By: Armaan Khan
Are you burned out on tower defense games yet? Newly-minted indie developer Winter Rain Games hopes the answer is “no,” because they’ve just released their debut title, Interstellar Defence Troops, for your consideration. And consider it you should, because it is a challenging, polished, and addicting little gem that’s well worth playing.
My Thumb Blotted Out the Planet
Interstellar Defense Troops puts you in charge of defending a small outpost located in an asteroid field for as long as possible. For the most part, it plays like a typical tower defense game. You build towers and support structures, fend off enemy attacks, and use collected resources to build more defenses and upgrade your structures. IDT differs from traditional tower defense in a few key ways, however.
First off, it’s set in space, so the enemy attacks can and will come from any direction. This means that your strategies will focus around building a strong perimeter, as opposed to the complex “pathing” that most TD games require. The second major difference is that you don’t get resources from destroying enemies or surviving waves. Instead, you need to mine asteroids for minerals, and those asteroids can be used up. Once that happens, you’ll need to start mining another if you want to continue to survive.
Moving to another asteroid is easier said than done, however, because your mining drones are completely defenseless. That means you’ll need to build a new outpost, along with new towers and support structures if you want to keep them alive and productive. Saving up the resources to do this, whilst simultaneously fending off increasingly powerful waves of enemies becomes a very intense affair, and this is where most of the fun of IDT is to be had. You’re constantly making tough decisions about when and how to best utilize your resources so that you can survive for the greatest length of time.
That leads us to the third major difference between IDT and other tower defense games: you can never win, you can only try to hold out for as long as possible. The enemies have unlimited forces, and come in increasingly tougher and more frequent waves, while your resources are limited by the number of asteroids in the field. No matter how good of a player you are, defeat is inevitable, it’s just a matter of long you can delay it.
I Didn’t Feel Like a Giant
This might sound like a bad thing, but there’s something compelling about it, in the same way that the intense difficulty of rogue-likes make those games compelling as well. The inevitability of defeat means it isn’t really a loss – it’s not something you should be ashamed of – it’s merely an opportunity to try again and do better next time.
But, if you don’t like (or can’t handle) the fatalism, you can always play the more laid back Waves mode in which enemies only come when you tell them to (though in larger numbers than usual). This gives you time to build your little empire properly before engaging in battle and one can actually survive indefinitely as a result. Should you, on the other hand, decide you want a greater challenge, then you can try Rush mode, which gives you more resources to play with, but the enemies come in much faster and harder than normal. Additionally, each of the three modes has four difficulty levels, so there’s a lot of room to customize the experience to your liking.
I can’t let this review continue without talking about how polished the game is. The background art is fantastic, featuring one of three beautifully rendered planets rotating in place, as well as at least one moon orbiting around it. The interface is clean and easy to use, with all the appropriate doodads intuitively laid out. And the music! Oh man the music is a joy to listen to, being composed mainly of string-heavy classical arrangements. There is one techno track that messes things up a bit, but I can forgive that because it doesn’t play very often. The actual unit art isn’t much to look at, sadly. Unlike the backgrounds, it won’t blow you away with its beauty, but it won’t offend your eyes either. Overall, Interstellar Defence Troops’s aesthetic screams elegance and sophistication, which I deeply appreciated.
I Felt Very, Very Small
There are some minor niggles that bothered me, though. You can’t build towers directly, and instead have to spend additional resources on “basements” that the towers then go on. This wastes precious time and resources and doesn’t really make sense. You can’t resell anything that you’ve built, so you’re out of luck if you need either fast cash or room to restructure your base. Finally, it’s hard to select your towers unless you have the viewpoint zoomed all the way in. All these are minor complaints, however, and don’t really detract from the overall enjoyment of the game.
Is It Worth the Money?
Interstellar Defence Troops is a fun, addictive, highly polished game and is well worth the $10 asking price, if you’re willing to add yet another tower defense game to your collection. The challenging nature of the standard gameplay makes it a perfect coffee break game for killing several minutes here and there, while the Waves mode makes it a good option for more casual TD fans, as well as long-term play. Be aware, though, the registration system is unconventional. When you purchase the game, you’ll be emailed a file named “license.key” which you need to copy into the game directory yourself. It’s kind of a kludgy system that works, but isn’t normal, and might put some people off.
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