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Defenders of Ardania

Score: 82%
ESRB: Teen
Publisher: Paradox Interactive
Developer: Most Wanted Entertainment
Media: Download/1
Players: 1; 2 - 4 (Online)
Genre: Strategy/ Board Games/ Online

Graphics & Sound:

Defenders of Ardania features bright, colorful, fully-animated 3D units that march across the battlefield from your side to that of your enemy, in what amounts to a game that is, essentially, a simultaneous Tower Defense / Tower Offense game. Your different enemies will have units and towers that have their own unique visual styling, but in the end, each side has their own swarmers, healers, fast units, etc.

As I said, the graphics are 3D and this allows you to play from a decent height, making the game feel more like a boardgame, of sorts, or you can zoom in closer to watch the action as it happens, although I haven't found any benefit to watching any one area too closely; you'll be more worried about keeping track of the whole field in order to make it past a level.

The sound effects do a good job of letting you know what's going on, whether it be the Rogue Hero's quip that lets you know when she makes it to the enemy's castle or is defeated or the loud booms that are accompanied by a screen-shaking effect when a tower is damaged.

The dialogue is generally amusing, with some good, although, at times annoying, voice acting. Let's just say the characters are definitely characters. The part that annoyed me most about this dialogue, however, is that there is not an easy way to dismiss it and, in some levels, your enemy will begin working against you while you're still listening to the dialogue if you simply let it play. The only way I've seen to dismiss these dialogues is to hit [Enter] repetitively, as each press only gets rid of a single piece of dialogue. Due to this, some of my plays of a level include a rapid-fire flurry of hitting the [Enter] key at the beginning, so I can get to the point that I can actually start placing towers and units.


Gameplay:

The object of the game is fairly simple; you want to destroy your enemies before your castle is completely destroyed. In order to destroy your enemies' castle(s), you have to send your forces there. If they reach their destination, they'll do a bit of damage. That's if they make it. They have to get past enemy towers that block their path and hurl projectiles at them. They have to push on against onslaughts of enemies trying to take them out. And they have to take out the enemy's castle before your enemy reaches yours. If you lose track of your castle's damage, you can watch an approaching victory simply slip away. However, taking some damage isn't necessarily the end of the war; you can cast a spell to repair your castle some, buying you more precious time to unleash your forces against your enemies... but it's not cheap, so you'll need to be mindful of your castle's health and your amount of gold, because the spell to repair your castle isn't cheap.

While a lot of the levels are fairly straightforward as described above, there is some variation. One level, for example, requires that you buy a wizard time to finish his research, rather than requiring you to destroy your enemies. In another level, you have two enemies and an ally to contend with. Even without these variations, the differences of the maps makes for different strategies; some spaces offer better range, while others provide valuable resources.

There are a few different modes to choose from: there is Campaign Mode, which has you working through a series of story-driven scenarios, Skirmish, which allows you to select from these same locations individually to just jump right in and try a specific one and Multiplayer, which allows you to play in matches with up to four players over the Internet. There's Quick Match, which allows you to jump straight into gameplay against others in your choice of Free for All, 2 on 2 and Survival Matches. Or, you can create your own game how you like, by selecting a location from the map, choosing your choice of the three Match types, selecting Ranked or Unranked and selecting whether you want just anyone to be able to join or if it's by invite only. There is also a Find Match option, but when I looked, it was empty. I think most of the online gameplay to be had is via the Quick Match option, unless you want to set up an Invite Only game for some friends with the game.


Difficulty:

There are several tips that are given during the loading screens. One of my favorites is, "A swift victory is a sweet victory"... or something to that effect. While that may be true, I find that most of my victories follow the mantra, "slow and steady wins the race."

Personally, I find that I do best when I keep a steady flow of a variety of different unit types, keeping a periodic flow of units capable of attacking enemy units, throwing a healer in from time to time to keep a couple on the battlefield and sending waves of fast units across to overwhelm enemy towers. That and using the spell to repair tower damage generally gets me through a level.

I found the levels to be challenging enough to keep things interesting, but although I took a while to whittle some opponents down, I generally didn't have to play any level more than a couple of times.

Online gameplay is, of course, less predictable. If you find you need more of a challenge, you might try playing others online. If you're looking to make things easier, then you can work through the Campaign levels or practice specific ones in Skirmish.


Game Mechanics:

Defenders of Ardania isn't an overly simple game, but it doesn't have a lot of complexity and some of the mechanics are added in as the game goes on, giving the player time to learn the basics before adding in advanced concepts such as Heroes, resource tiles and higher ground's effect on tower's attack ranges. And, as the cliche goes, it's easy to learn, but difficult to master.

I found the controls to be a bit awkward at times; to build, repair or modify a tower, you right click on a square, but to do other actions, you left click anywhere on the screen, then chose your action from a round menu that shows up, or dismiss it by clicking an "X" in the center. Quite often I would right click instead of left clicking or vice-versa. It may sound easy to keep straight, but when your castle is about to fall, your clicks may not be as accurate as you'd like. With the exception of occasional maintenance and upgrades to towers, you can generally stay in the other menu, which allows you to build waves, cast spells, purchase improvements and select a rally point to direct your units to a certain path or secondary objective. Unit selection is especially easy: you can click units to add them to a wave, double click to fill out the current wave with a unit, hit Delete to cancel the current wave or hit Shift to send the wave and go on. To switch between the four sections, you can use the scroll wheel to scroll through them or the Up and Down arrow keys (or W and S) to step through them one at a time.

There is also support for downloading additional content, although as of this writing, there was none available. Still, the potential is there, and Defenders of Ardania has good replay value, whether online or off. If you like variations on Tower Defense games, Defenders of Ardania is worth trying out.


-Geck0, GameVortex Communications
AKA Robert Perkins

Minimum System Requirements:



Windows XP/Vista/Win7, Intel Pentium 4 3.2 GHZ / AMD Athlon 3500+, 1 GB RAM (Windows XP) / 1.5 GB RAM (Windows Vista), 1 GB Available Hard Drive space, Graphic Card [1GB, ATI HD3870, Shader Model, 512 MB (does not support integrated graphics card)], DirectX 9.0c, DirectX9 compatible Sound Card, Internet or LAN for multiplayer
 

Test System:



AMD Athlon(tm) II X2 220 Processor 2.80 GHz, 4 GB dual-channel DDR3, ASUS Mainboard, CoolerMaster 850watt power supply, Dual boot: Windows 7 Home Premium 64 bit / Windows XP Home Edition (played in Windows 7), Graphics: ATI Radeon 3000 (on motherboard) / XFX ATI Radeon HD 5750 1GB graphics card, Dual Monitors (Gateway HD2201 21" HDMI / Sony SDM-HS73), 1.5 TB Western Digital Caviar Green SATA Hard Drive, 750 GB Seagate Barracuda 7200.12 SATA 3Gb/s Hard Drive, Logitech Gaming Mouse G700, Logitech Gaming Keyboard G105 for Modern Warfare 3, Logitech Z313 2.1-CH PC multimedia speaker system, A30 Gaming Headset, Cable Modem

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