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The tower defense genre has enjoyed a bit of a resurgence as of late. Exciting gamers with its blend of strategy and tactics, TD games also allow players quick pick up and play sessions that don’t require huge time commitments in order to satisfy your gaming urges. With that influx of content, games must strive to set themselves apart in order to stand out in an increasingly cluttered market. Evil Defenders enters the fray by taking the normal conventions of good versus evil and flipping it on its head as it tries to make its mark now on the Nintendo Switch.
Evil Defenders, from Developer/Publisher Crazy Panda, takes the traditional aspects associated with tower defense games but flips it this time empowering the player to play as the side of darkness fighting off the onslaught of humans bent on your banishment from existence. Being a TD based game you are initially limited in your defensive capabilities only to see your arsenal expand as you progress over throughout the more than ten stages. This is introduced through quick pre-battle text boxes explaining the new defensive mechanic. Additionally, through the course of a battle, you earn coins spent to use your towers and souls, taken from the fallen attackers. These can be used at any time, including battle, to enter an upgrade tree for each of your unlockable buildings to increase things like overall health, damage output and even decrease respawn time. On top of the different buildings you unlock, there are 3 base abilities that can also be upgraded in the same manner. Daunting at first glance the upgrade system is a vital component to defeating later stages as the hordes difficulty skyrockets after being less of a threat from the onset. Thankfully once a stage is completed it unlocks a more difficult setting granting bonus souls to use with your progression allowing for many replays of the same stage with increasing difficulty and equally scaling rewards.
Gameplay wise Defenders is your standard click and select menu driven TD game. Added touch screen functionality is a massive win for the game. Unfortunately, there are some moments that were encountered where the touch input for the lightning ability never registered. This happened on several occasions. Pro controller/Joy-con input was responsive, if a little too much. The slightest touch of the analogue stick would at times have the cursor move past its intended area resulting in the miss of a lightning attack or selecting the wrong tower. While playing for review, a pro controller and two sets of joy cons were used to rule out the possibility of drift. A nice added feature was the inclusion of level based hazards. These were environmental hazards you could use on a cooldown meter by spending in-game souls to unleash on the incoming armies including things like fire pits, wind storms, and catapults. Conversely, later levels have weather altering your play. Snowstorms bury build points forcing you to spend coins to clear them in order to spend more to build. The balance here was off as the number of enemies needed to kill would grant you enough to clear the snow but not enough to build for a few more waves. This adds to the strategy but ultimately has you playing a more trial and error style seeing what will slow the enemies enough so as to not get past your defenses but still collect coins.
Visually Evil Defenders is a mixed bag. The environments are beautifully designed world within themselves. Each feels like its own unique piece while simultaneously fitting together like one cohesive puzzle. From the picturesque hills with shimmering rivers to the fire pits deep in the hellish volcanos Evil Defenders does a good job of capturing the spirit of a troubled world in conflict. The cartoon style character models while designed well are limited in scope. A major bug reared its ugly head where on multiple play sessions and on multiple levels the animations, which are minimal already, completely stopped. When this happened enemies either glided on their preset path or froze in a place completely forcing a hard reset of the game. This was not limited to just the visuals as the sound effects also become stuck in a loop of constant clanging.
Audio-wise Evil Defenders opens with whimsical almost Gaelic sounding song that lifts your spirits before ultimately letting them fall. The player is treated to a musical soundtrack that feels a bit out of place. If not for the fantasy aesthetic of the world you inhabit, you would be remiss to not feel you were playing a stylish spy game. SFX do their job but can’t be asked to do much more. The generic clanging of the swords and whizzing of the arrows do little to add any depth or pull the player in. Random enemy groans of agony break up what is otherwise a monotonous soundscape which is surprising as the previously stated opening set expectations much higher.
On the surface, Evil Defenders is a competent tower defense game. Switching the players perspective to that of the evil side while unique is not enough to set it apart from the pack of similar titles. Compound this with visual and audio glitches that can end play sessions and we are left with a slightly above average entry into the field. The odd sense of progression where a successful defense still has you falling back further while on paper sounds unique ultimately takes the wind out of the sails.