War Grimoire [$1.99 / HD] is a tower defense title with the trappings of a great genre-based game, but its execution of fundamental elements and basic design are holding it back.

Instead of lingering on the bad, I’ll note what drew our all-seeing eye to the project in the first place: its visual flair.

War Grimoire's world is a vibrant one, enriched by traditional fantasy and Japanese comics and cartoon tropes. In this genre in particular, it’s unusual to see a well-budgeted game shoot for something outside of space marines, bugs, and ravaged worlds.

Character has a place, too. Instead of traditional towers, soldiers of all builds -- including archers, mages, and dragons -- are the pillars of defense. While it does default to dull monsters, there are some creative enemies that end up attacking your armies in ways I’ve never seen in a tower defense title before.

One of the more remarkable aspects is tower placement. Most levels allow you free reign with placement. It’s like the wild west of tower defense titles in this regard. Enemies pile in from all over the place, and you’ve got to be wise with your limited resources, but near infinite placement of long-distance soldiers and close-up fighters.

I also want to make note of the RPG tie-in. As in most tower defense games, you can upgrade your ‘towers’ while a level progresses. In this, however, you can take it a step further by upgrading individual class weapons and skill trees with points earned from the battles you’ve won, or hey, even lost.

In the pre-release images for War Grimoire, we saw massive battles: huge numbers of enemies and soldiers smacking each other in a centralized area. It looked chaotic, but in the fun, manageable sort of way. There was reason to the placement, at least.

In execution, battles fall apart. They’re in fact, too chaotic. Enemy pathways are clearly enough defined from the get-go, but then they take odd turns that you can’t anticipate if you haven’t played a level before. Worst case, they take odd turns that you flat-out can’t defend because it’s impossible to earn enough in-level currency to defend these points.

Disorganized chaos is the tip of the iceberg in a title otherwise riddled with much smaller design issues. The UI is needlessly heavy, games don’t always save properly, the English translation is terrible, and in general, success is measured by trial-and-error.

I’d love to see this game patched with a couple of updates. It has a bright future if the core is tweaked and massaged.

  • Anonymous

    Thx for the heads up, was waiting on a review, guess I can skip this one.

  • Vovin

    On my 3GS, the menu is horribly broken. Game is unplayable because there are no options and the graphics are just a chaos.

  • Adhoc42

    For once Touch Arcade is not trying to sell me a game and is actually being honest in their review! Then you for this new found respect for your readers!

  • Adhoc42

    Thank you*

  • Shamu

     disappointed.. im sold on the look of it but it plays bad then the artwork is wasted. shame, graphics look great.

  • Anonymous

    plays fine for me on the ipad but then i haven't played all that long.

    • Darkstar_boy

      Yeah, I have beaten the game on my 3rd gen touch, have had no tech issues, and am absolutely confused as to what the reviewer is reffering to  as gameplay problems. I have never had an enemy unit move on an unexpected path, and in fact never lost a level while playing through on normal, not until the harder difficulty did i even have enemies nearing my base. not enough money to defend? By the end of each level, The map was nearly full of fully upgraded units. Your review so confused me, that i wonder if you have played a open field TD game before, or only fixed path? you can place units anywhere to effect movement. Honestly, this is the first review from this site that has confused me, or that i dissagree with. Keep up the good work guys, and if you could respond, i would appreciate it.  

  • Maximiliano Silva

    I'm playing this game an i absolutely love it. The developers clearly didn't put yoo much effort on the user interface experiencie and that holds it back a little, but the gameplay is awesome and a have to make a lot of strategy to beat some levels. About the review i guess the reviewer has made some prejudgement or doesn't know how to play this game. My title would have been the opposite: "Plays well, looks not so well"