Vanguard Storm a successful storm

Posted: May 14, 2009 in Strategy, Tower Defense

I’ve always been a fan of tower defense games because they give me the power to command forces and hold the fate of the world in my hands. Fortunately, based on my success rate in TD games, I don’t have such powers in real life. Recently, I came across Crystal Defenders: Vanguard Storm, which is a cross between tower defense, castle defense, and logic puzzles. Admittedly, the lite version did little to sell me on the full version, but for the price of a Subway Foot Long, the full version of Vanguard Storm is well worth it.

Vanguard Storm is a turn-based strategy game where the objective to prevent monsters approaching from the left from reaching the right side. A nice multi-section help section is included that goes over the details from the overall objective to the defender and monster types. The screen itself is split in half and consists of squares which represent locations on which monsters and your defenders can move. The graphics won’t take the iTunes store by storm, but they’re perfectly fine for the format of this game. The soundtrack offers the typical Crystal Defenders cheeriness. Vanguard Storm consists of 10 maps, all illustrated on the in-game overview map, each with anywhere from 3 to 5 attack waves, making this ideal for quick play sessions as well as longer ones. The maps, each with their own unique terrains and features, have the Crystal Defender-esque exotic names such as The Bisga Greenlands, Zedlei Forest, The Aldanna Range, Melby Point, and Ruins of Delgantua to name a few.

You have eight types of defenders to command—Soldier, Archer, Dragoon, Black Mage, White Mage, Flintock, Bishop, and Paladin—each with specific strengths, talents and attack patterns.

Soldier—Strong attack and endurance; ineffective for aerial attacks
Archer—Uses a crossbow to attack air and land monsters diagonally
Dragoon—Not the most powerful but good for long-distance attacks for air and land monsters
Black Mage—Fires spells for air and land monsters over long distances
White Mage—Restores the hit points of nearby defenders
Flintock—Uses firepower to attack air and land monsters diagonally
Bishop—Increases attack power of nearby defenders
Paladin—Cannot attack monsters but can prevent their advance

A timer borders the screen burning away like a candle wick, and a Skip button is located in the top middle for speeding up gameplay. Scoring is based on several things: Clear bonus (clearing all monsters), Remaining Health (the state of the defenders at the end of each wave), and Time bonus (time remaining—the faster you clear a level, the more points; this is where the Skip button can be your friend at least early on). Penalties also apply when defenders are lost (aka the KO penalty).

The gameplay is where Vanguard Storm shines because everything is intuitively done by touch from the placement and movement of defenders to option selections. Each defender with a mini-healthbar can be positioned and repositioned anywhere you want on your side of the screen. As long as a defender is in the path, monsters will not be able to move forward. The initial stages are relatively easy and straightforward, serving as a good tutorial, but don’t let that serve as an indicator for the rest of the game. Vanguard Storm picks up speed a third of the way through with stronger monsters that will test your on-the-fly strategic thinking and your ability to implement tactics under the pressure of time. Trust me, you will rely less on the Skip button and instead will use as much time as you can to plan your attacks. Because monsters have their own set of strengths and weaknesses, you will constantly be moving defenders. Try to minimize defender losses since those surviving level up to get stronger and healthier. Several ways to preserve defender health include moving them out of a monster’s path or placing them behind a stronger defender. Of course, you can always move dying defenders closer to Bishops in order to heal.

As you progress, additional defenders will become available, but you can only add one defender at the beginning of each level, making your decisions on which defender to use that much more important. For me, this is more or less a trial-and-error approach at least initially so be willing to experiment.

There are a few very minor issues with Vanguard Storm. Visually, when defenders are upgraded, it would be nice to see a physical change. Sometimes when you have multiple defenders especially with soldiers and black mages, it can difficult to quickly make out the difference. Also, the game doesn’t automatically save when you exit the game. You need to manually pause the game to return to the options page and then save and exit. I’m not sure how that affects iPhones receiving calls or messages, but I know I accidentally deleted my progress by exiting the game.

Vanguard Storm successfully offers something different from the usual tower defense genre in an easy-to-play, yet challenging game. It delivers a solid experience for fans and non-fans of Final Fantasy that exceed my expectations.

Albie Meter: 4 stars (good strategic and tactical gameplay make this ideal for TD and puzzle fans alike)

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