Defenders of Ardania Review

Pay a moment’s consideration to your foe. Have you ever imagined what it’s like to be on the other side of a tower defence game? What about the desperate general on the other side of the conflict, sending swathes of his troops to their inevitable death, knowing he can only win through slow, agonizing attrition? Defenders of Ardania gives you the chance to experience the kind of tower war where you’re simultaneously aggressor and defender. Styling itself as a next generation tower defense game, Defenders of Ardania integrates real-time strategy with tower defense in an attempt to take the genre to the next level.

Attackers march toward my castle in single file, tumbling down tight paths with a horrible certainty. Quickly I spy out the chokepoints and place towers where they’ll do the most damage. A minute later I’ve completed my tactical appraisal of the map and my defense is solidified. The enemy sends different combinations of troops, but it’s simply a matter of changing up a tower or two to ensure no enemy reaches my gates.  Hordes of enemy troops fall as they march through my defense network, and for a while I feel the familiar satisfaction that comes from a plan well executed. This is a short-lived feeling, however.

Hordes march and fall along the fortified route and my front doors remain untouched, yet the battle isn’t over. Defenders of Ardania demands that I launch my own attack, so I queue a number of units and send my own men to crawl past enemy towers. Quickly the map becomes choked with bodies from both sides and the battlefield becomes an intelligible mess of tower animations. Defenders of Ardania colors itself with whimsical fantasy vibrancy, but there’s usually too much going on to appreciate the pretty visuals.

My warriors take the shortest route to the enemy keep by default, and I do have the option to change their route, however the maps seldom offer any room for maneuvering. As my resources pile up I can occasionally afford to launch a large offensive, maxing out my population limit with a long string of attackers. I know most won’t survive the journey, but the precious few that do are the only hope I have of winning the battle. Quickly it becomes clear that long, painful attrition is the only way to win at Defenders of Ardania.

Resources trickle in automatically and I have the choice to buy certain economic upgrades, or drop some cash on a magic spell to bolster my army for a time. These are auxiliary functions, however, and their impact is negligible.  Matches are simply won by overwhelming my enemy with a tide of units and there is little tactical consideration beyond which kind of unit I’ll abuse this time around. Incessant use of a particular class of unit awards me upgraded hero units; merely another impetus for mindless spam.

Progress in Defenders of Ardania is slow and ponderous, and beyond exercising the game’s menus and map grid (itself surprisingly natural and easy for a controller) there’s little in the way of interactivity. I’m a reluctant general; simply sending troops on a predetermined path to their graves in hopes that enough of them will make it through to end the siege.

In addition to the game’s campaign – a typical fantasy romp through three similar factions – there’s the token online mode to take the war of attrition against some more cunning, human competition. Online is Defenders of Ardania’s strength. While the game’s core mechanics never become more satisfying, the added challenge of a thinking opponent gives matches a much needed dose of variety. Online, Defenders of Ardania might find a niche among competitive tower defense players.

Defenders of Ardania’s fusing of genres is well-intentioned but mishandled. There’s unfortunately not enough from either side of the fray to illicit the kind of enjoyment that either tower defense or real-time strategy manage at their best. The tower defense elements are simplistic and there’s not enough tactical variance within the systems to feel that players are exercising any skill in ordering their forces.

Defenders of Ardania may represent a point a curiosity for die-hard fans of its parent genres, yet ultimately fails to capitalize on the successes of either. It’s simply frustrating to know that there’s very little that can be done to win these wars. There’s so little scope within the mechanics for inspired tactics or original thought. Victory seems less like a matter of skill or tactical acumen and more a test of patience.


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Author: Aled Morgan View all posts by
Aled has served with distinction as a UNSC Spartan, become a Pokemon master, and saved the kingdom/world/galaxy more times than he can remember. Mixing a passion for gaming with a passion for writing since he was a child, Aled will play anything and everything he can get his hands on. When he isn’t trawling through virtual worlds or pawing at a keyboard to make words happen, he plays Ultimate Frisbee.

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