With a new generation of Xbox consoles having arrived, I wonder if you are worried about the same things I am; namely that there may be a hiatus in the stream of cheap to buy, rubbish looking little independant video games. Well, if you were concerned, luckily Prison Games are here to put your mind at ease with Royal Tower Defense. Costing just a few pounds or dollars, and with the sort of graphics I haven’t seen since the original Lemmings many many moons ago, it appears that our concerns have been misplaced.
First off and in Royal Tower Defence we find ourselves playing as members of the royal family – rulers of a land that is threatened by the expansionist policies of their neighbours, the Orcs. Apparently, they have depleted all the resources in their own kingdom, and now have their sights set on the resources of ours instead. We have sent diplomats to try and talk sense into the Orcs, but they have never returned, and now it appears that there’s only one language these Orcs will understand – the language of war! Well, never let it be said that we are scared of a little fisticuffs, and so the scene is set for a showdown between ourselves and the forces of Orcdom.
As you may have gathered from the title of the game, Royal Tower Defense has us laying the smackdown on these Orcs by setting traps and hoping that their blind lust for our natural resources will just keep them coming. And luckily, this is exactly what happens. What this leads to is a series of encounters, with each level viewed from a top-down perspective, amid varying paths for the enemies to take to get to the Tower that we are defending. The title of the game is nothing if not literal. Now, this Tower can take 10 hits before it falls and you fail the level, and so we have to construct defences to make sure that the enemy can’t get near. There are only certain places that defences can be built, so building them near a pinch point, for instance, will do the most good for the least expenditure.
As you would expect, the game plays out like every other tower defence game ever made, with a certain amount of gold available to be spent at the start of the level to establish a perimeter. Then extra gold is awarded for each enemy unit successfully stopped, which then allows us to build more defences, kill faster, and so on and so forth.
There are four basic types of defence that can be bought. The cheapest is an archer tower, which shoots arrows at enemies in range. Their basic damage is low, but an in-depth stack of these archery towers is very good at whittling down the enemy’s health. The second type is that of a castle, which lets soldiers come out and defend the road. Up to three soldiers can be present at any one time, but these are ineffectual against flying enemies. They also quickly get outmatched by enemy units as you climb up the levels, and as such are pretty rubbish. The third is a magic tower; one that by default uses ice magic to damage and slow down the enemy units. As such, an ice tower amongst the archery towers will slow the enemies down and keep them in the kill zone longer, so please take that as my pro tip for how to first tackle Royal Tower Defense. The final unit is a kind of mortar; one that does a lot of damage, but appears to fire about once a fortnight, and so is useless when faced with the faster moving enemies.
From there, I’m going to share with you a piece of information that the game doesn’t seem to want you to have – as you progress, the units that you place can be upgraded to become more powerful. The Archery towers can be upgraded once, for 200 gold, and again when you reach a certain level for a further 350 gold. Nowhere in the game is this mentioned, and I found it by accident as I was left wondering why the enemies were just waltzing past all my defences completely unscathed. Each unit can be upgraded in this manner, so please bear this in mind.
Royal Tower Defense plays out okay from there: building, shooting, destroying. But at no point is this a looker, not by any stretch of the imagination. In fact, I’m here playing a game that wouldn’t make an Amiga sweat. You see, without a word of a lie, the Orcs in this game made me do a double take, as I could have sworn they were Lemmings, the towers are dull-looking, the landscape is uninspired and the design of the enemies is laughable. Orcs turn up plain, with shields or riding what looks like a car on legs, and there are, strangely, flying fish for some unknown reason. Generally the overall look is pretty laughable. The music is pretty nice, however, and while the game sound effects are as limp as the graphics, it just about hangs together.
You’d therefore think that a game such as Royal Tower Defense, a game that looks poor, sounds just about okay, has the worst tutorial system ever and is generally uninspiring in terms of the presentation, must be a bad game, right? Well, not so fast. At risk of sounding like Simon Cowell, there is a dose of the X Factor included – that mysterious, nebulous something that keeps you wanting to play. Losing a level, my usual reaction has been to start again, straight away, and try and do better. With each level being scored out of three stars, the challenge is a steep one; three stars are only awarded for a perfect run, as if even one Orc makes it to the Tower, the best you can hope for is two stars. It is this hook which makes you keep coming back.
Unfortunately, another annoyance is the seeming ability the enemy units have to fuse together, and for you to think that you’ve defeated a single unit, for another to suddenly appear, unscathed and next to the Tower from the ashes of the defeated unit. It’s nigh impossible to tell when this happens as well, so only simply overwhelming firepower will save the day. But it’s that balancing act between trying to get money to upgrade, and having to construct new defences to bolster the existing ones, that make this game somewhat appealing. You’re only ever one mistake away from failure, and learning what defences to place where is a great incentive to try and do better.
In all, Royal Tower Defence on Xbox is a game that is greater than the sum of its parts, but if you are looking for a proper challenge, you could do a lot worse. It’s not a looker, but the gameplay shines through and the hook it delivers is certainly real. For the low asking price, it’s worth giving it a try.