Tower defense games are tricky to make interesting, some are too boring, others are too complicated and a rare few find a good balance of strategy and overwhelming odds. Prime World: Defenders almost had that perfect mix, at least it did in the first few levels, but it all spirals out of control as the game goes on. Just barely making it out of a scenario victorious is exciting, completely annihilating your enemies without trying isn’t. I managed to have a few close calls with Prime World: Defenders but often times I felt as though I was grinding the easier stuff to buff up for the harder levels.
In Prime World: Defenders a war is raging between two sides, each wishing to use the element of “prime” for their own reasons. One side wants to use it for scientific weaponry while the other uses prime as a form of magic. You play a member of a group stuck right in the middle of the whole conflict. This group doesn’t pick sides and sees the whole war as trivial, they’re more interested in artifacts and big scores. Unfortunately, there are groups of mutant enemies that also want these valuable artifacts and treasures. By loading the levels with towers you take them down one by one until it’s all clear.
As with any tower defense game the key is to have interesting towers in a variety of flavors. Prime World: Defenders definitely delivers on this with a large amount of towers. Some towers shoot enemies, others slow them down and those that buff your more offensive towers. There’s a wide variety of towers to choose from and this can make replaying levels feel new and fresh, or at least it should. While a few towers are better for flying enemies and a handful of towers are strong against ground enemies, I never felt the need to really switch up my tower lineup. You can take four towers into any game, a number that increases over time, and my four towers seemed to get the job done more often than not. It’s a shame, because there were a lot of cool looking towers that I didn’t feel the need to learn as my towers were decimating everything that came in front of them.
The game plays out over a map that lays out each level. At first, levels are singular and move on one after the other. After about five levels you come across your first boss level, and this level also splits off into three smaller fights used for leveling up. The game basically tells you that you’re probably not strong enough for the boss, so you should play the other three levels over and over until you’re strong enough. After playing six games of the medium level, the three levels are split into “easy”, “medium” and “hard”, I thought I was strong enough for the boss…boy was I wrong. The boss continued to tromp me until I played another handful of levels.
By replaying these levels you gain talents, power ups, and extra cards. Each tower is represented as a card and your towers are all gathered in your collection. When you have two or more of the same card you can choose to evolve them by bringing them together, you can also fuse two different cards together for a more powerful outcome. This typically results in increased damage, fire range or firing speed. By leveling up your cards the once hard fights become surprisingly simple. In fact, with just the basic arrow firing tower at level 4 I was able to defeat the first boss before he made it to the halfway mark. This is the same boss that I could barely damage a little while ago. It’s this constant switch between extremely difficult and extremely easy that really turned me off.
After that first boss fight each following level was the same, if I didn’t grind a few levels first I would stand no chance. Every level would have three branching missions as if to say, “you can’t take this on yet, grind here first”. My powerful towers that could take down a massive giant could suddenly do no damage to the same creatures I had been one-shot killing a few levels ago. It’s a frustrating mechanic that makes for a boring grind rather than an exciting fight to the end.
Prime World: Defenders has a basic story that’s fairly forgettable and the single player, when you’re not grinding, moves along at a pretty fast pace. Once you get the hang of the towers and which ones are best to upgrade, the slowing tower and arrow tower for me, things begin to feel monotonous. New cards begin to not matter, and the talents you gain as you level up, such as more card slots or more XP, feel somewhat useless. The game has a nice art style to it, somewhat cartoon-like, and the towers animate in fun ways. My only issue concerning the art style is that the branching “grind-levels” typically use similar layouts so you’ll be seeing the same enemies, environments and towers again and again.
I wanted to like Prime World: Defenders as it really had me going for the first few levels. I had a couple of close calls where my HP almost went down but I managed to keep it perfect with well placed towers. This exciting back and forth between me and the enemies rarely showed its head again during the rest of my playthrough. I felt as though I was either being completely crushed by the enemies, as my towers could do no damage, or that I was so powerful that four towers was more than enough to win. The constant switching between those two extremes, and the grind that makes up the middle portion, made Prime World: Defenders a lackluster experience overall.