Version Reviewed: 1.0
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Tower defense games are perfectly suited for the iPhone, which is perhaps why the App Store is littered with them. Most TD games in the App Store bring nothing new to the genre, simply repackaging basic game elements with different graphics. It's very safe to say that Defender Chronicles is not one of those games. Defender Chronicles manages to present an entirely new TD experience.
Defender Chronicles first distinguishes itself by presenting the player with an actual reason to set up towers to blast creeps, a story line. The kingdom of Athelia, where tensions had always been high, has descended into chaos after the Orc king slaughtered the human king. Now, you, as an unexperienced warlord, must defend the kingdom from hordes of orcs and the undead.
The core gameplay is similar to most other TD games. Defender Chronicles is a fixed path TD, so you have to strategically place guilds (towers) along a path to defend against orcs, slime balls, and other baddies. The path is a unique 2d "platform" that is difficult to describe in writing. This unique perspective definitely influences the best placement for guilds. At first, I was skeptical of the strategic nature of the game when I saw that guilds could only be set up in predetermined places. However, the predetermined areas are in pretty much every possible place, so this proved to be a hollow concern. The first map only allows you to place two types of guilds, but is still extremely strategic. Defender Chronicles has virtually every strategy element ever employed in TD games, making it an incredibly deep experience: destructible units, enemies resistant to certain attacks, guilds that can influence other guilds nearby, bosses, upgrades that take time, and more. In addition, Defender Chronicles brings many new elements to the mix. At the end of each map is your hero, sort of a last resort. By playing different maps, your hero can earn experience points and tokens. When your hero gains enough experience points to level up, you are allotted one stat point. This stat point can be assigned to any of several categories, and some categories improve the hero himself, while some boost one type of unit. Tokens can be used in two places: the item shop and the great library. The item shop contains four randomized items for purchase that can be equipped to your hero to improve his stats or the stats of his army. The random component as great, as it adds a certain collectable element to the game, and you will frequently check back to the shop to see if any rare items are in stock. The great library contains various purchasable secrets for the game such as guides, a new unit, and a new map. These RPG elements definitely set Defender Chronicles apart from its competitors.
Defender Chronicles has enough content to keep anyone satisfied. The campaign mode contains five unlockable maps plus one purchasable in the library, and the developer has promised more maps to come via free updates. The maps are increasingly complex, and they are all well designed. The balance in the gameplay is impressive. While you will need drastically different strategies for each map, a large variety of enemies means you will have to build a variety of units and cannot base your strategy on "spamming" one type of guild. Once you unlock each map on campaign mode, you can play them in a challenge mode that has a variety of options, including endless mode. Adding to the replay value is four difficulties, the easiest of which is still challenging. However, because of the RPG elements, if you cannot beat a particular map, you can always go back and replay previous maps to earn experience points and tokens. In addition, there is a star system that rates your performance, and earning a gold star on each map, a perfect game with no sold towers on the heroic difficulty, will take some serious skill.
The controls are simple and work well. Upon tapping on a potential guild area, options for various guilds appear on the bottom right of the screen. Upon tapping on a guild type, you then tap back on the potential guild area to confirm your selection. The same mechanic is used for selling and upgrading. Using the controls, you can place and upgrade towers quickly, and there is virtually no way to make a mistake and select the wrong move. You can also use the standard iPhone pinching and dragging gestures to adjust your view.
The graphics in Defender Chronicles are nicely hand-drawn, and look great, especially at higher zooms. The music is epic and fits the game well. However, while I appreciate the effort to include voiceovers, the voice acting is comically bad, and luckily there is an option to disable it.
Defender Chronicles is a fresh take on the tower defense genre, and may even be the best game of its kind. RPG elements and surprisingly deep strategic gameplay make Defender Chronicles a can't-miss game.