Tower defense games be one o’ t’ most popular genres on iOS. They’re also a dime a dozen on t’ AppStore, and it’s time consuming t’ filter through all the choices, especially when thar’s a cost for some o’ them. Developers can no longer copy another app, slap on some graphics, and pass it off to ye as a totally new experience.
Okay, enough pirate talk.
Pirate Legends TD (Free) does copy elements from other games (most noticeably Kingdom Rush [$0.99/$2.99]), but does so in an entertaining fashion that lets you forget, albeit temporarily, where some of its content comes from.
As you start up the game, you’ll be prompted to input your name. I love games that allow multiple user profiles (mainly so my fiance doesn’t hinder, or help, my progress), and Pirate Legends allows up to three unique profiles. The game also features iCloud synchronization, Game Center achievements and Facebook integration.
In the Caribbean of the year 1705, your task is to prevent swarms of enemies from getting to your ship, and to do so, you must build various towers on the buoys of each map. The first few rounds will introduce you to aspects of the game, from building units, to using special powers, and introducing new components progressively. You won’t feel lost by the time you’re out of the beginner stages.
You build cannon towers to attack your enemies, oil towers to slow them down, so on and so forth. You’ll eventually get access to over ten units. Towers can be upgraded multiple times, and sold for a portion of their original cost. You have the option of allowing a wave of enemies to come early, which grants you a small coin bonus.
One of the features I found different from other tower defense games is that the object you’re trying to protect, in this case your ship, actually contributes to the battle. The ship will fire cannonballs on closeby targets, and you’re also able to rotate the direction of the ship, perfect for times when there are multiple lanes and you want to have every corner covered. Sadly, there is no speed control, which can be found in some other games.
Aside from your towers, you have other avenues available to help you beat the swarm. You can hire allies (for coins or premium currencies), who patrol around the map and attack enemies that they come across. You’ll also be quickly introduced to Flying Aces, friends who enter the field every now and then to attack a designated area set by you. You have two special powers which come from your ship: a turtle cannon, which you launch at an area that will attack enemies for a limited time, and a barrage attack, which has your ship launching multiple cannonballs at once. Both powers are free to use, but both require a recharge time. Occasionally, special loot ships will appear; if you manage to destroy these, they’ll drop some bonus loot for you. Completely optional, but a nice addition.
Lastly, you’ll get access to Relic Powers, which are incredibly powerful, but ultimately wind up costing money if you use them too much and run out. My favorite ability is the tornado, the direction of which you control by tilting your device. It adds a fun element on top of an already fun game. Tornados not your thing? Why not summon in a Kraken to gobble up a group of enemies whole?
At the beginning of each stage, you can choose the difficulty you want to play: easy, medium or hard. At the end of each round, you’re awarded anchors based on the difficulty chosen (one for easy, two for medium, three for hard). Anchors are spent in the tech tree, where you can buy upgrades for your towers, special abilities and allies. You can also choose to buy up to three boosts for each round, which utilizes premium currency.
There are no hidden or alternate areas of any stage, the only replay value being that of the three difficulty levels. However, once you get the hang of the game, chances are you’ll have few issues on hard difficult, negating any reason for a replay. Which is sad, really, because the battles are fun and the environments are wonderfully rendered.
Graphically, Pirate Legends is a treat. Everything is smooth and crisp, from the on-screen action to the background effects, such as a panda bear lounging around, eating bamboo while watching the fight. You can pinch to zoom in closer, and see everything in fine detail. The sound and music are also very well done, from the cries of defeated pirates to the splash of cannonballs hitting the water. Oddly, on my iPad, the game always launched with the music off by default. On my iPhone, it started up fine. Not sure if it’s a potential iPad Retina issue or what.
As I mentioned, you can use allies called Flying Aces, that are available after the first few rounds. The first one you get free, and he comes with the most basic stats. The remainder you’ll have to buy, the most expensive being $4.99. For a game that already has a higher than usual purchase price, this could be too much for some people. But again, it’s completely optional, and in no way required to finish the game.
For those of us who don’t necessarily like our digits intact, the premium currency on hand here are toes. Yes, you buy toes, which are used to purchase boosts and relics. The standard IAP fare applies; small amounts of toes for the cheapest price, all the way up to mega toes for what costs more than a brand new console or PC game.
At the end of the day, Pirate Legends is a terrifically fun game, its biggest hindrance being what seems like an excessive paywall (for your Flying Aces). What it does it does well, but doesn’t bring enough new content to the table, which makes it seem very similar to other games of its ilk. With that being said, however, it’s well worth your initial purchase, especially if you’ve finished or are tired of other tower defense games.