Devolver Digital is a name that carries a certain weight when one considers their back catalogue. With releases like Hotline Miami, Serious Sam, Shadow Warrior – all great games – the company is establishing itself as a quality publisher with quality titles. So when their latest release, Defense Technica, dropped into my hands I had high hopes, even though it is yet another tower defence game. I was excited to see what new ideas it might offer to refresh the genre, but unfortunately it’s the same old ding dong that brings nothing new to the table, and instead of trying to innovate it opts to play it safe.
Made by South Korean indie developers, Kuno Interactive, the game takes place in a future where Earth’s reach has expanded far beyond our solar system and discovered alien life. An alliance is made with two of these species, the Cluff and the Hergus, and for a time things are good. But the Hergus turn out to be nasties and invade Earth while the Cluff ignore calls for support. Worst. Alliance. Ever. And that’s pretty much it, which is perfectly fine for something like this, and the game makes no further attempt to force the story down your throat with lengthy cutscenes or scripted events. Just 3-4 screens of text at the beginning to set the scene.
What isn’t perfectly fine is the fact that Kuno thinks you might have Alzheimer’s, so it shows you those same screens every time you boot up the game. Although at least you can skip them. If you’ve ever played a tower defence game, then you’ve played this. Various upgradable towers? Check. Enemies with varying attributes? Check. Multiple waves/spawn-points? Check. Standard tower defence gameplay? Check.
Ok, so it’s not all completely textbook, there are a few features that are… not exactly unique, but we’ll say less-common. Weather patterns such as rain and lightning storms, which can occur at any time, can have adverse affects on your towers such as diminishing their range or slowing fire-rates. It’s an attempt at something new but I never found it to have a great impact in any situation. Besides the weather, the altering of enemy paths by erecting barricades is the only other slight deviation from the norm, but that’s only relevant when beginning a level as you plan your defences.
A favourite technique of tower defence lovers is “mazing”, where you create a winding path of towers that force the enemies on a longer route, thereby subjecting them to more damage. Defense Technica sadly does away with this, only allowing you to place towers in certain locations on the map. There is limited scope to maze but mostly there are a set number of strict paths the enemy must follow. Consolidating these paths into one main route using barricades is one of the few actual strategic decisions you can make. New towers, and upgrades for each, are unlocked using medals earned in completing missions, but they are very slow to come. It’s a bit frustrating, but it’s one of the few thing that will keep you playing.
The control scheme of Mouse + WASD is not very pleasant and doesn’t feel comfortable. The keys handle the camera movement around the map but that task could have easily been assigned to the mouse. In fact the whole control scheme could consist solely of the mouse. When selecting a place to build, the keys switch to choosing which tower to build which is not good when you’re zipping around the map bolstering defences. You get used to it after a while, but in a game a simple as this, getting used to controls shouldn’t be necessary.
Visually, it’s up to scratch, with everything nicely modelled in 3D, including backgrounds, all tipping along at a nice frame-rate without noticeable drops even with a large volume of enemies on screen. The music however is deceptively irritating, mainly because it consists of one score that repeats over, and over, and over, on every level.
VERDICT: Defense Technica is a bland, run-of-the-mill affair. It brings almost nothing new to the genre and relies on tried and tested mechanics. What makes it sub-par is it’s shunning of the favoured tower defence elements such as mazing, its overcomplicated control scheme and its lazy approach to sound. I’m struggling to see why Devolver got involved with such an unambitious project, but here’s hoping it was just one that slipped past their defences.
POOR. Games tagged 4/10 will be playable, perhaps even enjoyable, but will be let down by a slew of negative elements that undermine their quality and value. Best avoided by any but hardcore genre fans.