It has been a little while since I last played a good Tower Defence game, and so the release of a new entry in the genre is very welcome.
The game in question is Space Raiders in Space, from the developers of 2 Stupid Devs and Destructive Creations, published by RedDeerGames. Billed as a mixture of a roguelike and Tower Defence, the game promises to bring an exciting new twist to the whole genre.
So why don’t you come with me to a world of big bugs, bigger guns and some hot tower defending action?
The story is a real highlight, presented in an appealing graphic novel style. Some of the dialogue is voice acted, some of it you have to read, but all of it is very nicely drawn. The narrative traces the first contact of humans with an insect-like species that is controlled by a Hivemind, and for a while, all is well and relations between the two species are cordial. But suddenly, the Hivemind becomes hostile and the bugs that were our friends are now our enemies and have to be terminated. We do however need to find out why and that pretty much sets the scene for a galaxy spanning conspiracy. It is certainly a strong enough narrative to keep you playing to the end, that is for sure.
The art style carries over into the main game, with well drawn and designed characters to take control of. The areas that you find yourself in are a varied bunch, from a space station to a strip club, and while they are all fairly small with a handful of ingress points – very much like every other tower defence game ever – they work very well.
The soundscape is very good as well, with the bugs shrieking, the guns of your heroes and your turrets firing and the inane chatter between the characters all working well. All in all, the presentation of Space Raiders in Space is very much top notch, with the story panels acting like a cherry on the top.
So, the actual gameplay then is the real test here and we discover that there are two modes to play: the story mode and a mode called RNGeesus, which is basically a horde mode. The story mode bowls along at a great pace, and features two characters called Andy and Heather who were in contact with the Hivemind when things went south. As we progress through the story, we have the chance to recruit extra characters to our side, and as any student of tower defence games will tell you, having more firepower is always better than less. In an upsetting twist, it’s best to not let any of the characters die in the story mode – if they do, you have to restart the whole chapter, which is a real kick in the teeth when you fail on wave 15/15!
RNGeesus mode has two options – one where you can extract at the end of each wave, healing the team up before starting again, or another that has you basically fighting until you die – there is no escape. Again, there are other characters to be found in this mode, and while it is a little harder than the story, it appears that blueprints and materials that you unlock carry over to the next run, making your survival that bit easier. Having only a flimsy wall and some bad language is never going to be as good as a row of spike traps that destroy bugs as they get close, is it?
The actual gameplay, the combat phase of both modes is the same. You have a certain amount of time before a new wave of bugs arrive, trying to separate your head bone from your neck bone, and so you have to decide how you are going to spend your time. The heroes can search for resources, finding new weapons and building materials, they can build defences that you specify, or they can repair damaged existing defences.
And it’s when the action starts, and when the bugs start to pile in, in which you have three options – you can defend, allowing your heroes to only shoot when bugs get close; you can attack either with firearms or melee weapons, or you can use the “Cower” button, that helpfully puts a chicken icon on your characters as they attempt to hide.
The route that the bugs will follow is helpfully marked with a black line on the floor, and one top tip I have learned is this: the bugs don’t deviate from this line at all, so setting up rows of turrets along the route they are going to take, but not on it, is a brilliant way of keeping the bugs at a distance. Or at least making sure that the boss bugs are so weak that when they get to you, they go down easily. You may well want to do that too as the boss bugs are a real pain, with Chad, the tankiest of them all, having upwards of 15,000 HP to be whittled away before he eats anyone.
There’s a very good chance you’ll enjoy your time with Space Raiders in Space. The sense of humour is on point, helped along by the Easter Eggs that have been sneaked in, but it can also play a very mean game of Tower Defence; that obviously helps. With a supercritical head on, it could be said that the story isn’t awfully long, but there are a number of different endings to try for, and so this helps a bit.
Space Raiders in Space is on the Xbox Store