Review: X-Morph: Defense06 Sep 2017 0
Review: X-Morph: Defense
Released 30 Aug 2017
Game developers and modding enthusiasts have been attempting to turn the classic Tower Defence genre on its head for some time now, yet constant success (and failure) hasn't stopped others from coming along hoping to carry on their work. From the hack n' slash perspective of Dungeon Defenders, and its lacking sequel, to the FPS-infused Sanctum, it's a genre we've noticed has fallen off the radar in recent years once more - but X-Morph: Defense is here to reinvigorate it yet again.
Hopefully I'm not the only one thinking this name sounds oddly familiar, but I can't find any trace of this one planting its roots elsewhere in the past. There's every chance I'm getting mixed up with everyone talking about XCOM again, but for the sake of clarification, this seems to be EXOR Studio's first rodeo since Zombie Driver.
So how does X-Morph: Defense attempt to reinvigorate a gametype that was done to death on mobile as it was on PC over the last few years? It grabs an addictive twin-stick shooter and forces the two to make love. Much like how Sanctum or Dungeon Defenders had you control a character arguably more important than the towers themselves, you're comandeering a speedy space vessel with more destructive power than the towers it's able to spawn. Better yet - you're the enemy!
With a name schoolkids of the 90s would have likely mistaken for a Power Rangers spin-off, X-Morph: Defense gives you the rare oppotunity to be the bastard. You're an alien species dubbed 'X-Morph' by tiny earthlings who've witnessed your ship's ability to change shape and adapt to the situation. Just as you're able to morph into a fantastic anti-air defense, so too are your towers.
If you've played any tower defense game in your life, you'll know what to expect when it comes to core gameplay. Your alien species is planting 'cores' in major cities across the globe hoping to defend them long enough for them to link together and, presumably, mine it for all it's worth. Just like we're certain other planets house rare metals, we can assume the X-Morph aliens want some good ol' fashioned clay - who doesn't love pottery? Of course, the inhabitants of the throw-away planet aren't too pleased about our bombastic entrance and would rather send thousands of troops to their death in waves rather than just overwhelm us from the start, or just let those nukes fly.
As with any good city, the place is a logistical nightmare for all involved. While likely a godsend for those hoping to blow up our core with a couple hundred bombers and tanks, it means we're having to strategically place our limited towers to cut off their pathing options and force them along a longer road - a longer road filled with more towers, no less. Couldn't we just block every path, you ask? In an ideal world, yes. But in an effort to keep things 'fair', your towers will spontaneously combust to leave at least one pathway to the core wide open at any given time. Evidently, there's something wrong with our tech.
While there aren't all too many towers available throughout the relatively short campaign, the arsenal of your gunship mostly makes up for what's missing. For the most part, you can consider each tower a toned-down version of your own ship's selection of weaponry, meaning they're mostly there to act as back-up for when you're firing black holes at a couple of ATVs on the south side. Fire with them, however, and you're a force to be reckoned with. Typically vital options like 'Tower Health' are turned off by default, but I felt as if it didn't really matter. The difficulty curve certainly does rapidly increase as the missions go on, but things often get so hectic that stopping to directly aid one tower rarely feels like the right choice. Position them well enough, and you may never have to worry about them from the start. Until the opposition decides to bring out the big guns. Then it's all on you.
Each map typically consists of multiple waves of enemies triggered by pressing the Spacebar to presumably alert the UN that we're ready for another round. Though it's somewhat explained early on that they've appointed a specific General to head the counter offensive across the whole world, it's disappointing that EXOR Studios decided to stick with a single voice actor rather than have each country fight back with a local accent. I'm not accusing 'whitewashing' or anything of the sort, but hearing the same guy talk about his 'see what sticks' strategy all over the globe does little to set the scene of worldwide destruction.
Perfectly suited for both keyboard/mouse and a controller play X-Morph: Defense has a lot going on at any one time. With more attack paths opening up as the waves get larger, you're constantly being introduced to increasingly more specific human weapons. Holding back faster vehicles might make sense in practice, keeping their rapid-fire weapons bunched up can likely kill off your ship more quickly than you can dodge. The alternate fire of your main weapon is able to turn most incoming fire into a powerful offensive blast, but if you're not quick to the trigger, you'll likely be caught off-guard. With weapon/tower upgrades available between skirmishes, there's plenty to mess around with here - but the game will typically advise you which tools are well suited to the job - from seeker anti-air missiles to a powerful bomb that's as useful for levelling a building for your tower to sit as it is destroying a group of tanks in a single blow. Your victory depends on foresight just as much as it does quick-thinking/execution.
Although the campaign may be short and sweet (and dangerously harsh), there's no reason to go it completely alone. If you manage to blast your way through to the end, grab a friend and do it again in local co-op! There's every chance its split-screen offering will extend to a fully-fledged online mode in the future, but EXOR have painted it as a 6-month project that's only worthwhile if the game proves popular. Other than that, it looks like you'll be banking on player-created content to keep scratching that twin-stick tower defense urge in the future. The tools are already in there, but it seems most are waiting on developer written tutorials before delving in. Map-making is hard!
X-Morph: Defense is a highly polished twin-stick/tower defense hybrid that does just enough to feel fresh again. Though it's lacking a deep plot like so many other alien-focused titles and seems to dodge its own attempt to feel large-scale, it's as gorgous in looks as it is execution. Pair up with a friend, and you've got yourself a fantastic co-op blast that's nothing but pure fun.