Friday, March 23, 2012

Defenders of Ardania XBLA Review

Defenders of ArdaniaWhen I first saw that Defenders of Ardania was nearing release I started looking into to it to see what it was all about and to see if I wanted to try to review it. The idea of a tower defense game in the Majesty universe that is also an offensive tower defense game was very intriguing, plus it had numerous multiplayer modes. Paradox Interactive was kind enough to let me have a review copy for Xbox Live Arcade and I've been working through it for a little over a week. My enthusiasm and excitement for Defenders of Ardania was fairly diminished by half way through the moderately lengthy campaign, but the game did not turn out to be as awful as many other reviewers have claimed it to be. Now for a quick overview before I delve headfirst into the review.

Basic Info
Publisher: Paradox Interactive
Developer: Most Wanted Entertainment
Platforms: PC and Xbox Live Arcade
Price Tag: $15

Like I said momentarily before Defenders of Ardania takes place in the Majesty universe, which is exciting if you are a fan of the RTS/town management series. Much of the game ties into that universe and you once again take the role of the great king that seems to be the same king from every single one of the Majesty games. Many of the units are also similar looking, but they have their own unique look to them. In the game you go through a campaign that has you looking for this great evil that has tried to usurp your throne, in doing so you battle through forests, swamps, deserts and hell like environments. While you do initially just build towers to defense your castle you also send out various types of troops to attack their castle, whoever manages to get past the towers and destroy each others castles first wins, but they make this basic idea far more complex by adding in a large amount of units, numerous towers, multiple enemies, large maps, specific unit routes, spells and upgrades.

Defenders of Ardania

For this review I will be breaking it down into several sections and doing likes/dislikes, each of which will have some extra explanation if needed. Skip all the way to the end if you want a final verdict and some last comments. To start with let's go over the most important part of a game for most people, gameplay.


Love it
+Wide variety of unit options
+Four different races to play with
+Twenty four upgrade-able towers
+Twenty four units that level up through use
+Being able mold the route of all troops
+Multiplayer options
+Length of campaign/overall longevity

Hate it
-Unit and tower limits/restrictions
-Air units
-Lack of strategical options
-Overly comical and poor voice acting, except for the adviser. 
-Lifeless story that rarely is even slightly interesting
-Enemy A.I. 
-Very repetitive level design
-Difficulty is reliant on whether it's a stalemate

As you can see when it comes to gameplay it's pretty varied, but some of it definitely must be explained. I really liked how many multiplayer options there are and how they give you full use of all the races, races that you only fight against in the single player campaign and never get to use, but multiplayer was very very hard to play since there was never anyone playing it and when I went to the leaderboards there was generally less than two hundred people in each category, meaning very few people were even playing the game on XBLA. That isn't technically there fault, so they cannot be blamed for that, but it was hard to experience multiplayer to it's full capacity. Another thing I really liked was how many options you had in single player, you could use spells, you could upgrade your towers, upgrade your economy/troop cost/tower cost/spell cost, and each of your units levels up and grows stronger.

Unfortunately gameplay is really bogged down by many flaws. For one air units are poorly designed. They have to go on a limited route, your air units and the enemies, and they are very easily destroyed, plus when they do actually make it into an enemy castle they do some of the smallest amounts of damage in the game. They do attack enemy towers as they fly towards the enemies castle, but this is made useless by how they created enemy A.I. and behavior. If you manage to destroy an enemy tower, which you can do with spells or special units that are unique and attack enemy towers along the way to an enemy castle, you are immediately slapped in the face as you watch the A.I. instantly rebuild that tower as if it didn't affect them in the slightest. Sometimes you will get lucky and they will build a tower elsewhere instead of on that same spot, or you can build your own tower over that spot, but usually they disregard all that hard work.

The second to last thing I need to explain is the tower/unit limit. Each level has a limit for each of these and it really restricts gameplay. Each side will inevitably reach their tower cap within the first five minutes of the game, except on bigger maps, and your money is often made useless by these caps, especially on earlier levels when you cannot upgrade anything yet. These flaws in really hurt gameplay and make it less than pleasant most of the time, sometimes you can get some pleasure out of it, but most of the time you are just slugging through it in order to see what new units, new towers and new spells you might get in the future. Lastly I need to address difficulty. Each level has a difficulty attached to it, but that really doesn't matter. Many levels, especially 1vs1 levels, end up being a very slow and tiresome stalemate where each player is continually sending units at each other and hoping to god someone get's through the enemy defenses. There is little or no strategy in this, you can try to use strategy, like trying to get certain units to go with each other, but not until late in the campaign do you have the kind of variety in spells and units that will allow you to actually use real strategy. Many of these types of levels only end when you get some units with enough experience to become hero units, which are very powerful and cost a lot of money, and they will speed up the game a little bit, but they often take a long time to get.

Watch this video and see how the game looks in motion, especially since it will help you understand my next section that has to do with interface and graphics.

Graphics and Interface

Love it
+Color filled world that can look good. 
+Good variety of terrain types
+Interface is easy to learn
+Art design is pleasing to the eye
+Objectives are obvious
+Routes are easy to discern
+Every upgrade visually improves a unit or tower

Hate it
-There are some overly dark levels 
-Minimap is nearly useless
-No way to tell what upgrading a unit/tower does specifically
-You can zoom in on the game, but it doesn't help anything
-No warning if your base is hemorrhaging hit points
-Very hard to keep track of individual troops and health
-Some tower designs look second rate
-No Codex or way to really look into the stats of units/towers

While there are quite a few things I like about the interface and graphics for Defenders of Ardania they are easily submersed by the numerous problems. Many of the levels actually look pretty good, sure it isn't Gears of War or Uncharted, but for a tower defense game there are some pleasing environments. Unfortunately they are very hard to appreciate due to it all being overly dark most of the time. You can turn up the brightness to compensate, but that will wash out the colors a bit and not actually help the game have a crisper look to it, instead it all looks a bit mixed.

Defenders of Ardania 

I appreciate the individual details on towers, units, terrain and miscellaneous objects, but the restrictive camera really doesn't help you get a good look at the small details, while you can do zoom it is a very limited zoom that only gives you two fixed perspectives. Every time a  tower, unit or castle upgrades it changes its look, which is splendid, but like I said before it is very hard to get a good look at anything, especially when you cannot pause the game to try to appreciate anything. 

Defenders of Ardania 

The interface is functional, but very poorly designed. On PC it is easier to look around the map, understand the tiny blips on the minimap and keep track of your forces, but only marginally so. It is really tough to not hate the interface as it constantly works against you and makes you want to stop playing the game. The minimap is so small that you can the only useful thing about it is the icons surrounding it indicating your current money, unit cap, tower cap and castle hit points. You can tell your units to take a specific route or attack a specific enemy castle, but the banner you use to do this is fairly unresponsive and it's really tough to discern how it's affecting your troops routes. You can vaguely view unit info to see their damage, speed and all that, but compared to many other tower defense games it is very sparse on information and makes it hard to make any kind of strategy for your troops. Furthermore, there is absolutely nothing that tells you what upgrading a tower does, it obviously gets stronger but it will be really nice to know exactly what gets increased and how much. It is a very valid complaint seeing as how 99% of all tower defense games have this very basic feature.


Last Comments
Defenders of Ardania is like a Shakespearean tragedy, you can clearly see what could have been done to avoid the tragedies that befall it and you are forced to watch them take place. Unfortunately for gamers this tragedy doesn't end satisfyingly in anyway nor does it provide the depth that makes Shakespearean tragedies a pleasure to endure. I wanted so much more from Defenders of Ardania and it failed to deliver in so many ways. The unit, spell and tower variety is all in place to make a good game, but it's interface and gameplay fail at so many different turns that it is indeed tragic. There are things you can enjoy in this game, but I absolutely cannot recommend it based on the few enjoyable aspects of the game, especially for it's price of $15. They tried to take tower defense and make it deeper by adding in an offensive element, an idea I love, but it was poorly executed and bogged down by non-user friendly features. I hope they learn from these mistakes and make something truly great next time around, it is possible, but I do not recommend taking this adventure. 

Violent Score: 2 (out of 5)

If you wish to learn more about the game or want to check out other opinions on the game take a look at the links below, I thank you all for reading and if you are still interested do check out the demo on XBLA or Steam.
Main Website:
Steam Page:

*Review copy provided Paradox Interactive for XBLA
-Written by Sean Cargle


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