Tower Wars twists the tower defense genre by taking into the world of online competitive multiplayer gaming. Each player is tasked with using a variety of unique structures to force enemy units into mazes of death while at the same time creating their own army to assault the enemy’s home fortress. The game is a nice, fresh twist on an established formula but Tower Wars’ most glaring fault is the absence of a single player mode. Without it, new players are forced into a online matches against experienced players which is more than enough to discourage repeat play.
Tower Wars shares similarities with Desktop Tower Defense. The action takes place on a large battlefield made up of numerous routes that lead to either team’s base. As each side unleashes their armies, autonomous units will walk along a predetermined path on the field marked by dotted hashmarks. This path can be altered by placing turrets and defensive structures on and around the route to create convoluted mazes of death and destruction in order to ensure that enemy units don’t reach your castle. After you’ve established a proper maze, you’ll want to bolster your defenses by upgrading structures to increase their effectiveness and attack power. The type of structures at your disposal include cannons, shield disrupters, giant fans (to slow down enemy troop movement), catapults, giant hammers and ballistas.
While establishing a proper defense is incredibly important in the game, winning the match requires the destruction of the enemy’s castle. To do this, you’ll need to let loose a number of different units that have their own advantages and skills. At first, you’ll only have access to weak grunt forces but by the end of the game (assuming you’ve been properly investing in them), your army will include knights, colossi, speedy robots, personnel carriers and medics.
Creating units and structures are dictated by two economies: gold and battle points. In any given stage, each player has access to three mines that function as revenue streams. They can be upgraded to increase their yield by assigning additional miners and spending money to upgrade the mines (mercifully, they cannot be captured or destroyed so there is no fear of losing your financial lifelines). Battle points are earned by the presence of your units on the field and the longer they survive, the more points received so don’t be afraid to churn out as much cannon fodder as possible. Gold and battle points are used in tandem to unlock new units and implement various health, speed and armor buffs that are essential for victory.
The setting of Tower Wars is set within a faux medieval world and offers a visual look that resembles a Saturday morning cartoon. Units and structures are designed with a stylized flair, making some of the structures (like the giant hammer) endearingly comical. You can zoom in and out to view the detail and design of each unit, but given the laser-like level of focus required, there’s no time to to stop and take in the sights.
What ruins Tower Wars is the game’s unfair pairing of newbies against experienced players. This is where a single player campaign or a practice mode would be incredibly valuable. Instead, new players are thrust head first into the lion’s den and forced to fend for themselves. The tutorial level does outline base level strategies but glosses over advanced concepts such as upgrading units and beefing up your castle’s defenses. As a result, online matches quickly descend into chaos and more than once, I experienced feelings of panic and helplessness. There were times when I simply couldn’t make any progress, no matter how well I managed my troops, gold and battle points. Many of the conflicts became decidedly one sided after the first few moves and other games turned into tiring, World War I-style stalemates. During one battle no matter what units I produced, I simply couldn’t advance past my home base because the player had set up a mass of shield disrupters and turrets that decimated my forces in seconds. I was stuck on defense for the entire 20+ minute match. Situations like this are enough to make you say, “Why bother?” before shutting it off.
Outside of the multiplayer, there isn’t much else to do. There’s a survival mode that functions more like a traditional tower defense game, but because the structure is so wildly different from the main game you can’t use it to practice mode
Tower Wars feels as if it were designed specifically for hardcore strategists. With a tutorial that skips important concepts and the tendency for matches to become one sided, the result is an uncomfortable and frustrating experience for beginners. Stepping into the game’s multiplayer component is a lot like playing an online shooter for the first time. You’re going to lose constantly until you get better or you’re lucky enough to come across someone worse than you. Skillful players will find ways to learn from those defeats and apply different tactics and strategy. Others are likely to never play the game again.