Prime World: Defenders is a fun game at its core. Really! As far as the tower defense genre goes nowadays, there’s certainly a lot that it does right. In-app purchases? Not here. Overly-simplified level and tower progression? No way, this is as deep and involved as they come. Copious amounts of grinding? Nope, nowhere to be fou– er, well now that you mention it I guess there is a lot of grinding. Well, at least the game doesn’t make me repeat the same levels over and over to collect rare abiliti– oh. Umm, you know I do remember having to do that pretty often, too. Sigh. Did I mention that it’s fun at its core?
The setup for Prime World: Defenders is one that could come across as either mildly interesting or completely and utterly insipid depending on how many videogames you’ve played in your life. To me, the story falls somewhere closer to the latter – two warring nations battle over precious and limited resources, and need to fight to secure peace and keep said resource out of the hands of an evil third party, which can of course pretty much be summed up as “monsters.” Just monsters. No more explanation is needed, really. I know other games do this, too, but that doesn’t make it any less uninteresting. In fact, the more other games do it, the more uninteresting it is, so that justification is actually a lose-lose when you think about it.
To be fair, most people aren’t playing tower defense for the utterly gripping fiction, and when push comes to shove, Prime World’s main gameplay constituents are rock solid. The player builds up towers and strategically places them with the goal of thwarting the enemy. Different types of towers can be purchased, of course, but there’s a catch – once you purchase a certain number of a certain type, the price is jacked up. This was definitely a smart move on developer Nival’s part, and it almost felt like they were whipping me into shape. “You think you can just spam the same overpowered tower and brute force your way through? Huh? This is Prime World: Defenders, sucker!” You know, because Mr. T obviously works for Nival.
The way that towers, purchases, and upgrades in general are represented is via cards, and the system works just fine as far as I can tell. Cards for new towers, cards for upgrades, cards for spells, combining cards with other cards – it’s all about the cards. Definitely the most compelling of the aforementioned elements is the merging of various tower types, and I had a blast playing chemist and seeing what kind of fusions would or wouldn’t work. And beyond that, which ones would prove effective in battle or fit into my strategy the way I had planned. Though I personally don’t understand what the whole obsession with cards is (is there any reason for using them as a representation outside of the fact that its a genre trope?), I’m not going to fault the game on that, as it’s pretty much just a harmless means to a well-executed end. As mentioned, the core gameplay is fun.
Unfortunately, though I won’t nitpick about Defenders’ card-ified delivery method, there are things it does “well” compared to other games that I can’t necessarily see myself awarding bonus points for. For example, I’ve seen buzz around the Internet and in other critiques or discussions on the game saying that it should be praised for not having in-app purchases. Yay? I mean, I’m certainly glad I don’t have to pay more, but that is hardly a feature as far as I’m concerned, especially considering the game comes with more of a substantial up-front cost as opposed to the droves of mobile tower defense options that cost anywhere from ten bucks to as little as ninety-nine cents. Good on Nival for not sucking my wallet dry, I suppose, but they deserve no more than a pat on the back for it.
Unfortunately, when you consider aspects outside of Prime World: Defenders’ core mechanics, things start to break down. The bosses are extremely challenging in the game – a good thing in many folks’ eyes. The problem is, you can’t tackle said bosses by simply devising more cunning and effective strategies. I mean, you can, and if you were extremely close to winning then a different tactic might push you over the edge, but in general the solution to getting stuck is simple: unabashed grinding. Ew.
The way this works is that at any given time, the game gives you three or so levels to play that are outside the main quest, designed for you to hone your skills on. My impression before playing was that these were randomly generated. “Sounds great!” I thought. “At least grinding will offer something relatively new or unexpected with each battle.” As it turns out, “randomly generated” is a little bit too generous of a description for these arid grind-fests, as the only thing random about them is the the order in which the enemies attack, and how many waves of enemies there actually are. In other words, the same maps. Oy.
The game redeems itself in the presentation department somewhat – though the visuals are nothing to write home about and are overall inoffensive, they are also decently colorful and cartoony. The art style adds just enough character to give lifeless towers shooting at each other at least some humanity, and the attention to detail with various animations and moving parts on different towers and units is definitely appreciated. The soundtrack is enjoyable, too, though it does suffer a little bit from over-epic syndrome. You have to wonder if the composer knew when he was whipping up something that sounds like it could back the Battle of Helm’s Deep that it would actually be playing behind… tower placement. Still, the production value in that department is appreciated.
All said and done, Prime World: Defenders’ core mechanics serve their purpose, and even blow some fresh breath into the dusty space of tower defense. The game is pretty enough, and is an overall inoffensive experience. Beyond that, though, it’s difficult to award its dull story and grind-laden progression very much else. Hardcore genre aficionados? Buy with confidence. Everyone else? Definitely try the demo first.
This review is based on the PC version of the game, which we were provided with.
Prime: World Defenders is not bad in any way. Outside of the fun gameplay, however, it doesn't excel in many ways either. If fresh tower defense play mechanics are something you crave, then Defenders is sure to please, but if grinding irks you or you seek an engrossing experience through and through, you may be disappointed.