Whilst tower defences can be very fun to play, in an era of boundless technological advances and a lot of big action games dominating the market, they can sometimes feel a bit slow, a bit too static. Set in their ways. But with the recent release of Defense Derby, Krafton has taken this genre and injected it with a heavy kick of pace.
Go head-to-head-to-head with three other players
One of the first things you will notice as you start a round is that you are no longer just playing against a computer. There are three other players on their phones too, and you are all competing to be the last surviving castle in the face of some pretty unrelenting monster invasions.
Whilst you won’t be directly attacking each other, you will butt heads over Defense Derby's biggest innovation; the bidding system. The main way to grow your army is by bidding on a randomly drawn unit each round with limited currency, so every turn will be a challenge of who to try to buy, and when to conserve your money. But at the same time, make sure you can survive the next wave. There is no immediately accessible shop window for your next unit, so you will need to be planning every step of the way.
Limited control of what troops you can get
This bidding also presents another departure from the norm; you don’t have full control of your roster. You make your deck before entering the round which adds to the pool of available units, but there's no guarantee you will be able to bid on them because there are three other players' decks here that the game can draw from.
As a result, you can have one match where your castle is undefeatable and you successfully pull off all your combos, and another where your back is against the wall because you've had to Frankenstein a barely passable squad together. It is a huge departure from TDs giving you the option to buy from a set list at any time, but it gives every single round a fresh feel and its unique obstacles to overcome.
You can permanently upgrade your army
There is one way to give yourself a fighting chance against this roll of the dice mechanic, and that is by upgrading your troops. Instead of building up to a stage five tower only to have it removed and having to start from scratch in the next game, Defense Derby lets you power up your units on a permanent basis.
As you draw from the gacha system and get duplicates of units, you can fuse them to advance in rarity, and every character can be levelled up using currency. This results in a high-powered character, and if you are lucky enough to encounter this soldier during rounds, they will enter the game in all their big stat glory. It is a nice feeling of progression that is missing from the tower defence genre.
Organise your troops for synergy buffs
So you have powered up your favourite troops, but they can still get stronger depending on where you deploy them. Whilst units in most TDs tend to function independently of whatever else you have on the field, Defense Derby has a range of ways to power up your squad through synergy bonuses.
If you manage to get a line of troops in the same faction, their power will go up a lot, and if you bunch up a few of the same attack type, it will go up further. Then you have characters who can confer global buffs to all Physical or Magical troops, and some who increase the speed of units they are near. There are a lot of things to consider when placing your troops, and you will be thinking about them a lot because Defense Derby does not let you sit still.
No more static towers
Instead of planting a tower and that being the end of it, Defense Derby eschews this, making it all but mandatory for you to be constantly moving your troops around. As you recruit new troops and open up more ways to synergise, you can shuffle everyone around to achieve the maximum stat buffs, and then there are times when all that hard planning goes right out the window.
These enemy waves are not messing around, and they will advance quickly around your castle, and out of range of your troops. So, you will need to constantly move your troops to stop these foes, all the while considering what bonuses you are losing, who can you sacrifice in that far corner to power up your big attacker, who needs that one unit buff the most, and how did those enemies get over there so fast?
There is an almost hectic nature to Defense Derby that is missing from a lot of the genre, and it goes to show that you can break with tradition in a staggeringly successful way. All of these changes have resulted in what is one of the best TDs released in a good while.