August 30, 2012

/ by Tin Salamunic

Developer(s): SuperVillain Studios
Publisher(s): SuperVillain Studios
Platform(s): PC
Release Date: August 14th 2012

I originally installed SuperVillain’s Tower Wars with the assumption that I would be sitting down for a traditional wave devouring night of tower defense. What I got instead was a competitive online experience more akin to a traditional RTS. It’s a tower defense game you can play with or against your friends.

The Good
- A fun, new take on both the tower defense and RTS genres
- Gameplay is easy to learn, difficult to master

The Bad
- Not a lot of variety 
- No single player option, you’re thrown straight into competitive multiplayer
- The game has a tendency to chug in later matches

SuperVillain has done an amazing job of bringing multiplayer to tower defense. A game of Tower Wars consists of two basic tasks: Constructing a maze of deadly towers to kill encroaching units, and sending out your own waves of marauders to assault your enemy’s castle. Throughout the course of a match your decisions will come down to whether you want to focus on your maze, your units, or your income.

Tower Wars matches are played on maps of octagonal tiles similar to tabletop games of old. Each map is split between your own field, on which you will build your tower maze, and the enemy’s field, where you will be sending your troops across in hopes of reaching and besieging their castle. Units on either side will follow a set path that can be altered by how the player sets up their towers.

To build your tower maze, and send units through the enemy’s tower maze, you’re going to need gold, and plenty of it. Each side is given three gold mines from which to draw their income. Mines, like everything in Tower Wars, can be upgraded - first by increasing the number of miners working in them, and then by upgrading the entire mine itself. Because upgrading your mines costs valuable resources, including gold, whether or not you want to upgrade your mine or send out another wave of troops is going to be an important decision to make.

Your troops bring in their own special income, known as Battle Points, which you will also need for upgrading the mine - and everything else in Tower Wars. BP is earned per second for each unit you have on the enemy player’s battlefield. This means that the longer one of your units is traversing the enemy’s maze, the more BP they’re going to earn. Denying your opponent Battle Points is crucial to how you build your maze in Tower Wars. Because it’s essential to kill units early in order to decrease the amount of BP they earn, instead of building your maze to maximize its overall damage, you want to focus on a heavy front to take down enemy units sooner rather than later. This can be tricky.

A unit’s health bar in Tower Wars is broken down into three layers: Shield, Armor, and Health. If a unit has Shield, you won’t be able to damage their Armor until their entire Shield is gone, and you’re not going to get to their Health unless you’ve chewed through all of their Armor. This layered system, coupled with how Battle Points are earned, means you’re going to need a little bit of everything right at the start of your maze if you hope to keep the opposing economy properly shut out. It’s a real sweet spot that can be difficult to nail, but if done properly, a well-built maze can be very troublesome to counter.

In hopes of getting your units to the enemy’s castle, you can upgrade them from both the Unit Tree and Barracks menus. The Unit Tree involves spending gold and BP to first improve upon an existing unit and then unlock the next tier up, while upgrades from the Barracks only cost BP and are applied to all of your units. Your troops are going to range from the usual tower defense tropes of fodder, speedies, and brutes, to the less traditional Equine Subterfuge Transport, or “Trojan Horse”. Because your waves are staggered by a cooldown, it’s important that each wave be maximized to ensure that your troops spend plenty of time on the battlefield earning you precious BP.

I personally found the triangle of offense, defense, and economy to be very difficult to balance. It’s easy to tip the scale one way or another and if you don’t know precisely what you’re doing, it’s entirely possible to defeat yourself before the opposing team even reaches your castle. Everything in Tower Wars can be done with hotkeys and learning those hotkeys is going to be crucial in those chaotic moments when you realize you’ve built your entire maze wrong and enemy Zoombots are rapidly approaching your castle. Luckily you have a last line of defense: The giant Gatling guns mounted atop your castle.

In true Tower Wars style, the castle has a couple upgrades you sink resources into. The aforementioned guns can be upgraded to pack more of a wallop, but not so much that they should ever be relied upon. In addition, you can upgrade your castle’s armor to ease some of the sting of your maze’s failure. Unfortunately you can’t upgrade what really matters, the health of your castle, and once it hits zero, it’s game over.

While the multiplayer is engrossing and deep, there’s no single-player option for people looking to up their game before getting into the thick of the PvP experience. Outside the tutorial, your only solo option is going to be the three traditional tower defense challenges that come with the game. Because these challenges only involve building towers you’re not going to learn the flow of the real Tower Wars gameplay unless you jump right into the deep end of competitive multiplayer - and that can be a harrowing experience for some players.

While multiplayer does allow for solo, 2v2, and 3v3 gameplay, there is not a great deal of variety for Tower Wars enthusiast. PvP and the three tower defense challenges are all that’s included with the game as of right now, with possible updates in the future. While Tower Wars is very fun, from the tricky balancing act of its gameplay, to its vibrant and comical aesthetic, I don’t see it having a very lasting appeal for most gamers. Tower Wars is a very smooth title with a solid foundation that just needs a little more texture to make it truly great.

Review by Jeff Ellis

Final Score “My kingdom for a little variety” 7.0
There’s a great deal of humor and color to Tower Wars that makes it a joy to play. The graphics and animations really lend themselves to the fun of the game by being so lively.
Multiplayer is engaging and deep, but that depth makes the lack of a single player option very intimidating. While the game does offer an extensive tutorial, there’s no real way to hone your skills outside of PvP.
I was able to get Tower Wars on the cheap from a Steam sale, with the game still being relatively inexpensive at its regular price of $9.99. However, while I don’t know of many games that offer the same multiplayer experience as Tower Wars, the price of its tower defense competitors is going to be hovering around the free-to-play area.
Like the visuals, the sound effects and VO in Tower Wars lend heavily to the playful aesthetic of the game. Everything meshes well, but if you’re not a fan of pocket watches, monocles, mustaches, and chutzpah you might want to leave your volume on low.
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  1. This doesn't cost anything monthly does it?

  2. I might get this since it's on sale.

  3. Reminds me a bit of Dungeon Defenders. :P

  4. No Eric, it's a one-time charge for the game. If you're a tower defense enthusiast looking to test your mettle against other tower defense fans, I would say it's well worth the price.

  5. The visuals, especially with the grid pattern and all, remind me a bit of Civilization V.

  6. I hate that awesome games like these leave the single player element out.

  7. Great review....I'm still on the edge about this one. Might have to see if a demo is available first.


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