Like most things over time, game genres evolve. The tower defense genre of gaming, which has exploded in popularity over the past half-decade or so, is no exception. Developer Most Wanted Entertainment took the tried-and-true model of building towers to defend one's base against wave after wave of enemies and tried to turn things up a notch with Defenders of Ardania by allowing the player to send waves right back at his opponent. Unfortunately for this Paradox Interactive published title, those waves easily break against jetties of staleness and boredom.
Those who decide to play the campaign mode of this game will find it hard to complete, though not because it gets to difficult. Rather, it's because each stage seems more and more like the last. Sure, there may be ornamental changes and new units, towers, and abilities at the player's disposal, but the overall flow of the game never changes.
The main problem here, whether it's in the campaign or in online multiplayer, is that there is no clear path towards victory. In a standard tower defense model, the goal is to simply outlast the coming waves of enemies. In Defenders of Ardania, simply allowing the player to send likewise waves at a tower-building opponent destroys this simple concept. The game then becomes nothing more than a feeble game of tug-of-war until one side finally outlasts the other.
Most units, whether they be the player's or the opponent's, do not attack eachother and simply walk right past as they make their slow collective journey to the opposing base. Most towers are rather straightforward and are quickly built within the first few minutes of a match, leaving the player little else to do save for sending the waves and watching as things unfold with seemingly minimal input or interference by the person who is actually playing. The player does get some magic at his disposal once far enough into the game, but the only one that ever seems to get used is the ability to repair one's castle. In fact, this spell gets used to much by players that PvP matches are less about the game and more about who will get bored of playing first.
For those who want to return to a standard tower defense play model, Defenders of Ardania's "survivor mode" allows for this by taking away the offensive elements and leaving the simple gameplay concepts the genre is known for. Unfortunately, the total number of towers a player can place is limited by what can best be called an arbitrary number the developers thought would be a good cap. It isn't. In fact, this limit takes away from what could have been an okay standard tower defense game to begin with.
This game's one saving grace is in its visual presentation. Most Wanted did a good job to make sure the game at least looked good -- even on a system using a mid-grade NVidia 220 GT video card. It's too bad, though, that the camera only zooms out so far. A full-map active zoom out would've been quite nice to have.
While their heart was in the right place, Most Wanted Entertainment doesn't do the PC gaming community any favors with Defenders of Ardania. While there's something to be said with trying something new, sometimes it's best not to fix what isn't broken.
Final Game Guys grade: D
(Paradox Interactive supplied a copy of this game for review.)