Reviewed by: Shaun Hughes
Developed By: EXOR Studios
Published By: EXOR Studios
Category: Action, Strategy
Release Date: 21.02.2019
A modern day take on Space Invaders…
Like a modern day take on Space Invaders, X-Morph: Defense crash-landed on my Nintendo Switch and took far more of my playtime than I care to admit. As someone who had little interest in tower defense titles prior to the turn of the year, I can now confidently state that I am a keen advocate for these titles to continue to invade the eShop. The main reason for this is that having recently reviewed a tower defense title, the thought of reviewing another filled me with joy. I was keen to see how a different developer approached the task and what they would include.
From the off, it is important to note that X-Morph: Defense looks fantastic. Although graphics aren’t everything, first impressions play a vital role in ones immediate thoughts on a game, and thankfully X-Morph: Defense does not disappoint. Set in an attractive and appealing set of cityscapes across the world, I was pleased to have been thrust straight into the action by EXOR Studios.
Take the fight to Earth
For those unfamiliar with tower defense titles, the concept is a simple one. There is a focal point to each level which you are required to protect, and waves of enemies descend upon the target with intent to destroy. Commonly, the players role is to command a variety of units to take up position and defend the area from the ‘bad guys’. In X-Morph: Defense, the latest title from the Warsaw developers responsible for ‘Zombie Driver’ and ‘D.I.P.R.I.P’, you are in command of an alien species that has invaded Earth to take over. The game gets even more interesting when it puts you behind the joystick of an X-Morph Fighter, allowing you to take the fight to the inhabitants of Earth alongside your motley crew. Therefore, to solely categorise X-Morph as a tower defense game would be a grave injustice, and tower defense shmup (shoot-em-up) would be much more accurate.
After an informative and simplistic tutorial, the game thrusts you into action against the many hordes whilst continuing to teach you ‘on the job’. Introducing you to the two parts of each level, the ‘build’ mode and ‘combat’ mode, X-Morph: Defense showcases why it is now available on all majory consoles: Xbox One, PS4, Steam and Nintendo Switch. Its unique blend of shmup and tower defense works extremely well, providing the level of strategy that games of this nature require whilst also offering up a healthy serving of action for those that crave it.
Dynamic building destruction system
There are a number of elements to X-Morph that the developers have creatively crafted to make for exciting and engaging battles, the most noticeable of which are the destructible environments and the fairly intuitive AI. As advertised on the eShop, EXOR studios have developed a ‘dynamic building destruction system’ whereby every building in the game can be destroyed piece by piece. Realistic physics simulation makes every destruction scenario unique. Witnessing this firsthand is even more impressive than the advertisement suggests, and meant that changes to the battlefield could occur at any moment. What I also liked is that you can manipulate the destruction of buildings for your own advantage, and provides that additional detailing that some tower defense titles fail to do.
As well as the destructible parts of the battlefield, the AI is much more adaptable than previous tower defense titles that I have played. The enemies have no predefined paths, and they change their course based on your actions and the choices you make during ‘build’ stages. This allows for some rather unique game developments and no two games play out in the same way – refreshing and interesting! The game does indicate to you on-screen which route the enemy will take based on your unit placements, taking away some of the unpredictability, but it still serves to keep replayability high and mundane outcomes low.
There are two gameplay modes available in X-Morph: Defense, and these are both typical affairs: campaign and survival. Both provide ample opportunity to hone your strategy and develop your skills with a warfighter, and there is a lot of fun to be had. The campaign itself is extensive and progressive, with a number of countries from around the world available as playable maps. There are also four levels of difficulty and a variety of different bosses known as ‘Human Mechna.’ Although they prove quite the challenge to defeat, these bosses are a welcome addition to the waves of enemies and require yet more strategy as you attempt to overcome their building-sized structures.
Throughout the story mode, you can develop and upgrade both your towers and abilities, and this can also be said in the survival mode. Here you take on wave after wave of enemy hordes, and each defeated wave provides you with upgrades you can apply. Personally, I like to have an end-goal in sight and found there was much more enjoyment to be had in the campaign – although I am aware that many would enjoy the endless waves of enemies that the survival mode offers.
Although there is a lot to love here, the difficulty of the game can hinder the levels of enjoyment. I am not one for an incredibly challenging game, however I do not like to play a game on the easiest setting either. Having selected the average game difficulty, I found the early levels to be as expected. Very soon, however, the game became a lot more challenging. Being a game of strategy, I was aware that I would need to learn from my mistakes and build upon my successes, but I hadn’t prepared for just how often. This may be one of only two drawbacks from a game that is a fantastic example of how to blend action and strategy – I enjoyed the responsive, fast-paced and varied combat in the fighter jet as much as I did watching my alien army take over.
As mentioned previously, I believe the game to have only two issues of note, and the second is a lack of multiplayer. It feels a missed opportunity to not have local or online multiplayer, and my blue sky thinking allows me to believe it would have been excellent to face off with someone online where one controls the aliens and one controls the humans.
In short, X-Morph: Defense is an excellent tower defense title that offers a lot of bang for your buck. It feels polished and detailed, stripping back tower defense titles to their very core and then reinventing it for some shoot-em-up fun. For me personally, X-Morph: Defense represents one of the many reasons to try out a tower defense game, and I think this is the one to start with if you haven’t already.
4 out of 5