It’s a Tower Defense Tuesday: Incursion 1 & 2

Since Clicker Heroes isn’t exactly a game that you actively play (at least not for more than a few minutes at a time), I’ve run through both of the Incursion Tower Defense games.

I’m not sure how I feel about them. I mean, I enjoy them, but they don’t bring anything new to the table. Yet despite not bringing anything new to the table, for the most part they are able to synthesize the pieces they borrow from into something that’s colorful and entertaining.

I’ll go right out and say “they’re no Kingdom Rush”, but the elements that are borrowed from Kingdom Rush are a big part of what makes them enjoyable.

It uses the common rock-paper-scissors mechanic that is similar to Cursed Treasure, with archers (light), soldiers (heavy), and mages (magic, duh), with light attacks being strong against magic armor, heavy attacks strong against light armor, and magic attacks strong against heavy armor. The most striking difference between Incursion and Cursed Treasure (towers only, no ‘units’) or Kingdom Frontier (towers and ‘units’) is that, like Demon Rift, towers ONLY create units. Unlike Demon Rift, however, towers can create mixed units (one tower can have an archer, a mage and a soldier, though there are disadvantages to that approach; archers & mages are terrible in melee until they reach high levels, so you want to keep them off the roads, usually too far away for any soldier grouped with them to auto-engage).

The difficulty of having your mages and archers being physical units rather than a tower is, like your soldiers, they can be killed. This is a particularly bad problem with the first game; since you couldn’t set target priorities, all units would attack the enemy farthers along the route, regardless of what was happening around or to the unit. Therefore, the most frustrating enemies were the archers, who would pick off your guys who were fighting against baddies further along the path, and Necromancers, who would continuously raise skeletons who gave you no money and would prevent you from ever getting to the Necromancer unless you mucked around with your deployment flags. Fortunately, this was fixed in the second game, which makes it a much easier and less frustrating experience.

The second game gives you a couple unique characters to play with, which also really helps in dealing with those obnoxious enemy archers and spellcasters. So much so that the fact that you can specifically target enemies with any of your troops doesn’t come into play nearly as much. The heroes (particularly when you’re given two) make things pretty dynamic.

The cool thing about the Incursion games is that each level has a unique thing going on, whether it’s an ally with a strange or difficult method of activation or an element of chaos, some monster who will kill everyone around it willy-nilly regardless of whether it’s your guy or a bad guy.

The look is similar to Kingdom Rush (one might go so far as to say a “borrowed aesthetic), which isn’t a bad thing. It plays similarly, though perhaps less frenetic. There’s kind of a strange difficulty curve in second game, where the middle few levels are extremely difficult, while the last few levels are fairly easy (last two levels I got perfects on the first try). The goblin chaingun IS gamebreaking and you WILL get a perfect against the final level if you stock up a couple of them. You might find yourself frustrated by how much slower you’re upgrading things (you are essentially having to upgrade 3 different towers per location), but it’s an understandable game balance issue. You’ll eventually figure out that a bare minimum of soldiers in the right places combined with as many ranged units as possible tends to work out best. At least in the second one. I might need to give the first one another go and test things. I feel like the first game had more waves of quick moving medium health regenerating monsters that had to be stopped, while the second one focused more on slow high HP high damage giants with a range of abilities. You needed lots of troops to slow down the former, while it was best to stay out of the latter’s way and just wizard zap and arrow them.

I won’t say that the Incursion games are my favorite TDs, but if you enjoyed either Kingdom Rush or Cursed Treasure, they’re worth checking out.  You can play both for free on Kongregate.

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Thanksgiving Gaming & Such

Had a chance to play some more flash games over the long weekend. Took a break from Tower Defense for bit and did some RPGs, Shooters and RPG Shooters.

The biggies were Ge.ne.sis, Wings of Ge.ne.sis and Starwish.
Two of the three highlights of the weekend were from the same developer taking place in the same universe, though I accidentally played them out of order. Ge.ne.sis and Wings of Ge.ne.sis are a tactical RPG and shooter with RPG-esque elements respectively.

The art in the Ge.ne.sis games are phenomenal, despite being slightly minimalist and streamlined. It’s anime-esque, but with a lot of surreal and chunky, for lack of a better term, elements that help establish the dreamland feel. The “chunky” art element comes into play a bit more with Wings, often-times giving is a paper-doll theatre aesthetic.

The characters are rather flat (haha! paper dolls, right?) but manage to be incredibly charming, especially Sisily who takes the bizarre dreamland she’s ended up in in perpetual pollyannaish stride. Sadly, I got stuck in the first game around 2/3s of the way through.

The first game is a fairly linear tactical rpg. All of the encounters are story-encounters, so there’s no grinding to it, but therein lies the problem. I got to a particularly tough fight where you have to fight against shadow versions of the party who are invulnerable against physical attacks. There are some neat ways around this, but one unlucky rounds, your characters will drop like flies, especially Sisily and Emi, who can be kinda glass cannons against certain damage types. Even if you can take out all of the minions, bosses, who can often one-hit-kill Sisily or Emi can send you into a TPK-death-spiral awfully quick, since Ge.ne.sis lacks healing items & revives.  I’ll just have to be both really smart and really lucky if I’m going to win that fight.

Normally I hate square-based tactics games, because the square is terrible for when it comes to units blocking each other in and screwing up movement and attack ranges, but I’ll forgive Ge.ne.sis for this because it still manages to be a fun experience, even if it is a bit of a puzzle. Sadly, the developer who made the RPG and the Shooter disappeared before completing the true sequel to the Ge.ne.sis RPG. The numerous consumable and equipable items in the shooter would’ve found quite the welcome spot in a tactical RPG featuring the same lovable cast.

Starwish is a bit of a different animal than Wings of Ge.ne.sis, even though it is a shooter with RPG elements. Wings of Ge.ne.sis put the shooting aspect first and foremost, integrating in the rpg and item elements into the gameplay fairly well while letting the story be told more through the evocative art rather than dialogue, which was sparse and (admittedly, since I hadn’t played the RPG first) a bit confusing. Starwish places its story front and center, with a servicable shooter game tacked on to advance the narrative in a way that the player has ‘earned it’.

There’s a lot more depth to Starwish’s cast in terms of their backstories, though they’re still ultimately a troupe of tropers. The tough-but-really-a-sensitive-guy pilot hero. His Childhood-friend doctor lady. The alcoholic panda bear man who raised them as pirates when their parents died. The wise old captain lady. The quirky and possibly deformed sadistic science girl (who I think might also be a Skullgirl). The lecherous bartender with more depth and feeling than he likes to let on. The shy-but-hard-working mechanic girl. The cool quiet strong silent robot ace pilot who’s better than the main character and will maybe even be revealed to be a woman and possible love interest before the game is over. Still, it works in a way that’s enjoyable even though you could swear you’ve seen it all before.

A wide variety of weapons and subweapons help the fairly simple shmup play keep from getting too stale. The game relies more on upping the HP and damage-dealing of the small and unchanging handful of foes you fight, but I have found that there is a giant spike in difficulty come the 3rd sector.

Probably the best part of Starwish is the soundtrack of cool, low-key sci-fi electronica, the type that my band might have started making two albums down the road once we’d worked all of the Throbbing Gristle and early Cabaret Voltaire out of our systems had we kept on going.

I’d hope that a sequel would feature a bit more robust shooter experience to go along with the charming story elements, though I don’t know that one is in the works or ever will be. One thing i find is that a lot of the games on Kongregate that are even a few years old, their creators have, if not vanished, stopped putting out new creations.  There are donation-based unlockables, for example, in the Ge.ne.sis games, but the creator has not been active on his own forum since 2011; another mod has helped a few folks who donated after he disappeared and got them fixed up, but I don’t think I’ll be taking any chances personally, though if he were to reappear with Ge.ne.sis 2 in tow, I’d find a way to try to support him.  Not sure about the creator of Starwish.  I’ll look into him/her when I have some more time.

On a final note, I finally finished Valley of the Horses. Much like Clan of the Cave Bear, I saw the ending coming a mile away. Only Clan of the Cave Bear ended with the epic mystic doom of the Neanderthal tribe and Valley of the Horses ended with a blow job. I’ve given up on Earth’s Children and, since my girlfriend accidentally hid my biography of Tallyrand behind the framed puzzle of an alchemist at work (my house is clearly a Blueholme dungeon!), I started Peace on Earth by Stanislaw Lem, one of those authors I kept hearing about and meant to get around to reading. And wow. I’ll dribble out some inarticulate descriptions of that at a later time, but so far, color me impressed.

More Tower Defense Games

During my convalescence yesterday, I had the chance to rock out on a few more Tower Defense type games over on Kongregate.

I continued my forray with Bloons5. I’ve played some earlier version of Bloons years and years ago, and I must say, a lot of the improvements are rather impressive.

The number, combinations, and available upgrades of the various towers is mindblowing. But in one way, this is one of its downfalls. The tracks are so long, any real failure means starting from scratch, I found that I just could not bring myself to finish the first track on hard. I made it super far, wave 70-somethingish, but with dozens of zeppelins, I just could not stop them. Previously, i’d been saving only after particularly difficult waves; this had the advantage of giving me a few easier waves to adjust my strategy and build up in varying ways to overcome whichever my next big stumper was. Unfortunately, the wave of infinite zeppelins followed immediately after the last crazy hard wave I’d saved after, so I didn’t have enough lee-way to make serious adjustments in my strategy.

After having 3 super monkeys, over half a dozen catapults, half a dozen missile launchers, several ninjas and boomerang monkeys, 4 or 5 nail launchers, 4 snipers, 5 chain-guns, a wizard or two and god knows what else, I’d be damned if I was going to start over with one dart throwing monkey just to have a shot at mixing things up enough to even get back to where I was, much less finish it.

I ended up playing a different track on medium and beat it without any trouble at all, but it just didn’t feel rewarding.

Something I guess I’d like to see is more staggerred saving, so you can roll back to previous waves and try new things rather than either get saved into a corner or have to start from the very beginning.

I also played another game called Demonrift, which was another Tower Defense style game. King is dead, Demons have conquored the kingdom, yada yada yada. I have mixed feelings about this one. There were some things that I really liked, but a lot of things I felt could’ve been done better.

The good:
-I liked the turn-based overworld economy system. You would get resources for winning battles as well as recurring resources from the towns you had liberated. These resources could be used for purchasing various upgrades to units or to build improvements on towns that would give you benefits in combat. I’d like to see more stuff like this implemented in TD games.
-The mobs were widely varied with decently detailed sprites.
-LOTS of strategic points along the paths give you a lot of flexibility in your setup.
-Even though they’re kind of a game-breaker, especially when you get them down to where they only cost 19 more than archers, i really liked the golems.
-The main character whose role the player assumes is a pretty badass lady, Baroness Milena, which is cool, despite her poorly designed armor. The Warden lady’s armor makes a bit more sense. For the most part, Milena is a pretty good example of how to have a female vidya game protagonist.
-Did I mention the golems?

The bad (or more like what I’d like to see):
-Even though I liked the economy, I feel like it would’ve been nice to more directly integrate it with the battle systems.
-Your own units are incredibly bland. For a long stretch, the only towers you get are archers and soldiers. Upgrading the towers only increase the number of mans appearing at those towers. Even if you get various upgrades from the overworld, there’s no visual change to your little guys.
-Spawning is super slow. It feels like it takes forever for a guy to come out of a newly built tower, and if you’re not careful the mobs will just walk on by leaving the soldier twiddling his thumbs.
-Despite having the flexibility to do a lot with your setup, there’s not really much TO do. You create a few choke-points with blockers and just slowly fill the rest of the map with archers.
-One of the things I thought was really cool about Kingdom Rush was the hero units. I’d really have liked to have Warden playable, if not Milena.
-There is a princess who is rescued. We never see her. She’s the heir to the kingdom who the Baroness rescues, but she’s not actually a character. At all. No art, no dialogue, just ‘well, we have the princess now, so if we win the war, the royal line will not have been broken’. I feel like more could’ve been done with her.

Demonrift is an older game (2011), but if they ever make a sequel there’s a lot of places to make improvements worth checking out and, if you’re thinking of making your own game, a lot of ideas to borrow and steal.

At some point all of this might culminate in how to run a tower defense style encounter in your game, but first I want to play more video games.

 

Milena's actually a better character than her stupid boob-armor implies.

Milena’s actually a better character than her stupid boob-armor implies.