Star Defense a solid if uninspiring TD game

Posted: June 8, 2009 in Tower Defense

The tower defense space is crowded with a variety of different themed games that stretch from being excellent to terrible. Star Defense has received enough hype over the past few months that you almost assumed it would never live up to. Undoubtedly, the game will generate a flood of money to the publisher and the devs behind Star Defense. The question remains “Is Star Defense worthy of your money and more importantly your time?”

The bottom line is that this comes down to expectations. Granted, the graphics and multi-touch capabilities let alone the unique 3D planet are amazing. But, the gameplay is the bottom line when it comes to Star Defense. Before I get into the details, I’ll tell you it’s a mixed bag because from a purely practical perspective, the game itself doesn’t deliver anything innovative on the gameplay front. Many will disagree, but it comes down to this: being new doesn’t necessarily make it innovative.

When you look at other TD games such as ElementalMonstersTD with its card system, and 7 Cities with its crystal upgrades, each delivers something that goes beyond a TD game. For me, Star Defense, outside of using a planet as the playing field really doesn’t deliver anything innovative to the genre. The game offers its own challenging gameplay, but don’t buy this if you’re expecting something that will change the space.

As with any TD game, the objective is to prevent a breach and for every enemy destroyed, money is earned which is then used to fortify defenses. Star Defense provides two modes of play: Galaxy and Challenge. Galaxy is your campaign which involves 7 planets each with three levels of difficulty—easy, normal and hard—and you’re awarded medals based on success within each difficulty level. As you progress, the number of attack waves increase as does the difficulty, and you only have 10 lives/hits to spare with the Shield Wall. For example, the first planet is Outpost D-13 with 20 waves, the second is Tellora with 40 leading all the way up to the final (at least for now) planet Magna Prime with 60 waves.

Unlike other TD games, you won’t be able to get away with building an unlimited, continuous line of towers. In Galaxy, you’re limited in the number of towers that can be placed on each planet, which I actually like because it adds to the challenge. I can see people not liking this as well but this depends on personal preference. One of the things right off where an opportunity was missed is in tower upgrades. When a tower is placed, a yellow bar over the tower indicates level. For a new tower, a single bar appears, upgrade once and two bars appear and so on. The tower visibly does not change and instead is denoted by bars.

Challenge is survival mode where the objective is to survive as long as possible against an unlimited number of attack waves. Here, you’re given a limit of 50 towers, and honestly, that’s a lot for a small planet in Star Defense.

The enemies in Star Defense mostly resemble bugs, slugs and sea creatures with names such as Probe, Swarm, Quigor, Mollusk, Viceroy and Man-o-War, which are dropped down from a spaceship.

In terms of the types of towers, there are 5 towers each upgradeable 3 times and each with their reload frequencies, shooting distance and range.

Gauss Turret
Neo Plasma Blaster
DX-3 Cannon (goo that slows hinders/slows enemies)
Phase Coil
Quantum Launcher

Star Defense also has 30 Commendations or achievements that can be earned during gameplay including:

The More the Merrier—2 waves active in one session
A Worthy Skyline—20 towers built at one time
The Wicked Three—3 waves active in one session
A Journey of a Lifetime—Defeat 60 waves on all planets on all difficulties
One Shot, Three Kills—Hit 3 or more enemies with one tower in one shot

The game controls are a unique part of Star Defense where you defend the entire planet by rotating and zooming which you will need to master because once multiple waves hit, you won’t be able to view all of the action in a single view. Rotating takes some practice to get it just in the position and zoomed is usually the best approach to get the bigger picture. But I’m sure you’ll be tempted to zoom in to view the attacks close up.

In the game screen, there are several things to pay attention to. In the upper left corner is the Shield Wall, which keeps a tally of the number of hits/lives remaining. Underneath that is the money count. Located on the upper right corner is the number of tower available to be built. Trust me, early on, you may have a surplus of towers, but later, you’ll wish you had more.

On the bottom left corner is a combination of things. First is the Next Wave bar which gradually disappears as an attack wave nears. Below that is window that shows the next enemy set to attack and the wave. This can be closed (if you want an additional challenge) or left open. The weapons list is located along the right border, and you simply drag to the desired spot on the planet to place.

When you’re first starting a map, you choose when to start the wave so it gives all the time in the world to place those initial towers. You can also tap on the Next Wave bar to start right way at anytime during the game. There isn’t a fast forward button which I think is an oversight because a game can last about 30 minutes in the later planets which may or may not be a good thing. Once towers are placed, they can also be upgraded or sold by tapping on them similar to other TD games.

As with any TD game, strategy planning is essential and understanding how to use the landscape will be the difference between success and failure. Star Defense is no different as you’ll need to plan how to attack certain enemies who are resistant to certain weapons as well as deal with curved paths and the horizon in the 3D environment. Because you’re limited in the number of towers that can be placed, adopting a quick sell of existing towers on one part of the planet to place elsewhere will need to be part of that strategy. As I said before, placing haphazardly or without much thought will only doom your planet, and even Obama won’t be able to save you then.

Expansion packs in the future will add more maps to the game, and I can see this especially with the Challenge Mode since that could use additional content. Star Defense in its current form is a complete game so don’t let that be an issue.

What’s my take on Star Defense? Being a TD enthusiast, Star Defense is a solid game, but it doesn’t deliver anything new to the genre. Not that this is a bad thing, but with all the pre-release hype, it becomes a fair point of contention. Whether or not people are happy with Star Defense will come down to expectations that were set before the game’s release. Keep in mind that there is a difference between being new and being innovative…they are not one in the same. I think the 3D environments and the use of a spherical battlefield offers a new take on TD, but the gameplay itself falls short of being innovative which is really how this game needs to be judged. If you’re in the market for a TD game, buy it because you like what it offers, and that may or may not be Star Defense.

Albie Meter: 4 Stars (recommended for advanced TD gamers looking for something new and different; if you’re new to the genre, there are better options with other elements; if you’re into eye candy, Star Defense is certainly the best looking TD game)

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