Okay, so picture the scene.
You're a Commander for HeroCorp, the 4th largest private military organization in the entire galaxy. War has become so destructive that countries have now stopped fighting them altogether. The military industrial complex isn't making any money and there are literally soldiers on the streets with "Will Kill for Food" signs. These heroes need to feed their families! And, much more importantly, the weapons makers need to make their profits!
And that's where the dimensional portals come in.
Recently discovered, these portals allow access to a myriad of other realities, all of them packed with weird and wacky creatures, living in strange and unusual locales. Your job is to "preemptively defend" the Earth by going to these dimensions and wiping out the alien hordes, before they come to our home and attack us. Make sure you come in under budget and fill out those Tactical Threat Assessment forms, in triplicate!
Is "preemptively defending Earth" ethical?
It doesn't matter, your responsibility is to the shareholders!
And that, dear player, is how OTTTD sets up the action. Standing for "Over The Top Tower Defense", it was recently released by SMG studios and is a port of the Steam version of, what was originally, a mobile game.
I'm sure we are all familiar with how tower defense games work but, just in case, I'll explain how it's been implemented here. You'll have a home base located somewhere on the map, with various roads and paths snaking towards it from off screen. Enemies of various types will walk down these roads (though not always!), travelling at their own pace, trying to reach, and then destroy, your base of operations. If it that base is destroyed, then it's game over.
Now, obviously, you aren't defenseless against the horde. Dotted around the map are build points that allow you to create turrets. These come in different types, all of which have their own cost, strengths and are effective against different enemy types. The energy weapon turret is better against armour, for instance, whereas conventional bullets are more effective against unarmoured foes. As you advance through the levels, new turret types will be added to your repertoire, increasing your range of abilities and tactical options. You'll unlock towers that slow enemies, heal allies, shield other towers and a bucket load of other functions too. Each basic type can be upgraded, increasing their damage output, armour etc or you can invest even more cash to change them to an improved type. Gatling Guns become heavy duty "Blamwitzer" cannons or wandering attack drones, Pulse cannons become "Omni-Cannon" or "DeathBeamers" and so on and so forth. The change increases stats and adds new attack abilities, but is way more expensive than the basic stat increase. The currency to upgrade these towers comes from each enemy you destroy, so clearing waves quickly allows expansion of your defenses and ultimately, control of the map.
But these turrets aren't your only option.
You see OTTTD isn't JUST a straight tower defense, it's actually a hybrid. Part Tower Defense and part Real Time Strategy, you'll also be controlling a team of up to 3 specialists, moving them around to where they'd be most effective, while you're simultaneously laying down and upgrading the towers. These team members all have different functions and abilities too, you'll begin with just an Engineer, whose focus is repairing the towers, but more are quickly added, with the full roster consisting of 7 different types in all. Along with the Engineer, there is also the Assault class with their heavy damage dealing focus, Snipers with their extreme range attacks, mine laying Saboteurs and a few others that we'll let you discover on your own ;-)
Each class has many skills, both passive and active, that completely changes what they can do but, while passive abilities stack unendingly, only 2 of the active skills can be equipped at one time. These are assigned to the X and Y buttons and are on cool-down meters. The sniper for instance can go invisible or focus missile fire, the Assault can go Berserk or send out a stun wave, the Engineer can overdrive towers and repair far away ones. As said before, each specialist has their own active skills and these sit alongside more mundane, but still useful skills, like increased shooting range, healing speed, damage output etc and are unlocked by using skill points. Unlike the towers, which are upgraded in battle using cash received by destroying enemies, the squad is upgraded between fights using the experience points and in-game currency awarded after every level. The currency buys new weapons and armour, increasing their stats, while Exp earned goes towards levelling up the character. Each level earned gives 3 skill points to spend on new abilities. The more you use a particular class, the more points they unlock, the more powerful they become and the more skills they have to choose from. This increases your chance of earning a three-star rating in a mission because, as stated earlier, this is a port of a mobile game and getting rated in stars is how you know you're winning!
Presentation wise, the game has a humourous cartoon look, one that's well presented and uses bright, bold colours. Both the towers, and your own team members, are easily recognizable, even when totally zoomed out in handheld mode and are easy to pick out against the background battlefield. These levels are themed, and flit between "happy" and "dark" designs while never leaving the bold cartoon style. You'll be fighting on beautiful beaches populated by cybernetic crabs, mechanically augmented orcas, biker octopuses and such one minute, and then fighting floating eyeballs, zombies and demonic teddy bears in a graveyard "horror" dimension the next. The enemy designs are, for me, a particular highlight. Although not highly detailed, they are varied and new ones were constantly added as you progress, requiring new tactics to deal with them. A nice little feature is the fact that, as each enemy gets destroyed, their armour pieces and body parts go flying. These remain on the battlefield, not only looking good, but also letting you know how far the enemies are penetrating into your territory, and where you need to shore up your defenses.
The sound effects do a decent job too. The weapons all sound meaty and, although nothing special, certainly do the job. The background music doesn't get annoying or repetitive and the pumping rock soundtrack fits the overall style. The characters all have a few humorous lines that they'll shout in battle or to acknowledge orders. Most are well done, referencing popular culture and even the Arnold Schwarzenegger impersonating Assault guy doesn't get annoying!
So, ultimately, I had a surprisingly pleasant time with OTTTD. The Tower defense genre is flooded and quality can be all over the place, this however is a particularly well done example. The introduction of the RTS elements brings something new-ish to a very familiar genre and it's all wrapped up in a colourful, humourous package. I had a few, very minor niggles, turret health bars being obscured by scenery on a couple of locations here and there. The progression can be a little bit of a grind, weapons and armour are expensive and unlocking skills starts to cost a lot of points. However, matches are short and it is possible to repeat them over and over quite quickly, earning currency and experience each time.
When everything is considered, I'd say OTTTD is a rather good buy. As tower defense games go, the last one I enjoyed this much was X-MORPH Defense and, considering its 3 times the price, OTTTD should get serious props for that. The "mobile game" feel and style is there but it's still one to take a look at, especially for budget gamers. For tower defense fans, however? It might even be a "Must Buy".
*Note: A copy of this game was provided for the purpose of this review.
Final SCore: 8/10
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