I got a surprise yesterday in my email from Critical Thought Games, makers of geoDefense [App Store] (geoDefense Lite also available), a release candidate of their latest tower defense game, geoDefense Swarm. Taking everything that was great about the original and providing open-field gameplay, Swarm is an excellent evolution of the geoDefense formula.
If you've never played the original geoDefense before, it's really a 'must buy' if you like tower defense games. It takes an interesting design approach where there never really is a tipping point where you have more money than you need and are just sitting back and waiting for the next waves to simply get slaughted. Even with intensive resource management between intelligent tower purchasing, upgrading, and positioning, you may just barely make it through many of the levels.
This game design decision really adds to the challenge and intensity of the game, especially at higher difficulty levels. Hard mode makes every other tower defense game I've played seem like a complete cake walk in comparison. Fans of the original will be happy to know this challenging play seems to have remained intact in geoDefense Swarm. I would almost argue that Swarm can be even more difficult because of the open field aspect of the game. While some of the tower placements were obvious in the original, the sequel leaves you with wide open maps and many decisions to be made.
Towers can be built on a hex grid which is constructed of several types of terrain. For instance, some hex tiles you can't build on but creeps can move through, and some tiles speed creeps or even heal them. The amount of variety in each level really tests your tower defending skill and how well you can utilize the included towers to survive. A strategy you discovered in a previous level can be rendered completely ineffective thanks to the next level's hex grid layout.
Tower placement controls are as intuitive as you would expect, dragging a tower from the bottom brings up a circular crosshair indicating that tower's range and highlighting the hex it will be placed in. Naturally, towers can be upgraded many times, and the real king of the tower defense town this time around seems to be the laser tower. Previously you needed to just set them up on a long straight path in geoDefense to get the most out of them, but in Swarm, you must build your own straight paths for the creeps to follow.
Here are two videos of the game, the left is me playing the second easy level of the game, and the right is the game's trailer, and a more accurate representation of what you will be facing once you make it through the easy levels:
Fans of the original will no doubt love geoDefense Swarm. It has the same excellent Geometry Wars-inspired graphics, massive particle effect explosions, and (at higher difficulty levels) will test the skill of even veterans of the tower defense genre. In my time with the game there has been many times where I've lost levels (or been close to losing) and just turned my phone off, decided I was finished with the game... and then five minutes later would be playing again. How much geoDefense Swarm has me coming back to it, even after punching me in the face with creeps, really is an excellent benchmark for how good the game is.
geoDefense Swarm should be arriving in the App Store soon.