Tower Wars is a charming steampunk inspired multiplayer tower defense strategy game. It is a short game with a small price tag and my biggest complaint is that it ended too soon. SuperVillain Studios have created a satisfying multiplayer experience with a surprising amount of complexity squeezed in. The title consists of one tutorial map, three classic tower defense maps and three multiplayer maps with 1vs1, 2vs2 and 3vs3 matches.
Reasons to play it
The Steampunk Style
There are many Tower Defense games about, but few have paid this much attention to aesthetics. I have the complete inability to build neat mazes, but every player I have been up against line up their lines, clumps and groups of identical towers and the level of details of both towers and units make it a joy to watch. Quite a bit of time is spent observing and evaluating and few things are as satisfying as watching a wave of generals advance on your enemy’s castle or your wave of catapults with their black fumes obliterate the most challenging wave your opponent could muster.
Well Designed Tower Defense game
All units are upgradable and with 8 towers, 9 units and a castle to defend, there is plenty to pay attention to. There are also a barracks tech tree that affect all units, a unit tech tree with three upgrades for each unit, mines and miners and two resources to manage; gold and battle points which are earned over time as long as you have units active in enemy territory. Two game concepts balance the combat, the A.R.G. and Beserking. The A.R.G. (Agitated Retaliation Gauge) “fills up as your Castle takes damage. You can use it to give your next wave of units a stat boost to give a slight edge in battle. To activate A.R.G., click on the exclamation point button below the bottle before sending your next wave of units.” The second is not obvious and unfortunately not mentioned in the tutorial and is called Beserking. “Berserking happens when Units change direction 180° after their path is blocked. The Berserked Units receive Speed, Health and Armor boosts, and remain invulnerable for a period of time. The boost amount and invulnerability time is increased each time they are bounced. This is to discourage ping-ponging Units back and forth.”
Room for Improvement
Only a handful of maps
One tutorial player vs AI opponent map, 3 solo classic maps “Tiff Cliffs”, “Fight Night”, “Snowy Scuffle” and three multiplayer maps “Battle Bluffs”, “Dusk Till Death” and “Warcicle” is a tiny selection of content. The solo maps are endless modled and with matchmaking available the multiplayer maps do have a high replayability value as your strategies often change depending on your opponent’s strategy, but both those elements can only stretch so far. Once you have either perfected your towers or grow bored of mostly watching and waiting at the latter stages of a map, it’s time to move on to something new. The maps are lengthy and do provide plenty of game play. The average length of both my classic rounds and multiplayer matches are well into the second hour. It does make it difficult to dip in and out and the option for a short fixed number of waves would have been a welcome edition.
EDIT: An update in October 2012 has added one more map, a co-op 1-3 player map called Royal Rum-Bowl.
No Single Player Campaign
Three classic maps does not a campaign make. Tower wars does not sell itself as a single player campaign, it is a multiplayer player versus player experience. However, the attention and thought that went into its design makes me wish that there was a single player campaign as well as the option to play the multiplayer maps against an AI opponent. Tower defense games usually introduce their towers and game mechanics gradually over multiple maps and the single tutorial map of Tower Wars is overwhelmingly crammed with all the information necessary to play the game.
There are no particularly bright or flashy effects. On bigger maps and longer matches, the combat effects add up in kill zones and can create waves of black smoke and plumes of fire, but none of the towers have bright white light flashes.
The camera angle is fixed with limited zoom that does not affect the UI. The lag inevitable to some on-line matches does cause some juttery when trying to move across the screen that may create some mild issues for those particularly sensitive to movement and suffer from motion sickness.
Text size & HUD (Heads up Display)
The biggest show stopper for me was the User Interface. The heads-up display is small with tiny text. I would not recommend Tower Wars to anyone with visual loss or who struggles to read small fonts. You cannot play without access to the information in the UI and there is no way to access that information unless you can read the small text. The UI contains a timer to send out units, two currencies to keep track of as well as the two skill trees and other information. The skill trees do have icons that may help somewhat, but the icons are small as well.
There is some reliance on colour in the tutorial and multiplayer as it’s set up to be red vs blue. It is still very accessible for anyone with complete colour blindness. The reticule does not light up when you move over enemy territory providing a very easy way to quickly determine at the stat which side is which.
- Two sliders allow both the camera turn speed and camera movement speed to be adjusted. The sliders can be found in the options menu under ‘controls’.
- Resolution: Drop down selection box
- Refresh Rate: Drop down selection box
- Fullscreen toggle on/off with tick box
- Vertical sync toggle on/off with tick box
- Overall graphics: 4 option slider
- Depth of field: Toggle on/off with tick box
- Anti-aliasing: Toggle on/off with tick box
- Model detail: 3 option slider
- Texture detail: 3 option slider
- Shadow quality: 4 option slider
- AF: 4 option slider
- SSAO: 4 option slider
- Reflections: 4 option slider
- Particles: 3 option slider
- Framerate cap: 4 option slider ranging from 45 – 120 FPS
Subtitles & Closed captioning
The tutorial has a voice over as well as text based text.
Reliance on auditory cues
There are effects throughout the game for towers and units, but there is no reliance on audio cues within the game. It can be played with or without sound.
- Audio Device: Select yours from available options via a drop down menu
- Audio Provider: Select with a drop down menu
- Four sliders for Master Volume, Interface, Gameplay and Music.
Moderate reaction times are required as you cannot pause during multiplayer matches and you cannot place towers whilst the game is on pause in the single player. It is primarily a multiplayer game and unless you play with friends happy to give you time to place your towers, it is quite fast paced particularly at crunch times.
The radial menu used to place towers requires a moderate level of precision with a mouse. There are no shortcut keys to place towers making it one of the main accessibility issues with the game. You also have to place towers correctly or suffer a significant penalty when selling them to place them somewhere else.
Pause and save options
The game can be paused at any time during the tutorial and three single player classic maps. There is no pause in multiplayer, however, if you are playing with a friend, both players can agree to not place towers or send units whilst the other is afk.
It can be played with just a mouse, but I struggled to control the camera angle through mouse movement as well as experiencing issues to drag and drop items from your queue to delete them. Due to the radial menu, you cannot play with a keyboard or keypad alone.
- Key mapping: Extensive key mapping options are available in-game that make the one flaw that much more frustrating. There are no keyboard shortcuts to place towers. Towers can only be placed via the radial menu pulled up by the mouse alone and require a significant level of precision and accuracy to use.
- Controllers are not supported and the radial menu makes it complicated to remap keys with a GlovePIE script to support it.
Reading, language and vocabulary
There is a basic reading skill requirement to access the game via the text based menu. The information packed tutorial is text based with a voice over with a sigfinicant chunk of language to process quickly. There is a pause after each section so that slow readers can take their time and hit the ‘continue’ button when ready. If the tutorial is too much to handle, it’s not difficult to figure out the game without using the it. Looking at icons and clicking buttons makes it obvious which button does what.
There is a requirement for memorizing a significant amount of information in a very short time span during the tutorial. Usually games introduced the game mechanics and the different towers and units slowly in a single player campaign. The first few maps often have limited units with more added slowly in consequent maps. Tower wars does not have a single player campaign. The single map tutorial introduces 8 towers with upgrades, 9 units with upgrades, an upgradeable castle and mines, game concepts like the A.R.G. and Beserking, two types of currency and two skill point trees in quick succession. The UI is very detailed and the icons very helpful, so unless you have issues reading small text, it serves as a very helpful reminder.
Focus, Organization & Planning
Strategy games are all about organization and planning. If you play a lot of tower defense games, this one is easy to pick up. The towers are the usual – gun/arrow, cannon, AoE fire, ‘meteor’/long range, slowing, damage/range boost, Tesla/remove shields and then there’s the thumping tower that is slightly different form the norm but easy to understand. Juggling sending out units whilst defending your castle is what makes it interesting. There is a lot of information to juggle and you have to strategize and keep an eye on both attacking and defending at the same time.
Math and computations
There is some reliance on monetary calculations in the game. Towers cost gold and upgrades cost battle points. It is up to you to budget wisely and spend your currency where it will do the most damage to the waves of incoming enemies.
Tower Wars is primarily a multiplayer game requiring interaction with at least one other person as there is no option to play against an NPC except during the tutorial. Matches available are 1vs1, 2vs2 or 3vs3. Matchmaking is available, you can queue alone for a 1vs1 match or queue with a friend or two. Hosting is also an option, but is unranked. If you host a match you can invite 1-5 friends for 2 teams.
No customizability options or support tools are available.
Tower Wars provides is a well-balanced multiplayer tower defense title that is worth a few hours of your time. It’s gorgeous, a pleasure to play and it’s very unfortunate that it doesn’t have more levels with more options, like varying difficulty levels, set-length maps and the option to play against an AI opponent. It is a somewhat accessible game except for anyone who struggles with visual loss and cannot read the small text or make out the small UI icons or anyone with precision issues that will struggle to use the radial menu. I thoroughly enjoyed playing Tower Wars and would recommend it to anyone who enjoys multiplayer matches and tower defense strategy games.
[stars rating=”3″ type=”Game”]