Tower defense games have always held a special place in the heart of anyone who gamed their way through the nineties and 2000’s. Who can forget titles such as Loons and Defense Grid? Even South Park has its own tower defense game! Good old alien shoot-em-ups have also always been popular, with the release of games such as Alien Swarm in the recent years. Yet seeing X-Morph Defense putting them both together felt like it might be a bit much, not being one to pass up the opportunity to blow the earth to pieces I decided to give it shot.
Only this time, you’re not defending the world against hordes of aliens, you are the aliens! From the second your core smashes into the earth there is no disputing that you are the bad guy there to strip humanity of their valuable resources.
Starting the game up it initially looks good, even if it sounds a little lacklustre in the voice department. Expecting a stiff and quite complex tutorial it was a pleasant surprise to find it built into the campaign. A couple of hours later and you are ready to wreak havoc (or sooner if you don’t want all the story). The difficulty starts easy but it soon ramps up to keep challenging you. The game map can change after a few waves so you can never be too complacent. The tech tree, where you unlock various upgrades, is interesting as you can easily pull all of your points from one section and put them straight back into another making the gameplay very dynamic as you plot your next mission. You learn about the different configurations and how they can be used to affect the different enemies; fast air attacks vs aerial foes and slow powerful blasts vs strong ground for your ship and towers, with some variety mixed in, and boss battles that require both.
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As a concept that seems at first glance to mix as easily as oil and water, it actually meshes quite well. You can split how you play choosing either pure tower defense mode or pure shoot-em-up by playing the easy difficulty level or play a nicely balanced mix of both by choosing normal or above. The physics engine is effective, and it is extremely satisfying to destroy buildings in the world to re route the troops coming to attack, but it doesn’t wow. Buildings fall and break apart just fine, but adding some atmospheric smoke effects or flying debris and rubble would greatly increase the immersiveness of conflicts.
The recent addition of the European Assault gave mixed feelings. On the one hand, new enemy tactics and maps, along with the survival mode, was a nice addition for fans of the game. On the other it is extremely difficult and provides no new improvements for the X-Morph or it’s core, only enemies. And admittedly that was very disappointing, but not enough to ruin the game. If EXOR can bridge the gap with any future content, it will make for a more fulfilling DLC.
X-Morph Defense is, however, a fun game. Everything about the game is solid. I played the Xbox One version (it’s also available on the PS4/PC) and initially the controls felt a bit fiddly but they didn’t take too long to get used to. For the achievement hunters out there, it has a good mix of easy achievements but the hard ones are really hard, so expect a challenge.
If you enjoy active tower defense games and you have fun splitting your attention between yourself, your towers and the enemy types, then this is a lot of fun for less than $20. If the idea of being constantly switching between these roles would frustrate you, then you may be better going for a dedicated tower defense or shooter game. I personally had a lot of fun with this little heard of and quite unexpected hybrid game.