iPhone Game Review: Hero Defense
Hero Defense is a blend of RPG upgrading and action as you play the role of the lone defender against evil dwarf hordes determined to destroy your castle. You'll face wave after wave of various types of dwarf enemies including dwarves with chain guns that will damage your castle at range.
Once the game loads, you will be at the Main Menu where you are presented with a number of fairly standard options: Start, Resume, Tutorial, and Scores & Achievements.
Start begins a game and lets you select difficulty level and desired map. Updates are also supposed to bring additional characters you can play, but right now you can only be a hack-and-slash warrior. There are only two maps right now, Crossroads and Wyrmwood, the latter is much easier to play than the former.
Resume lets you continue a game already in progress which is very welcome considering you will be facing 30, 60, or 80 waves depending on your difficulty setting.
Scores & Achievements takes you to a page of 8 earnable Achievements. You are rewarded with special armor after you accomplish "Running Man", "I'm the Wiz", "Capa Ferro", and "A Sound of Thunder". You unlock Meatgrinder Mode when you earn the rest.
The Tutorial does an adequate job of explaining how to play the game and what each part of the screen's interface means. It also shows you how to tell when you are able to upgrade a special attack or have filled your Rage Bar. In addition, it explains what each of your character's stats mean. Strength increases melee damage, Run increases your movement speed, and Magic makes your abilities more powerful. Each enemy killed rewards you with gold, experience points, and helps fill your Rage Bar. When the Rage Bar is filled you can shake to activate it for increased damage for a short time. You are also told that there three paths enemy dwarves will enter from and two of those are guarded by gates. If you can keep those gates repaired then enemy dwarves will enter from the remaining open path making your task a bit easier.
The game is played in portrait mode and the actual gameplay screen is cluttered with a fairly large number of icons and information bars. At the top, you have a character picture and Rage Bar, and bars showing your score, health, XP, and gold. On the bottom left, there is an icon showing your current stats for Magic, Strength, and Run. Under that are three icons representing your special attacks and a bar for Castle Health. The pause button is on the bottom right. In addition to that, the castle and each gate has a moneybag icon giving you different options. Gates can only be repaired or upgraded. The castle's icon is the one that will be most important to you during gameplay.
After you choose your map and difficulty, you get to choose a special ability to start the game with. Each of them has a different effect and cooldown rate before they can be used again. Just touch to make your selection and hit Start to begin.
Now the fun begins! The dwarves attack in waves and there will be bosses at regular intervals sprinkled with large waves of basic dwarf warriors and special troops. Just click on the map to get your hero to move to that point. Once your are near enough to the enemy, the hero will automatically start attacking. You simply need to press the special attack icons and manage your stats, health, and even XP using the castle icon.
It is during gameplay that the game has some shining and not so shining moments. The hero does a pretty good job of taking down bad guys; however, you cannot choose to target indivudual enemies or break away from a fight to take on a new enemy. So if you see a chain gunner dwarf who is damaging your castle at range, you need to move on him quick or you will get surrounded by lesser dwarf warriors and you will have to kill them before you can take of the more powerful enemy.
Also, the hero can get stuck on the terrain and will be unable to move until you can free him. This is especially evident in the Crossroads map and I don't recall it occurring in Wyrmwood.
One thing that is interesting as a mechanic is that you can use the gold you've earned immediately to increase your stats, heal yourself, repair a gate, or even buy more experience points. However, you can only do these actions using the icon on your castle. This really ties you down to staying close to the castle and makes it risky for you to go out to any of the gates to repair where you could then be trapped by enemy forces and prevented from returning to the castle to heal. I would really prefer it if the castle icon were instead a static icon on your screen that you could access wherever you were on the map.
You will also be making frequent use of your special attacks in your quest to defend your castle. It does not cost you any power or anything else to use them so feel free to use them as often as needed. The only thing you need to be aware of is the cooldown timer.
If you get killed, your character will automatically respawn after 15 seconds. This time can be the difference between losing the game or not as enemies continue beating on your castle while you are dead. The castle has 1000 health points, but this can disappear rather quickly if a lot of lesser enemies or more powerful chain gunner units are attacking.
The graphics for the menus and the background of the gameplay screen are really nice; however, the graphics for the dwarf enemies and the hero are really lacking. They don't look nearly as nice and polished as everything else.
The game has some really nice and appropriate sounding music for a heroic fantasy setting and all of the sound effects for attack and the special abilities are all well implemented.
-fun "lone defender" concept for gameplay
-healing/upgrading are all done "on the fly", you just have to have the gold
-nice background music
-nice menu layout and background graphics
-hero can get stuck on terrain in Crossroads map
-you cannot break away from combat to battle a target of choice
-must stay near castle to access castle store
-15 second respawn timer is a long time to wait, 10 seconds would be better
-portrait gameplay seems crowded, landscape might be better
-screen is crowded with information bars and icons, I could do without the Magic/Strength/Run box in the lower left
-you cannot keep an eye on all parts of the map unless you physically send your character to that area, it would be nice to scroll around the map
Overall, Hero Defense has a lot of good things going for it. It definitely has a lot of potential to be a fun game. It just needs some fixing in a few spots. Luckily, the developers have listened to community feedback and these changes will be implemented in a forthcoming update:
- Two finger map scroll
- Larger Dwarf sprites
- Point bonus for fighting on Crossroads map
- Improved Collisions
- New Ability: Castle Heal
Heals Castle for 250 health
Cost: 200 gold
Cooldown: 30 seconds
- Gameplay tweaks
- Misc. bug fixes
Ratings (scale of 1 to 5):
Graphics: -4- background, menus really nice; hero and enemies need help
Sound: -4.5- background music, sound effects are all good
Controls: -4- character can get stuck in Crossroads map, all icons easy to use
Gameplay: -4.5- fun gameplay with the lone hero defending the castle
Playing Hints and Tips:
-I recommend selecting Crash as your first special ability since it has a pretty quick cooldown and has area of effect damage.
-Keep your gates built since it will limit entry points for enemies.
-Watch your health and stay near enough to the castle to use the castle store.
Developer: Brilliant Worlds
Release Date: August 1, 2009
Buy Game: iTunes App Store
Looks like an awesome game!
Great review, DG!!
Could be fun, I'll probably wait for an update or two before I jump in.
Yeah, if you can't escape from a battle you don't want to fight that's a bummer. I can't imagine playing many Final Fantasy games without an escape feature.
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