There is no way to beat around the bush, so let's just get this out of the way from the start: Com2uS trademarking "tower defense," for Tower Defense: Lost Earth [$2.99 / HD] is a little bonkers, like if Call of Duty was granted a trademark and changed its name to First Person Shooter. Not only does it peeve off a bunch of developers caught in the legal crossfire, it also gives players incredibly lofty expectations for the final product when it's branded as the "officially trademarked" game of tower defense.

Thankfully, it delivers, albeit through a kitchen sink approach more than an innovative one. This is in fact a tower defense game and you'll get every single tower defense trope you've ever run into. The core campaign takes the preset route approach, where you'll set up your units on a grid and the enemies will take a predestined path. There are, however, seven different challenge stages that offer more variety, including several that utilize freeform defense where you create the enemy paths by obstructing the enemy's movements, like in Fieldrunners [$2.99 / HD].

You'll have nine different units to choose from, each of which act as you'd expect in a tower defense game and counter the ten different enemy types in different ways. Enemy diversity is limited to slow, fast, and slow then exploding-into-fast-creatures. Killing enemies and shooting at certain environmental structures yield crystals that can be turned into more units. Some of the stages have actual resource-gathering units associated with them, but don't expect it to be a major part of the experience. The limited units and enemy types means each stage has a relatively restricted number of ways to complete it, which is altered slightly based on the difficulty setting you choose.

There are three difficulty settings, each changing the number of enemies, your starting resources or the score awarded. There are also four different game modes, the standard defense mode, a survival mode, a resource gathering mode and an attack mode. The first three are pretty self-explanatory, but the attack mode changes the dynamic of the game in an unusual way. You'll have to defend by setting up towers as you usually would, but you'll also have to expand through the level to get your units close enough to a boss to attack it. At times it's more annoying than it is innovative, as the core game doesn't change and it ends up just adding a layer of grinding.

But for the most part, the game is well balanced and well paced and you probably won't find yourself getting stuck too often. There were a few levels that stumped me where I was wishing there was a help or skip function, but for the most part, if you follow the "rock, paper, scissors" approach to defending against enemies, you'll get through the campaign on the easiest setting with little trouble. As far as strategy is concerned, there are two different ways you can approach a match, either by upgrading your units (you get two upgrades to each unit) or by scattering a ton of units across the map. Upgrading seems to work better in the long term, but your mileage may vary. If you find yourself in a pinch, each level offers you one additional attack with a one-time use. These include gas that slowly drains enemy life, a ship that drops bombs and others.

Perhaps because Com2uS is already in deep water with a lot of players because of the trademarking, it should come as no surprise the game is well executed. Visually, it has the same look as a lot their RPGs, with well-animated sprites, diversity in the environments and a reasonably long campaign. The menus and interface are well laid out and work well on both the iPhone and iPad. Although the game is refined, it's still generic sci-fi nonsense, clearly inspired by the menus of nearly every single PC science fiction game in existence. The sound doesn't live up to the visuals, with comparatively underwhelming enemy and weapon sound effects.

The campaign does feature a story mode, but it reads like pretty much every RTS storyline ever written. You need to expand to save the human race and to do so, you've decided to exploit the resources of an alien planet. The inhabitants aren't too keen on this idea and start attacking your settlements by running at your guns in waves. It's commendable Tower Defense: Lost Earth tries to add a narrative layer, but the fact you're the invading party, not the defending one makes the story come across as more ridiculous than it already is.

There is leaderboard integration with Game Center as well, but the options are relatively limited. With as much development effort that was clearly dumped into the game, you'd expect to see a bit more stat tracking, trophies or more complex leaderboards. That's only going to matter to some people, but for statistics nerds, the streamlined leaderboards might be a bit of a disappointment.

There is no way around the fact that naming your game after a genre is really not that wise of a decision, but Tower Defense: Lost Earth does a good job of providing exactly what you'd expect from it. Still, it's hard to shake the feeling the game is missing something -- it's a well-executed genre game, but it lacks character. It's not going to fundamentally change what we expect from the genre, it's not going to shift mountains or alter the collective consciousness, but it will give tower defense nuts a deep and nicely packaged experience-- And really, what more can you ask for?

Note: Tower Defense: Lost Earth is presently being advertised on this site, but it has no influence on our choice of coverage or the outcome of our reviews. See advertising and editorial policies for additional details.

TouchArcade Rating

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  • Anonymous

    This trademark fad is ridiculous. I can't even be bothered to read the rest of the article after that part. I think I can give this one game a miss considering how many great TOWER DEFENSE games already exist on the App Store.

    • DotComCTO

      Unless the issue affects you personally, I can't understand your position. To each his own, I suppose. That being said, it's a good TD game and I personally have been enjoying it (I was in on the beta as well).

      • Anonymous

        When developers are forced to waste time changing their game or spend money on legal fees, it affects all gamers. If you have no interest in what happens to create the games you enjoy then fine, go and live in blissful ignorance. I'm not going to support this feeble attempt at cash grabbing, it's a pathetic trend and worryingly, it seems to be on the increase.

    • Andylinkproductions

      that is completly true, its like Activision trademarks "FPS" or some comp trademarks"cell phone". its completely rediculous, i mean wtf? they are just a tiny iphone app maker, and they claim something that has been out for, a decade? WTF

  • M73

    So what does this mean exactly? Other devs can't use the words "tower defense" in the naming of the game or can't use "tower defense" in the description of it? Someone please explain why these morons would trademark a genre name for themselves..

  • Aer2

    looking forward to the eventual 0.99 sale for the ipad version.

    • Mrsmartiepants

      This happens with universal apps, but is far, far more rare for HD editions. I'm waiting for now too, but I wanted to be clear I expect it in a long long time, if never.

  • http://twitter.com/AhiruDuck Ahiru Nakamura

    the best two things about this game are the fact the HD version is universal (not iPad only) and that it has the Tower Defense trademark... oh yeah, and the fact it's a great TD game nonetheless!!

  • Geoff

    Not buying this out of sheer principle.  Not allowing any other game devs to use the words Tower Defence in their description is disgusting.

    • Anonymous

      Um, do a search on your favorite TD games, if you will, and you'll probably find "tower defense" in their descriptions clear as day. The trademark probably only means you can't name your app as "Tower Defense" but it's not like it's a big deal. Besides the naming conventions, if you search for "tower defense" in the app store you'll still come up with other games like Sentinel and Star Defense etc.

      Whatever it is, TD: LE is definitely a great TD game. Love its presentation and level of polish; definitely not something you find in every game.

      • Squeaker

        It is a big deal, imo, since what they did forced tower defense games like Bloons Tower Defense that have a long history in them to change their official iOS names to 'TD', same goes to Desktop Tower Defense if it ever wishes to get ported to us. Trademarking a genre is as nonsensical as trademarking a common word (think 'Edge').

        And since they've gone through so much trouble to trademark a genre, you shall always refer to the game as a Tower Defense game, never shortcut it into TD, after all that's what the other TD games were reduced to. :/

      • Anonymous

        To be fair, the Edge issue was on a much bigger scale then this. Unfair as it may be, at least Com2uS didn't threaten to press charges and what not. And as of now developers can still use "tower defense" in their description and keyword searches so the situation isn't as bad as what it could be. Personally I always preferred using TD, but oh well.

      • Anonymous

        it is a big deal because it's against apples policy to use other product names in your keywords and descriptions. 

      • Anonymous

        Well, it's still being done, so unless Com2uS decides to ban its use from descriptions completely, it's not as big of a deal.

  • M73

    Phazer, that's not to say the trademark will be retroactive for other games. What about future TD products that will want to be known as tower defense games in their descriptions? Will they be knocked back unless it's called TD ? Does the trademark include the initials TD, in that TD is well known as being "tower defense" - If a game comes out called Epic War 2 TD, will that infringe? Trademarking a genre is patently ridiculous and i can't believe it's been approved.

    • Anonymous

      Well, I'll just use Sentinel 3 as an example since it has "tower defense" in their description (hope this doesn't bring the banhammer down on them, lol). It was released in November 2010, which was after the whole issue started (January 2010) so I would say future titles would still be safe. Whether Com2uS does anything else after the release of Lost Earth, that remains to be seen. As far as I know, "TD" doesn't infringe on the trademark so XYZ TDs would be safe. Although yes, trademarking a genre name is still ridiculous, but at least they aren't suing people left and right.

  • 2massive

    The idiots at com2us don't seem to understand that you have to police your trademark or risk losing it. That means in theory they should go after everybody who uses "tower defense" to mean the descriptive term instead of their mark. Which is ludicrous if you think about it. They shouldn't have trademarked it in the first place, and because it is used so generically and descriptively, they deserve to lose it, especially since they aren't protecting it. To do so would earn the ire of everybody not just developers, so they just pick on the little developers for now.

  • Mohammad haroon
  • shamu

    looks like a generic tower defence game anyway. nice graphics but nothing new or innovative at all...how boring. dont like the smell copyrighting a genre of games also. wont buy for that reason, we have seen enough dumb trademark disputes why create more... oh yea money! well fack orf  Com2uS you wont get mine.

  • Clyndon

    It's a little off toppic but after reading toucharcades advertising policies I'm once more unhappy with it's claim. I think something like "iOS Game Reviews and News" whould suite it better. And for the policies the lack of any word about iPad (only talking there about iPhone and iPod) opens space for unawnsered questions. At least add the iPad in the policies.

  • Bob Dobolina

    While they might be able to scam a trademark out of the USPTO, they won't be getting any Money® from me.

    • shamu

      mr dobalina mr bob dobalina..

  • Rwsimmo

    Folks, don't blame Com2uS for being the first company to trademark "tower defense".  Blame the government dorks who gave it to them.

  • Decoy Octopus

    This game is ok, but honestly; Star Defense is the best tower defense game in the appstore. Impressive trailer though.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Cristiano-Fernandez/100001794208078 Cristiano Fernandez

    Tower defense games seem interesting for a minute or two, they they grow old and boring.  I have to recommend a new game, CHUPACABRA from venemobile grab one its free!

  • http://blog.lwry.me/ Matthew L.

    I refuse to buy it on the simple basis of the trademark.

  • Chris Gamer

    doesn't matter whether a term is trademarked or not. What matters is the gameplay. Just played Battleground defense  in iPad. The tower defense game play was worth the money.

Tower Defense® Reviewed by Thorin Klosowski on . Rating: 4