Taur Review12 Mar 2020 0
Released 20 Feb 2020
The drones of Taurea are peaceful and easy-going. Existing in a world full of natural beauty, they've calmly mastered highly advanced technology while the Imperial drones across the galaxy went around getting themselves into wars. Now that most planets belong to them, the Imperial drones turn their eyes (sensors?) to Taurea and its highly advanced guns built as a deterrent and start raining from the sky in mass in a bid to overrun its defenses.
Since the Taurea-drones aren't that experienced in warfare, they call a less advanced specimen to handle their defense -- enter you, the new defender of Taurea and commander of the Taur defense system (pronounced "tower) -- a big weaponised obelisk that can change firing modes and powers surrounding structures to aid in its defense.
Taur (the game, not the tower) is an interesting little beast. The first title of indie developer Echo Entertainment, this tower-defense game eschews the classic hands-off approach in favour of the evermore common frenetic hands-on gameplay popularised by X-Morph, Orcs Must Die, and Sanctum. Throughout multiple procedural levels, you will fight against hordes of robotic combatants using your highly adaptable Prime Canon while building defense emplacements, units, and defensive structures.
Unlike most tower-defense games, these structures are a support vector at best -- the onus of the defense tends to rely often on you and your Prime Cannon. The weapon starts with a pinpoint laser blast, but it can be upgraded to change modes on the fly between a machine gun, sustained energy beam, and shotgun, all the way to missile launchers, mortars, and more. The cannon is never super powerful and has a painfully slow recharge time in every mode, meaning defensive structures are essential to thin down the herd before they overrun your obelisk.
Unfortunately, Taur is rather stingy with Taur (the tower, not the game) upgrades -- a steep requirement of energy credits paired with six different resources for upgrades and deployment of structures means you will slowly build a force that will never make you fully comfortable with its composition. Fortunately, Taur (the game, not the tower) features several upgrade options in a massive research tree, allowing you to field robotic soldiers, gunships, interceptors, and more alongside turrets and artillery of every shape and form.
And you will need every single one of them. Each 'day' in the campaign involves a choice of three battlefields where you can deploy the Taur -- but the moment you choose one, you automatically abandon the others. This dilemma is both logistic and strategic; each battlefield awards different amounts of resources and control points -- a 0 to 100 representation of your overall control of Taurea -- and can therefore determine how hard/easy things will be.
Luckily, all your upgrades and structures are redeployed alongside the big cannon when you drop in on any mission, making Taur (the game, not the tower) more of a consistent upgradeable experience than a series of “start from scratch” scenarios. Your resources are all refunded if the structures get destroyed, too, which allows a lot of freedom to experiment if you have just a modicum of foresight.
Technically, Taur is rather accomplished. The low-poly graphics are rather charming, making all the units and the (often repeated) levels look remarkably good. The planet menu is one of my favourite views of the game, and makes me wish there was a more strategic geoscape to make use of all that prettyness.
The one serious problem I had with Taur was the actual gun control. The Prime Cannon is weak and can never fire more than a handful of shots, which makes for a very lack-lustre experience that leaves you feeling rather powerless. To make matters worse, the game is extremely picky with hit detection, not actually putting shots where you aim them but guiding them via a delayed laser projected by the Taur. It’s bad enough that you constantly miss 90% of your shots and have to wait powerless as the weapon reloads, but for reasons I cannot fully identify, the game behaves as if mouse acceleration is always on -- a puzzling concept, given there is no such option in the Settings. This makes aiming the weapon a surprisingly difficult affair, thanks to the constant aim drift.
Aside from the bad gun aim mechanics sapping most of the moment-to-moment enjoyment, Taur is actually a very competent game. Its long list of research options and gun upgrades are enough to keep you interested, while the visuals make every second rather visually pleasing. If you’re on the lookout for a fun, casual tower defense game, definitely give Taur (the game, not the tower) a shot.