Tower defense as a genre has been done to death by many developers and casual mod teams. A very simple concept: Build towers to protect an item of interest from swarming enemies. What it gains from that simplicity is an ease of use that allows anyone who’s ever touched a tower defense game to play it competently. Simplicity is a double edged sword however, because tower defense has been done by so many different developers the overarching concepts have become monotonous over time. Tedium slowly sinks in as the gameplay drags onward. In the end you’re placing the same towers to defend against the same enemies ad nauseum. To give 3 Sprockets credit they make a few unique twists to the genre which spices up the core gameplay mechanics.
Cubemen 2 includes a hefty amount of customization for an Indie game, including plenty of different character skins and tilesets to change the theme of a level. A variety of different skins are available to choose, from the standard flat blue to a soldier skin, and even some microtransaction is sprinkled in for good measure. The models are very much akin to a clean Minecraft, while the art style is very familiar it is by no means original. The custom skins, as fun as can be, does not detract from the fact that the characters look like you’re playing a 4-like, and the derivative feel to the art direction sucks a great deal of charm out of the experience. The mission content itself is sparse, the campaign nothing more than botmatches with one game mode involved: Defense. Defense involves the player guarding a friendly tower, which acts to spawn units, against enemy towers. The enemy towers spawn units of their own which then march for your defensive target. The first thing that stands out about this brand of Tower Defense is the lack of any period in which you have the comfort of setting strategic choke points without any resistance. While there is a function which slows gametime you are very much, aside from the opening period of a match, spawning units and hurrying them into a position of your liking while enemies charge past. The units in question are Tower Defense staples and should be very familiar to anyone who has set foot into the genre before. You have your snare unit, your damage over time unit, and a quick fire unit just to name a few. The campaign in question can be finished in under two hours, which is separate from the 20 officially designed levels from 3 Sprockets themselves, totaling in at 35 default levels from the developer.
It’s safe to say the bread and butter of this game is the user created content. There are a modest amount of levels to explore as well as the ability to create your own levels. While there is no tutorial for the in-game map creation tool there is hardly a need for one. The UI is well thought out and allows for anyone to create an arena for themselves, or others to download and play in. A user created map that stood out in particular was the recreation of Blood Gulch from the Halo series, complete with working teleporters which was certainly a nice touch and acts as a testament to what is possible with this simple yet effective tool. Cube Gulch was also a great arena to test out the various game modes contained within Cubemen 2, which includes Skirmish (Attack the enemy tower while defending yours), Capture the Flag (Attack the enemy flag while defending yours), Rescue (Ferry friendly NPCs while defending them from attackers), and the most interesting game mode by far, Territory. Territory is very much like a simplified Graffiti mode from the Tony Hawk series, control a unit to walk over a certain piece of land to color it with your team’s colors, kill enemies, one with the most of their own color covering the level wins.
While recreations of levels from other games are common with built in level creation tools, seeing this iteration of Blood Gulch in action was an unexpectedly cute experience.
There are a great deal of issues with Cubemen 2, however. While having the ability to spawn support like a snare unit and damage over time unit was a nice gesture to those familiar with the genre of tower defense, it seemed as if the units themselves were ineffective when it came to dealing with enemies in their own niche. One thing to keep in mind is that your units can move around just as much as the enemies can. It is possible to move your damage over time unit in position to block oncoming threats, but given how weak the unit itself is, coupled with how slow the attack and movement is, defeats the purpose of having it in the first place. In fact, blasting through the botmatch campaign was a simple feat. The last waves of a match can be trivialized due to the effectiveness of the long range unit. An upgraded long range unit can lock down a very large portion of the playing field with relative ease, and there was very little need for the other specialty and support units, of which included homing rockets, automatic fire , and long range mortar fire. The cost of a particular unit raises a small amount for every time you buy said unit, but the amount it raises hardly encourages a varied approach. While you can upgrade every unit to do more damage and have longer range, it still pales in comparison to the sniper for the defense maps. There is an online multiplayer, unfortunately there are a miniscule amount of active players on at any time which is disappointing, playing with others undoubtedly being the preferred way to enjoy the game.
As waves progress, the difficulty can take a nosedive due to the efficiency of the Sniper unit, grinding the frantic gameplay to a halt and dissipating any semblance of momentum from the enemies faced.
While there are a few gameplay issues with Cubemen 2, the different types of games you can play aren’t entirely different, units being rendered almost completely irrelevant, it is still a competent Tower Defense game. The problems listed above are all inherent to Tower Defense games as a whole, and the ability to move units wherever one may please is a nice touch and adds to the sometimes frantic gameplay. The biggest issue with this game is how it is a user creation-centric experience, and nearly two weeks after release the online playerbase is almost entirely nonexistent The user maps are fun to play around in but there is only so much enjoyment that can be squeezed out of playing against bots. For those of you not interested in Tower Defense, this game isn’t going to change your mind. If you happen to be a fan of the genre it can amount to a fun afternoon or two, and at $7.99 it’s hard to say no to a game like that. The future for Cubemen 2 past a lazy afternoon Tower Defense session is grim to say the least, as the most promising feature has been handicapped due to a nearly depleted multiplayer scene.