Indie development has become a big part of gaming these days, and the PlayStation 4 is a great showcase of that fact.
Beyond your usual triple A titles, such as the Assassin’s Creeds and Uncharteds, one can find unique and creative excursions that were developed by smaller teams. Some of these games are considered pieces of art by the community, and for good reason, as they challenge our ways of thinking about games and how we play them.
That said, tower defense titles are far from unique and it’s hard to avoid ones that force you to go through paywalls or micro-transactions. Games like these are synonymous with app stores for smartphones and tablets, something beyond what the hardcore gamer would consider playing. Though, in the past, there have been hidden gems such as Dungeon Defenders.
Dungeon Defenders succeeded, because it blended the best parts of an RPG with a tower defence game that was fun, accessible, and even challenging. McDroid by Elefantopia is not up to that quality, and misses the mark when it comes to changing the way we play the tower-defence genre, despite providing a unique take on it.
McDroid is a pseudo-tower defence style game, where instead of lanes and predictable paths of engagement, the player is faced with several waves of enemies. You’ll have to survive every wave as well, with each increasing in difficulty, or so it may seem.
To survive each wave, the player has to protect a snarky shuttle (which talks) while spawning turrets and other damage boosting units. Resource management and the strategic placement of units, along with their corresponding upgrades, are the keys to your success. What makes McDroid unique as a tower defence game is the player’s ability to directly control and aim a group of turrets at once within a certain radius while also being able to trade turrets at will. The turrets in this game are interchangeable, their platforms permanent bases depending on where you place them. Your basic turret is an auto firing beam type weapon, while the ‘Bonsai’ is a damage and resource spawn boosting emplacement. Upgrades are available as levels progress and the proper resources are accumulated.
The player is given a very active role in each level. They are a resource gatherer and spawner, a builder and a strategic planner, as well as specialist in attack and defense. However, this and a few other points of the game are considerable drawbacks to Elefantopia’s take on tower defense.
McDroid and shuttle crash land on Planet M and find that corruption is spreading across its surface. One of your objectives, other than to survive, is to purify the planet’s hearts which are embodied by various plants. The banter between characters, though attempting to add a comedic element to the story, are trite remarks. When every word of dialogue is a forced joke, the main objective gets muddled. Sure, this title is cartoony and inherently funny, but it comes off as inconsequential and somewhat strained in its narrative, which draws away from the fact that these protagonists are trying to save a troubled planet. As such, one may become disengaged.
In addition to this, the level by level format of progression, similar to that of an Angry Birds game, is inconsistent to the degree of difficulty sometimes present in later stages. After the first few upgrades you obtain at the beginning of the game, additional ones are few and far between. These upgrades help you in tough situations, and you can improve McDroid’s armor, the shuttle’s defences, turrets, etc. Despite this, the effectiveness of each upgrade is stifled by the relentless barrage of enemies each wave throws at the player. I found myself frantically abusing the concussion mine to destroy enemy corpses to purchase even more of the same weapon.
Another issue is that this is a tower defence game and the towers themselves feel fragile. Even when upgraded and fully boosted for damage, their overall speed in killing enemy units makes fighting tedious. Despite the ability to attach a turret onto McDroid while also being able to repair any damaged unit within range makes little difference to waves and waves of enemies who have one or two additional functions besides the basic property of attacking your shuttle. Attacking your strawberry farms or even consuming your resources becomes an additional adversary when fighting off these waves, but these differences do not add more to the gameplay’s core mechanic of turret defence. No one turret will be more effective against a specific type of enemy.
The cel-shaded visual style, character design, as well as the soundtrack are what outdo the laborious gameplay mechanics. McDroid makes an effort to have the player as closely engaged in the defence of their base as possible, but the sheer difficulty of defeating enemies while maintaining everything else makes playing it a tiring ordeal.
This review is based on the PS4 version of the game, which we were provided with.
As fun and quirky as its narrative may be, McDroid's attempt at changing up the tower defence genre makes for a frustrating experience. Its mechanics render gameplay a micro-managing nightmare that is repetitive and lacklustre.