We've been keeping tabs on Paradox Interactive’s Defenders of Ardania [$4.99 / Free] since its initial unveiling way back in February. While Defenders boasts beautiful artwork and a decent amount of content (including multiplayer), the majority of attention is centered on its gameplay, which attempts to move beyond the typical tower defense experience with some new and interesting ideas. Overall, despite some minor concerns with the UI and other areas, Defenders of Ardania is an excellent addition to the tower defense genre and is a must-try for any fan.

One of the first things you’ll notice when playing are the gorgeous visuals. The artwork showcases a variety of fantastical locales and certainly looks as if the developers paid extra attention to setting the scene for the entirety of the campaign. The actual units and towers look a little out of place, but I think that’s mostly a credit to the attention paid to the backdrops. Of course, heightened visuals aren’t going to necessarily make or break a tower defense game, but well done efforts deserve credit nonetheless.

Gameplay-wise, take a glance at some of its screenshots and Defenders of Ardania may look like just another tower defense game. However, actually fire up the game and you’ll discover that it offers quite a bit more depth than most TD games. For starters, Defenders combines the gameplay elements of both the tower defense and real-time strategy genres.

Like tower defense, players must strategically place towers of various strengths and abilities onto the battlefield in order to take out the oncoming hordes of enemies looking to attack your base. There’s tower upgrades, resource management and a wide variety of enemies, including baddies that can fire at your towers and destroy them if you don’t repair in time. Taken simply with these gameplay elements, Defenders of Ardania would have been a standard, decent TD game.

Add in what we’re calling ‘Tower Offense’ elements, and Defenders quickly turns into a game about extensive resource management and striking the all-important balance between multitasking both offense and defense. In addition to guarding your own keep from the enemy throngs, you must also send out your own units against the enemy’s towers in order to take down the opposing strongholds.

Furthermore, the more units you send out, the more ‘experience’ that unit earns until it upgrades, giving it a nice stat boost. Later campaign missions up the ante with having multiple enemy keeps, forcing you to defend and attack on multiple fronts. Finally, Defenders also has a magic system allowing players to expend resources on spells ranging from defensive and offensive buffs to enemy unit slowdown.

All these gameplay elements lead to a lot of different strategies that can be employed while playing Defenders of Ardania. The goal of each mission is to destroy all the enemy forts, so obviously you’ll need to pay attention to your offensive forces and decide whether to attempt to brute force the enemy with tons of units or launch a varied team of units to try and stymie the opposing towers. However, the game ends if the enemy takes your own keep, so you’ll have to make sure your defensive towers are well placed and upgraded.

In addition, towers, units, and magic all use the same resource, so your biggest task will be balancing your allocation of currency. This all sounds like a lot of information to work with but Defenders does an excellent job managing all the pieces and tying it all together in a way that just works. In fact, the only complaint I could really foresee with this sort of gameplay is the length of time entrenched battles might take, but I think that’s just part of the strategy.

While the game does a lot of things right, Defenders of Ardania does have a few small issues, particularly with its UI and introductory segments. For example, I would have really liked an actual tutorial level, rather than the static help screens currently serving as the ‘tutorial.’ It certainly would have helped newcomers looking to jump in the game fast and having no idea what to do. In addition, the lack of difficulty options may stonewall some players as they get further into the campaign.

Also, while Defenders does feature a tower defense only gameplay mode, it lacks a lot of the niceties of most tower defense games, such as a fast forward button and difficulty levels, making the mode too easy and very slow. One last complaint is with Defenders’ Game Center oriented multiplayer mode which is pretty fun, assuming you can actually get a game started (I had quite a few errors trying to set up matches). Granted, most of these issues are relatively minor and don’t detract from the overall single player experience, and will more than likely get sorted out in future updates.

If you're a fan of tower defense games (and have an iPad), you need to stop reading this review and just check out Defenders of Ardania. It’s simply a well done game that merges established gameplay elements with good new strategic twists all wrapped up in a visually appealing title. Even if you’re on the fence, you should at least check out the lite version and see if the tower offense pieces suit your fancy. Either way, it’s nice to see advancements made in the area of TD games, and I hope this is a sign of more innovation to come.

TouchArcade Rating

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  • Anonymous

    iPad only!!!! :(

    This is something I have been dreaming of for years!!! And I don't have iPad. Yet.

    I have actually planned a board game with these game mechanisms, because I feared that nobody would make a game like this.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_5FLRQI2X2LU3IHMCG7HEAEFD5I Cat Astrophy

    The lack of speed up kills it for me. This is a standard feature now. It's fine when you're learning the ropes but once you're on your third or so run you're going to want to speed through waves until the harder ones. 

  • Anonymous

    Actually the main thing I want to know in any review of a TD game is, can I pause the game and still place towers? I prefer the style of play over the hectic action you are otherwise forced into.

    • Anonymous

      You can't, at least in the campaign. Pausing takes you to a menu overlay. I haven't tried other modes.

      I bought it because I'm a Majesty fan and this ties in. But I'm not horribly impressed with it, albeit after only a small amount of gameplay. And yes, even the first wussy level moved a little fast for my tastes given that there was no interactive tutorial.

    • Chris Gamer

      Nope, u can't place tower after pausing the game.. tht would give u hell lot of advantage over the enemy... Came across another TD game, Battleground Defense, like other TD games, pause doesn't take u to the main menu, u r still in the same map and plan ur next moves after taking a long breath :-) i found tht useful...

      • Anonymous

        FWIW, you can build while paused in The Creeps!, FieldRunners, Bloons TD (and TD4), Defender Chronicles, Magical TD, and I'm sure lots more. It definitely leads to a more contemplative style of play, and is more suited to pick-up-and-play.

  • Anonymous

    After playing this for 2hrs I came to the conclusion that the game is simply bad, it is no fun to play, with warriors appearing to be quite weak in comparison to the towers, and money apparently quite scarce. Making hoarding of money the main objective.

    I give it 2 stars out of 5

  • Syamsul

    Definitely needs a proper tutorial level - took me a while to figure out everything. What's worse is that pausing the game brings you to a menu screen, making it difficult to study the map and plan accordingly (especially when you're still learning the basics of the game)

  • Peter Bishop

    Not my type of game :-(

Defenders of Ardania TD Reviewed by Eric Ford on . Rating: 4