Back in September, we reported on the soft launch of Star Wars: Galactic Defense (Free). Developed by the folks at DeNA, Galactic Defense is a freemium tower defense title complete with classic Star Wars heroes and locales to visit. While there’s a certain amount of fan service that makes Galactic Defense appealing on some level, the game’s actual execution leaves a lot to be desired.
On paper, Galactic Defense appears to have all the tools necessary for a great TD game. There’re plenty of maps to play through, each with various difficulties to encourage replay. A hero system vaguely similar to the likes of Kingdom Rush lets you take Star Wars icons (as well as a few obscure heroes and villains) into battle complete with special moves and a leveling system. There’s even a robust power-up system with a large variety of in-game upgrades and boosts to choose from (for a price, of course).
Unfortunately, in practice everything mentioned above didn’t quite meet my expectations. Maps felt woefully generic, with little in terms of variety and character to distinguish themselves from each other. Speaking of characters, I was also disappointed with Galactic Defense’s heroes, both in terms of execution and selection. While most of the heroes obviously have a lot of backstory and clout to rely upon, the way they are used in Galactic Defense doesn’t do them justice.
To make matters worse, unlocking characters requires a great deal of in-game currency, and you can’t simply purchase them; you must buy a chance to unlock a randomized hero. I’m really not a fan of this type of unlocking mechanism and the fact that it requires IAP-levels of currency to purchase the “premium” heroes (coupled with the fact you could spend all that coin and get an already unlocked person) just kills a lot of the potential excitement.
Speaking of IAP, Galactic Defense throws so much at the player in terms of power-ups and IAP, the whole experience felt a bit overwhelming. Tactics such as a one-time “special” when you launch the game the first time and encouraging IAP as one of the first things to do when playing the game places the emphasis squarely on IAP and less on actual gameplay. This is also evidenced by the fact that the hardest difficulties almost require players to invest heavily in those one-time power-ups simply to pass them. In fact, the most fair thing I encountered in Galactic Defense was the game’s energy system (yes, it has one of those too), which replenishes relatively quickly.
Finally, the TD gameplay itself feels quite basic and doesn’t offer anything novel or even interesting. Galactic Defense employs the standard types of towers and associated upgrades with little in terms of surprises for any TD fan that’s invested in the genre. While it’s been done before, a customizable experience system to improve towers and heroes would have gone a long way towards providing some motivation for play. As it stands, the leveling system doesn’t offer much (if anything) in terms of customization and doesn’t do a good job of giving the impression that your towers are actually improving with each passing level.
I’m a huge fan of both Star Wars and Tower Defense, so a game like this seemed like a slam dunk in my mind. Unfortunately, the game feels more like a cash grab of a true TD game in the Star Wars universe that actually focused on gameplay or story. There’s nothing inherently wrong with Galactic Defense (assuming you don’t have an issue with freemium elements), but the entire experience feels so bland that it’s not particularly enjoyable, let alone being a game worth investing in. It’s truly a shame, because I feel like there’s a waste opportunity here. Of course, being freemium, you can certainly check out Galactic Defense with little risk, but I don’t think you’ll find much to enjoy.