Gaming without your brother

Tag Archives: tower defense

Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Whoa! I’m alive! For what it’s worth, sometimes I write personal thoughts on gettribal.blogspot.com. So more recently, I’ve taken to that transmission vector. Mainly because I’ve gamed so little in the past few months. So. little. It’s depressing. But about a month ago, my brother took the initiative to set up a weekly gaming date for us so we can get our game on and spend some time “together.” Good times! We’ve moved on to playing Halo 4 (fun, horrendous storyline, post forthcoming about that) but we started playing Iron Brigade, by Double Fine and so I thought I’d pass along a little ditty about that since weeds have started to grow over this blog . . .

This is confusing to buy on Xbox Live Arcade because when the game was originally released in 2011, it was called Trenched. A month later, due to copyright issues, the title was changed to Iron Brigade. It’s a third-person tower defense game, set in the mid-1900s but to an alternate history. Frank Woodruff (good guy) creates a new military tool, mechs (called trenches) that soldiers can equip and upgrade to fight in the field, as well as set emplacements to defend military points. Vladimir Farnsworth (bad guy) tried to push his technology, Monovision, to  let everyone see whatever they want, but from the comfort of their homes (hur hur hur, social commentary . . .). He disseminates his vision via “devices” called Tubes, who you are trying to kill because you don’t believe in Monovision. That’s . . . a really, really rough synopsis, but that’s essentially what’s happening. Killing Tubes, stopping the forward progress of Monovision, stopping your once ally/friend, Vladimir.

You saw my rave review of Orcs Must Die! so you know how I thoroughly enjoy third-person tower defense games. I like the strategy, and the army you create for yourself with emplacements, on top of getting to get your hands dirty and jump in the action yourself. Iron Brigade has some great mechanics to force you to compromise strength for speed and emplacements. It made a lot more sense to play this with other people than trying to tackle it solo. Some trench chassis allow you to use “heavy” emplacements that do tons of damage, but cost more scrap (the currency essentially of the game) to place, whereas chassis that tend to have more armor and can equip more weapons have less emplacements slots, and out of those slots, no heavy emplacement slots.

It goes without saying that the dialogue and artwork were superb. We’re talking about Double Fine! Very funny narration, good voice acting, funny animation, and great art between action. Without a doubt, this was worth the $5-$10 I paid for it. Short, not incredibly difficult, but fun achievements to keep you coming out, and a great experience to play with more than one person.

For some reason, this seemed really funny to me at the time.

For some reason, this seemed really funny to me at the time.

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Forget about blogging, do you remember when I had the time to actually play games? Ah . . . those were the days. The days before freelance gigs and significant others took up my evenings and weekends. OH MAN! IN A GOOD WAY. I MEANT THAT IN A GOOD WAY.  . . . Yikes. Anyway.

I did just get Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood and Assassin’s Creed: Revelations to educate myself and catch up before I buy Assassin’s Creed III, so you know . . . I’m coming back to the fold. But! Since I haven’t gotten far enough in Brotherhood to give a definite blog post/opinion, I decided to use this blog post to knock out a review that’s been circling my dome for weeks now. You should all play Orcs Must Die!!

Funny, challenging, fun. The trifecta!

Funny, challenging, fun. The trifecta!

Er, that needs a little clarification. If you like tower defense games, then this is one of the best of the genre. In all the hubbub of Orcs Must Die! 2 coming out, Orcs Must Die! was supa cheap on Steam some time ago. This was one of those Steam sale games that had been staring at me like an orphan for months because I never played it. So I finally did, okay Robot Entertainment?! Stop judging me for not installing your game sooner!

The game begins with your wizened master dying in a sea of orcs in battle, lamenting that he has to pass his torch on to his apprentice, who is an idiot. “We will surely die,” is is his concluding thought. I was laughing right from the get-go, not just at the deprecating humor, but at the cartoon-y, charming artwork as well. You then take up the main character, only known as the Apprentice, to place a few traps and helps at your disposal (limited by how much money you have an how expensive an item is) around an enemy entrance to guard the Rift, a magical opening between worlds. Once you’re ready, you start the orc onslaught, and you get to shoot with magic, bombs, or arrows, or just melee attack orcs along with the other weapons you placed, like arrows that shoot from a wall or slime on the ground that slows enemies down. Maps get bigger, and enemy numbers increase, as well as enemy types, as the levels progress. There are multiple Rifts throughout the game, so you go to different locations to guard them.

I’m not certain that Orcs Must Die! was the first to put a 3rd person perspective on the tower defense genre (drop knowledge if you have it, in the comments), but I feel like it was the first that got a lot of attention for it. Or maybe I’m making stuff up again, who knows. It was the first I heard about it, anyway. And it was intriguing. I really like tower defense games, and have wasted many work hours in a tiny flash window in a browser trying to destroy hordes making a break for my pile of jewels, or whatever their incentive might be, depending on the game you’re playing. And that’s just it, isn’t it? They’re all pretty much the same. A few different items, but the mechanics are rote.

Like these orcs about to be stabbed from below, the tower defense genre has been . . . stabbed with ingenuity, from Orcs Must Die!?

Like these orcs about to be stabbed from below, the tower defense genre has been . . . stabbed with ingenuity, from Orcs Must Die!?

That’s not to say that a lot of the familiar and perhaps boring pieces of the genre aren’t in Orcs Must Die!. Getting some prep time to set up your traps before the enemies start swarming the map, guarding the sacred object, and getting more money as enemies die, to keep buying and placing more weapons to stop them. The gameplay elements that diverge from the norm that I loved were getting to attack enemies myself, as a solo character while my traps and weapons from below, above, and all other sides do their worst as well. That also adds the challenge of not being able to monitor every enemy entrance because you are only one guy, in one spot, and that is getting more and more difficult the more I play (which is awesome).

We’re deep in an era of nostalgia gaming, where people take beloved genres or stories and recreate them and make a million dollars on Kickstarter. So when something like Orcs Must Die! comes along and seems to say, “Listen, we get it. You love what you know. But we can also help you love something beyond what you’re most familiar with,” I’m totally on board. And you should be too! Play this game for smiles, laughs, and as the levels continue, a healthy impulse to rage quit, followed by a satisfying win to yet another map.