Thursday, 24 May 2012

Radiant Defense [ANDROID REVIEW]

COLOURFUL SCI-FI STRATEGY GAME IS COMPLEX ENOUGH FOR A FEW PLAYTRHOUGHS - BUT EXPECT A HARD RIDE IF YOU'RE PLAYING THE FREE VERSION.


So What's It All About Then?
Free-to-play sci-fi tower defence (TD) game that has you defending humanity from waves of increasingly tough alien jelly thingies. The Radiant name has been used for a colourful side-scrolling shooter in the past and the developers, Hexage, have now made the action a bit more strategic but still  just as visually-awesome.


The story goes that a series of "vortexes" have opened up in space. Through these vortexes lurks an alien warlord - the Supercreep - who has his evil eyes set on Earth! You play each level by placing walls to guide the alien hordes through the level - keeping them away from your base for as long as possible. You can then place and upgrade a whole bunch of offensive towers (gun, laser, rocket, missile, flamer), a number of support towers (damage-boosting spotlights, cash-boosting tower) and other defences (such as mines and "power blades" to place in the baddies' path).


A limited version of the game can be play for free - this allows you to play through all levels using a very small selection of the available weapons. I have played this version for a while before upgrading to premium weapons - the four weapon packs cost 69p each - so £2.76 for a fully-unlocked version. I will outline how I found each version below.


+++ Colourful Fun +++
The game is full of bright colours and charming humour - each enemy, weapon and environment has a distinctive colour and visual effects to clearly distinguish what exactly is going on during big battles. I really love it when developers take advantage of the range of colours available to them - too often do games only use a flushed-out pallete of different shades of brown. Not here - Radiant Defense makes good use of the entire rainbow - meaning that your phone's screen will light up with face-melting prettiness. 


The game is also filled with moments of brilliant humour - most of the conversations between the alien boss and the human defenders genuinely funny - breaking up the waves of action to reduce the likelihood of the game becoming stale. Take a look at the conversation snapshots below for a little example of this - mild but still worth a giggle.






+++ Strategic Variety +++
Plenty of ways to wear down tough enemies - and plenty of different enemies to test out your strategies. The enemy offensives include huge armoured beasts that take major damage before dying, mass cannon fodder bombardment, shielded enemies that need energy weapons to expose and speedy buggers that have regenerative health.


This means that you need a good arrangement of towers to beat all of these types of enemies - and it takes a bit of practice to know where to place your towers and walls. Knowing when to save your cash, when to buy brand new towers and when to upgrade existing ones all have to be factored in - perhaps try each level a couple of times to see what works best for each situation.


The walls add another dimension too - you set these up at the start of each wave to guide the enemies along and can be used to form very long paths for those tough enemies or to make shorter routes of concentrated fire if facing enemies with regenerative health. This is one of my favourite types of TD game - I find having the power to sculpt the route that the enemies take much more enjoyable.


When combined with the VAST number of towers and tools at your disposal in the premium version - over 15 towers to tinker with and upgrade to your heart's content - there should be many hours of play available here. 


Along with the weapons already mentioned, there are also "superweapons", which cost a great deal but can mean the difference between an overpowering alien invasion and large piles of dead space jelly. These are an extra little thrill to play with - finally getting the Omega Cannon after saving up for ten waves led to several cries of "Oh yes, Supercreep! Time to die!".




--- Unbalanced Difficulty ---
O.K. - let's make this clear - the free-to-play version is hard. Really bloody hard. The number of towers available is very small (only the gun, rocket and laser towers plus some support units), so only a near-perfect array of towers will stop the hordes from getting through. 


If you make a mistake in your set-up in earlier waves, it is near impossible to rectify it later, meaning that you have to restart the mission entirely. The developers were good enough to let you retry a wave if you fail it - but realising that your strategy just isn't going to work on wave 37 out of 40 is still horrendously infuriating. The screenshot below shows the level that I gave up on (mission 3 out of 9), as I could not save up the resources to kill the final boss when the time came.




The harsh difficulty level isn't much of a problem in itself - many TD games make it their business to be as challenging as possible. The real issue is that when I finally caved in and paid for the upgraded weapon packs, the whole game became much too easy! There are even cash boosters - so you can earn extra cash along with having vastly more useful weaponry!


Using the mines and power blades to take down the harder enemies - plus the sheer range of offensive tools - meant that no enemy posed much of a challenge from that point onwards! In fact, I haven't lost a single life on almost all of the later missions thanks to the premium weaponry. 


Perhaps if the mines and power blades could only be placed prior to battle - so once a power blade wears out, it cannot be replaced and so that you can't use mines as ad-hoc explosives placed in the middle of huge groups of baddies - then maybe there would be more of a challenge.


So, in summary:

  • if you like a really difficult TD game - get the free version.
  • if you like an easier TD game - fork out for the upgrades - it's still great fun but won't cause hair loss.



Oh, and if you were able to beat the game on the free version - I would love to know how. Seriously, just "how"?


Conclusions
IN MANY WAYS, RADIANT DEFENSE IS A MASTERCLASS IN "FREEMIUM" ANDROID GAMING - PLAYABLE FOR NOWT BUT WITH CLEAR BENEFITS IN UPGRADING.

IT'S WELL WORTH A PLAYTHROUGH TOO - IF YOU LIKE FUNNY, COLOURFUL STRATEGY THEN THIS SHOULD BE RIGHT UP YOUR STREET.

HOWEVER TO GET THE MOST OUT OF IT, YOU WILL HAVE TO CONSIDER PAYING A FEW QUID AND ACCEPT THAT IT MAY OFFER LESS OF A CHALLENGE.


Feel free to post comments or contributions to improve the experience!
Any stock images in this review are subject to relevant copyrights and are kindly provided by: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=net.hexage.defense&hl=en
All in-game screenshots were taken by Brighton Games Trader.

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