The slow music that tries to induce darkness, and despair soon got a bit boring to me. Sadly the game wouldn’t allow me to use my own music, and kept forcing the gloom onto me. Given that this is a game with immense potential game time I think it should be up to the player to choose music. The sound effects are on the weak side due to most weapons being energy, and thus giving off zing and ping noises.
E.R.A is by no means revolutionary, and not even evolutionary if borrowing the terms from Apple. It is however a stable tower defence game sporting a polished presentation, proper attempts at a story and ample content. I would have liked to see the IAP option removed completely, and instead giving the player more chance to upgrade towers freely between levels. It would definitely make the game more appealing. If you haven’t already been exhausted from playing tower defence games you might want to include E.R.A in your arsenal.
E.R.A $2.99 iPad only
Seller: Illumesoft Inc.