There’s nothing more frustrating than a game that has good core gameplay that is ruined by missteps and issues in all the other game elements. Such is the case with DvO [$1.99 / HD], a castle defense game that’s heavy on the gameplay depth, but falters in its visuals and slow execution.

DvO (a.k.a. Dwarves vs. Orcs) plays very much like a classic castle defense title. Players send units down five battle lanes taking down the resistance until they reach the opposing castle (with the enemy doing the same to you, obviously). The side that takes down the opposing castle first wins the match. Littered throughout the lanes are crystal patches, which must be mined by your mining units and are used as the currency necessary to build supplemental units.

There are no special moves, upgradeable units, or even changing lanes; units will march down their path until they are either taken out or are attacking the opposing castle. I can see how this kind of simplicity in gameplay can appeal to some folks, but gamers that have experienced (and enjoy) other castle defense games with more modern approaches may feel a bit disappointed.

DvO’s primary strength lies in the wide variety of units you can play with. While you only start out with a handful of units, you unlock subsequent allies as you complete each story mission (you must then ‘buy’ the units using gold earned in matches before you can add them to your list). Once you get a large amount of units unlocked, the real strategic magic of DvO begins. Units include basic melee and ranged units, to mages of a wild variety of elements, to even conjurers that will summon other units onto the field. There are over 25 units available for use, and since you can only bring seven into any individual battle, players will really have to start paying attention to their units and build teams based on their play style.

While DvO’s gameplay variety obviously drives the title forward, its visuals and presentation take the game a few steps back. Graphics-wise, DvO lacks any retina display support, and it’s very apparent in everything from the blurry text to the units and environmental backgrounds. The art style seems to be built more for the iPad’s non-retina display – considering that the HD version is sold separately, I don’t know why they couldn’t have made that one retina compatible. While the blurry visuals aren’t bad enough to actually affect the gameplay, it’s still an eyesore.

Presentation-wise, DvO feels very bare bones. There’s no story (other than a cliché-riddled introduction), and there’s very little to even make you feel like you’re in a world. In addition, the few tutorial portions and even the in-game encyclopedia on the various units don’t really seem to do the game’s depth justice. One of the worst things a strategy game can do is not sufficiently explain the great system it’s built. Unfortunately, DvO seems to fall into that trap.

There are also a lot of silly UI bugs that just feel out of place. For example, tutorial screens pop up when you purchase new units that you unlocked in the previous battle. If you happen to die in the next battle and restart, the game will feed you a tutorial screen for a unit you haven’t unlocked yet (because you haven’t beaten that level). Does it really affect the gaming experience? Of course not, but these kinds of silly missteps hold the game back from being taken seriously.

Perhaps the biggest issue with DvO is simply that the game is too slow. Units plod along at a very sluggish pace, with only the special “fast” units seeming to move at an appropriate speed. Even early battles seem to drag on, and as you get further into the campaign and the likelihood of temporary stalemates rise, missions take forever. Even worse, there aren’t any ways to speed up the gameplay, meaning each map starts painstakingly slow as you’re initially collecting minerals. I’m all for giving folks the time necessary to make proper decisions in a strategy game, but the amount of waiting you will do in DvO is excessive.

With that said, DvO still has a good core gameplay system that should appeal to most fans of castle defense. However, all the missteps in other game elements definitely hold this game back from having a greater appeal. At this point, I’d recommend DvO for hardcore fans of the genre looking for their next fix. Otherwise, you may want to pass.

TouchArcade Rating

  • Anonymous

    For the retina display, I agree. It's really an eyesore !
    I talked about it with the developer (in Touch Arcade forums), and the developer said that they are working on the retina display 😉

  • Anonymous

    They should add some kind of 2x button; just by watching the video you can tell that everything moves at a snail's pace. Either that, or they make the units move faster.

  • DVO

    Thanks for the review. Retina display support in the next update. (Maybe a few days later).
    There are  fast units in DvO. then, It might seem so slow in early stages, but after the second stage will not be slow. I think ...

    And, it is also planned to upgrade the unit  in ver 2.0

    Thank you.

  • Anonymous

    Is it fair to say where this game has similar game macanics as plants vs zombies, but the latter is polished and entertaining.

DvO Reviewed by Eric Ford on . Rating: 3