There are two kinds of people in this world. The first are those who love wave-based shooters. These people find pleasure in nothing more than defending their bases as multitudes of creatures fly at them, killing them all while setting up their defenses for the next wave. Then there are the other kind who would rather cut off their own head with a rusty fork and feed it to a bunch of wild boars. You might hazard a guess which camp I lie in.
Fortified is set in an alternate 1950’s universe where aliens are invading Earth. A heady mixture in tone and style reminded me of films like Mars Attack, Men in Black, and 50’s comic books with its bold colors and cut scenes. This game is for solo players and up to four-player online co-op in which you can choose to play as one of four characters. Will you be The Captain, a leader and commander of armies? The Rocket Scientist, The Agent or The Spaceman? Each character has different skills and access to a truckload of different weapons and defense trinkets. These can range from selecting and placing ground rocket troops, to placing special freeze ray machines as traps for approaching enemies.
The gameplay combines real time strategy resource management, third person shooting and tower defense skills. When you start the game you choose which weapons and defense systems you want to use, then analyse the map you are playing on. There will be paths indicated with arrows pointing in the direction of the enemy attacking formations for each wave. You then place your defenses, choosing spots you think will be suitable for the best defensive formation and then get ready to rumble. The enemy are your standard retro space aliens, some nicely designed awkward robots, spaceships and creatures. They come at you in droves, on both the ground and in the air, all aiming for your rocket base with the express intention of destroying it. When they get through your defenses it’s up to you and your third person shooting skills to save the day. All of these mechanics work very well with the defense systems being interesting and dynamic. Your own third person shooting view is a solid, playable fare without any problems.
So all must be pretty good? Well, maybe it’s me but nothing really felt dangerous or exciting enough. There are no real surprises or moments of wow in either solo and online co-op play and nothing that made me sit up and chew my fingers to the bone in nervous anticipation. I played levels with my defenses so well set up, that I only had to shoot a few times to stop myself and my ship being hurt. I could have set it up, let it run, had a bath and I’m sure it would have survived.
Graphically, Fortified has some very retro touches. Backgrounds have that comic book feel to them, with cinemas showing B-movie films and buildings that look straight out of a original marvel comic. The characters are made without being amazing or truly unique. The alien invasion force is great though with my favourite being the “Lost in Space” type robots shambling towards you. Tone and looks wise the game does everything right and is designed by a group who clearly knows and loves their genre.
Soundtrack wise it really does remind me of “Men in Black” because of its loops. The music does grate a bit as it repeats constantly as you tackle wave after wave. It even caused my girlfriend to come in from the other room and threaten me with a box of frozen fish fingers if I didn’t turn the volume off. But the effects, tone and finesse it achieves in the overall sound design is very lovely indeed.
Now the big question is what is better? Solo or with a friend or two? I did both. The solo experience works just fine for a short while and the game is designed well to balance the enemies. Without repeating myself…the game works well but by wave three you start to lose the will to live. However the co-op experience that I shared with a few online colleagues a couple of times is a different beast. Here you get to see the different character classes working together, combining their different skills, abilities and weapons to combat the oncoming hoard effectively. Communication is key here as well as good tower management knowledge. You holler at each other to defend this section or ask for help here or to be rescued over there. It feels much more dynamic and a rewarding experience. In reality this is exactly what the game was designed to truly be. We had a lot of fun but then the dreaded boredom wafted in again. We all stopped speaking, quietly shooting our onslaught of aliens, until one of us chimed in as we finished another level, “Fifa?”. “Yes” we all said as one.
Fortified is good; it’s well crafted and has a lovely retro design. Everything about it works really well with great mechanics. The main problem I have though is the lack of variety in the gameplay. Instead of just having five waves per level, with those waves getting increasing harder, can’t we have some surprises in there? There must be a way to reinvent the genre, because it feels really tired and a bit of a drag. This is a shame because Fortified is a game that is well worth dipping your toes in the water to have a look at, but it is the staying power that might cause your attention to wander.
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