For some reason whenever I see a new tower defense game I am instantly hooked. It may have something to do with the back and forth gameplay, forcing you to meticulously create a base while fending off onslaughts of enemies ready to teardown it down. When I heard of Aegis Defenders, a game which meshes up 2D platforming with tower defense, I couldn’t but be excited.
Some of you might remember Aegis Defenders from its successful Kickstarter campaign way back in 2014. And while it was touted for a 2015 release, it finally has seen the light of day this year.
The story takes place in the distant future where only remnants of a once highly advanced civilization remain. You play as the blue hooded Clu and her goggle wearing grandpa, Bart, both of which wouldn’t feel out of place in a Ghibli anime. Together they work as ruin hunters and seek ancient artifacts which they later sell. It’s not long before they encounter Zula the thief, Kaiim the monk and an adorable robot named Kobo. Together they go to awaken the ancient war mech Aegis. Overall it is a decent story with interesting characters and twists throughout.
The gameplay is split into two distinct areas exploration and defending. You usually start off exploring a new area, platforming, solving puzzles, and generally getting accustomed to new enemy types and mechanics.
While the exploration isn’t the most rewarding aspect of the game I can appreciate the fact that it is here, as it keeps the flow fresh and exciting throughout its run-time, instead of only having a single ten-hour long tower defense game.
The tower defense portions are where the game shines. You will be given a limited amount of time to collect resources and bolster your defenses before tackling the relentless enemy hordes. While initially, you will defend stationary points, it’s not long before the game spices things up by defending moving bases.
Each character can place down different items. In the beginning, Bart will be able to place defensive blocks. However, placing another block over an existing one and you will fuse the two into a super handy auto-turret. Clu, on the other hand, can put down mines and if she places two in the same spot turns them into a spike trap. The depth doesn’t end there. You will be able to mix items from different characters in order to get totally unique structures. For example, placing an explosive trap on a defensive wall block creates a super useful Trishot turret.
You will have to make use of your characters’ offensive abilities if you want to survive since just placing defenses won’t be enough. Red slimes, for example, can consume your blocks in one hit, while flying enemies can easily float past your spike traps. Clu can fire long-distance projectiles using her bow and rifle, while Bart uses his hammer to smash through though enemies as well as repair structures.
Aegis Defenders goes one step further. Enemies are color-coded meaning that if you want to maximize your damage output you will have to attack enemies with corresponding characters and weapons. The game sometimes even forces you to cooperate when taking out a single enemy. In one instance Bart can knock off the protective armor from an enemy leaving him exposed to Clu and her trusty rifle.
The game is so much better with a partner. You will no longer need to fumble around with multitasking characters so much. Still, you will have to coordinate effectively if you have any chance of taking out the incoming waves of enemies. Calling a buddy to come and help with specific enemy types or having one player collect resources while the other bolster your defenses makes for a truly exciting experience.
While in co-op, the game has a dynamic split screen meaning that it will merge into a single screen when both players are nearby, and the screen will split not just vertically, but also horizontally and diagonally depending on their location.
It’s a shame that Aegis Defenders is not always the tightest experience. The platforming feels slightly off, and it feels a bit fiddly to swap between characters. In one instance my characters fell through a platform which wasn’t yet opened up, forcing me to restart that segment. None of these were game breaking, but they do hamper the experience nevertheless.
The retro 16-bit inspired artwork mesh well with the game’s atmosphere. From the vast open backgrounds to the swaying shrubbery and glowing flowers the pixelated visuals do not take away anything from the beautifully detailed world.
There are some genuinely tense moments to be had here with its numerous smart ideas and a rather decent execution. Cooperating with your partner during the hectic tower defense segments make for an experience unlike any other. Aegis Defenders is available on PlayStation 4, Switch and both Windows and Mac OS X on Steam.