Extraterrestrial life is a topic that I, like many others, love to see appear in my media forms. The inclusions of aliens in everything from films to books to video games becomes an instant hook for me without fail. The mystery surrounding what might be living beyond the stars has always allowed creators the freedom to interpret them in unique and fantastical ways, creating memorable lifeforms. While they can make for great good guys, we often see them take on a more sinister role in entertainment. Following suit, X Morph: Defense puts you in the shoes of the villainous invaders, instead of the conventional heroic humans.
X Morph: Defense stands out by what it does to shake up the common formula of its genre. A tower defense game, the specialty lies in your ability to join the battlefield. Piloting an alien ship, you roam the battlefield, able to both build up defenses as well as fire upon the waves of foes yourself. By putting you on the front lines, the game adds a personal touch and pride factor that is important to the successes of the game.
Your ship features two modes that are easy to switch between, and are necessary to survive. Ghost mode is what you’ll be in when altering towers, and while in it you’re invincible. Battle mode is what’s used when you want to be part of the action, as you can fire regular shots, as well as high powered mortars, air shredding missiles, and even a plasma laser. A brilliant fact to note is that while your ship can be destroyed, it re-spawns fairly quickly with little to no penalty, allowing for fun and function to combine.
The story is fairly straightforward — aliens are invading earth trying to syphon the planet’s energies. You play as the invading visitors, defending cores that are crashing down to Earth, with the purpose of infecting the planet. Taking on the role of the strategist of the battlefield, you use gathered resources to build up defense towers and destroy the human forces on route to destroy the core.
On each map you can see the paths of incoming units, and this is where strategy is key. With no time limit until the humans start their attack, you place your towers and defenses before accepting the incoming enemies. You can further shape the battlefield by using laser fences that connect between towers to block off and reroute the encroaching forces, prolonging their trip towards your core. Another great fact is that towers can be sold or moved without penalty, allowing for trial and error without fear of being completely screwed over.
Two central characters serve as the faces for each race as the story progresses. The aliens are represented by a raspy, metallic voice who provides information on the mission. Included during his speeches are thoughts on your progress, information on the incoming waves, as well as tips to destroying your foes. The humans are characterized by an older war general who oversees their offensive front. Most of his transitions are clearly being intercepted, as he talks more about what units to send it, referring to the aliens, code named X Morph, in the third person.
As you move through the campaign travelling across the globe, X More Defense really shifts upwards in terms of difficulty. Between each major mission, you are able to upgrade you ship’s output, as well as the towers available to build. To counter your growth, the incoming waves of human machinery gets more powerful, plentiful, and pesky. What starts off quite easy can, a few levels in, provide the kind of challenge that will kick your keister if you aren’t on the top of your game.
Some of the levels include boss battles, and these are what I consider highlights of the game. Large, city demolishing mechas of different shapes, sizes, and purposes will invade the battlefield and completely change up the game-play. Where the vast majority of time is spent handling waves of minion-like adversaries, these behemoths require on the fly thinking and lots of explosive projectiles. They do a great job at breaking up the action and keeping it from coming off as monotonous.
X Morph: Defense also includes a survival mode, basically a condensed version of the main campaign. Rather than upgrade your weapons and towers in between maps, each consecutive wave grants you a choice of three random powers. The difficulty jumps each round as well, meaning your defensive strategy will be tested while you’re forced to adapt on the fly to survive late into the game.
One key feature that the game doesn’t give the proper focus on is debris collecting. An upgrade you can acquire, it allows you to collect parts from destroyed human vehicles and gain more building points. While it seems inconsequential, the extra firepower is very helpful on later waves of the campaign, while in survival it is key to longevity of your run. Between waves you’re granted varying amounts of building points, but you’ll find that they’re not enough as the difficulty increases.
One thing that really came across from my time with X Morph Defense is that it was designed to be fun. The challenge comes from the growing enemy waves, but they never feel unfair. While some maps don’t allow for as much field manipulation, it’s more than made up for in other areas. The freedom to change your defenses on the fly, the time between waves, your inclusion to the defenses, and other choices all end up providing you with a good time.
That being said, X Morph: Defense is a solid, fun title that is more akin to a time sink than a classic/must play title. It doesn’t do anything inherently bad, and provides a large amount of content even before you realize there is DLC available. Yet even with few major faults, it doesn’t do enough to elevate it into the next stratosphere of gaming. If you’re in the market for a fun game just to pass the time, X Morph Defense is definitely a title that I would recommend.