I really loved Crystal Defenders when it was released for the iPhone, and I even bought it for my iPod Nano. I still consider it the best tower defence game even with the ugly control pad in version 1.0. To see Vanguard Storm surface at the appstore really got me drooling with anticipation. I tried the lite version first but it was simply too easy to be any challenge. And without challenge I couldn’t really get a good sample of the game. I had to go ahead and buy the full version to get into some quality Square Enix rpg/strategy gaming.
Vanguard Storm is a combination of chess and tower defence. The game play area is divided in two halves, and you can only place your units on your side. The aim of the game is to stop the enemies from advancing across your side. To stop them you have eight different units. At the start of each map you already have three to five units assigned. The game is played in waves just like most tower defence games, and at set intervals you get reinforcements. You only get to choose from two units to reinforce with giving the game minimal chances to build your own army. Between waves you also rearrange your troops as you please. There is a time limit to each wave, and by pressing stat you can speed it up. There is no limit to number of moves or length of moves making it a bit too easy. You never really get any consequences for bad strategising.
Your units attack with either magical or physical weapons, and the different enemies have different immunities to your attack. For example a turtle like creature is immune to physical attacks but vulnerable to magical attacks. You also have flying enemies that your soldier can’t attack. Long distance units are most common and you have those attacking straight forward and those attacking diagonally. The soldier attacks three vertical squares in front of him. White Mages restore health points of your units. Paladins block the path for enemies with a massive health bar. You also have a Bishop boosting attack power of other units in front of him. I recognise the units from Crystal Defenders, and I still feel that they are all quite bland and boring. There is no story to Vanguard Storm either, making it even harder to relate to them.
There are only ten maps known from Crystal Defenders to play on. All maps play the same, there are no obstacles or differences in layouts. This becomes quite tedious when you only have the same basic map to play on. The enemies are more varied with flying, quick moving and extra large specimens. Most enemies are too easy to beat even without proper strategy. It is only on the final maps, when you meet enemy version of your own units that it becomes challenging.
This is the big problem I have with Vanguard Storm, it is too easy. It seldom takes a good strategy to win, just place units to maximise damage on the enemy. In chess such a tactic often leads to defeat but in Vanguard Storm it rewards you with time bonuses if you are quick. If you loose the battle in a wave you get to replay it right away. I think that I should at least be forced to replay the entire map, and not just the wave. On the other hand bad reinforcement choices in early waves can’t be undone without retrying the map.
Not getting to choose troops really bothers me as well. You can’t try which combination is best for beating a map. Better to use Mages or Archers? We will never know. There is no way to upgrade your units other than keeping them alive. I really like that aspect of the tower defence genre.
A technical shortcoming is the lack of autosave in the game. You have to go to the menu and choose to save and quit to get it to save. Really annoying to be forced to play in airplane mode to get anywhere in the game. I have had to restart from the first map a couple of times just because of incoming calls. And when my six-month baby pressed the home button in the middle of a close battle on the final map I went into despair.
To sum up I think that Vanguard Storm is a disappointment. It fails the attempt to mix chess with tower defence, and you are better of playing either a chess or a tower defence game. At $4.99 you can afford both instead of Vanguard Storm.