Paradox Interactive has released a new tower defense game set in the world of Majesty entitled Defenders of Ardania.  While tower defense games are becoming more and more popular, Paradox Interactive tries to change up the formula by adding in an offensive component to Defenders of Ardania.  While this was a neat idea in theory, in practice this creates a lengthy and tedious game experience that is best avoided.

Story:

Defenders of Ardania is set in the world of Majesty, which was the center of many of Paradox Interactive’s other real time strategy games.  People who are familiar with the world of Majesty will be happy to see the connection, but Defenders of Ardania does nothing to really introduce new players, like me, to the existing world.

The game immediately starts you off by having you defend your castle against a former ally with no introduction to the world that the game is set in.  You get brief flashes of what is going on through the talking heads that tell you the story during game play, but it doesn’t really do anything to help push the narrative along.

Defenders of Ardania’s narrative feels like a missed opportunity.  I feel that the world of Majesty could have been a rich and wonderful place to explore and learn about, but Defenders of Ardania does nothing to bring this world to you, especially if you are a new player to this franchise.

Gameplay:

Defenders of Ardania uses the same gameplay elements as most tower defense games use.  Your job is to build up your defense by using towers to prevent the enemy from destroying your castle.  What Defenders of Ardania does differently is that it adds an offensive component to the game as well.  During the match, you must send out troops to destroy the opposing castle, while defending your castle using towers.

As I said earlier, this idea is great in theory, but it really drags out the game by adding this offensive component.  What would normally be a round of surviving wave after wave of enemies, then becomes a battle against tedium as you build your defenses, send out wave after wave of troops towards your enemy, and slowly watch your opponent’s health tick down to zero.

What really killed this game for me was the surprise boss battles that would be thrown at you.  These battles were all or nothing and unless you were prepared for them, would destroy your castle in one shot.  I successfully defended my castle and defeated my opponent, when the enemy sent out the boss.  My defenses were adequate enough to defeat the enemies that were being sent before, but ended up being woefully underdeveloped to kill the boss.  The boss reached my castle, which was at full health, and destroyed it in one go.

Multiplayer games were even worse than the single player campaign, for one reason only, and that is the ability to heal your castle.  When each player can heal their own castle at crucial times, and since magic regenerates as you play, it makes it almost impossible to win a multiplayer game in Defenders of Ardania.  I hate quitting games that I have started, but every time I start a game online, it would take so long that I would either get bored or would have to get up and do something, like eat.

Other than the lengthy battles that is Defenders of Ardania, the gameplay is standard fare for a tower defense game.  You earn different types of towers and troop types as you proceed through the game.  Each tower and troop type has different sets of bonuses and prices.  You are able to purchase upgrades as the game continues, and you are even able to heal your castle if you take too much damage.  What could have been a fairly standard tower defense game, turned out to be a tedious experience.

Aesthetics:

Defenders of Ardania is not a stellar aesthetic experience, to say the least.  The voice acting is almost painfully stereotypical and extremely hard to listen too.  Why, oh why does every individual in a game that is remotely medieval in nature has to have a Scottish accent?  Just once, I would like to hear a French or German accent.  Developers do know that the French and Germans had castles too, right?  Right?  Oh, to be cursed with a history background when playing these types of games.

The visuals of Defenders of Ardania are sub par at best.  The only way to differentiate between the troop types is to see how fast the troop is moving.  I could not tell the difference between a warrior or rogue visually, since they both looked like brown blobs moving through the level.  The settings looked decent, if standard for an XBLA title.  Overall, I just wasn’t impressed with the look or feel of Defenders of Ardania.

Final Thoughts:

Defenders of Ardania is, ultimately, a good idea gone horribly wrong.  The idea of taking a typical tower defense game and adding an offensive component seemed like a good idea, but what it did in the end was drag out each game into the realm of unreasonability.  Then adding the ability to heal your castle during a multiplayer game, pushed Defenders of Ardania into the category of being absolutely unplayable.  The voice acting is tired and predictable, the visuals are decent when you talk about the scenery, but the troops are just ugly blobs of brown with varying speeds.  The tower defense genre sees many new games each month being released, and like the first person shooter genre, only a few are actually worth playing.  Defenders of Ardania by Paradox Interactive is not one of them.

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Judgeman

John "Judgeman" Dugan is a long time contributor and Gaming Shogun's resident fighting game expert. Judgeman has appeared on G4's Arena, including season 1's Tournament of Champions, and was a regular in the early days of Street Fighter 2 tournaments.