Prime World: Defenders was developed by Nival using assets from Prime World, another game of theirs currently in development. As the name suggests, Defenders is a top-down tower defence game in which the objective is to eliminate all the enemy forces before they reach their objective. Their objective is either entering the players base or stealing prime, a prized resource in Prime World. Defenders does little to change the fundamental way the genre works, but instead tries to blend collectable card game and RPG mechanics into the title.
The player begins with a single card, the Wooden Tower. The first few mission explain how the different types of towers work, while expanding the players selection of cards with rewards from battle. The fifth battle instructs the player to use all their knowledge to stop the first boss from stealing all their Prime. It is here that grinding, the staple of the RPG genre is introduced. Each level gets progressively harder and the player must level up their towers to remain competitive. This is done by fusing unwanted towers into one another, destroying the fusion material, but giving permanent stat increases to the fused tower.
For each story mission a player must complete, there are three randomly generated maps also on offer ranging in difficulty from easy to hard. Taking on the harder missions pits the player against stronger enemies, more waves, and fewer open spaces to place towers on the map. The upside though is that the rewards are higher. After each mission the player is shown five random cards (harder missions have a better selection). After being flipped face down and shuffled about, the player selects one to keep. More cards to be chosen, but each additional selection costs the player a progressively increasing amount of silver, the games basic currency earned from missions.
After the fifth mission, the player is freed from the tutorials and the rest of the games mechanics are opened to them. First there is ‘evolution’. In the same way that fusing increase the stats of a tower, evolution does the same but requires the player have two of the same cards. The key difference here is that evolution does not increase the cards level, instead it allows the player to power up a tower during a mission but can only be used on an individual card twice.
Each tower has a base cost to place. If a player places many of a single type of tower in a mission it becomes more expensive. Powering up a tower is more efficient as the player only needs to pay the base cost to double a towers damage. If a player has evolved a card twice, a tower maybe powered up a second time for double its base cost resulting in a tower that is four times as powerful. Some locations on the field give buffs to towers placed on them, so a fully powered tower that is buffed soon becomes a force to be reckoned with.
The last mechanic opened to the player is the shop. Here a player can spend excess silver on addition basic cards, with a small chance to get a rarer card. Players can be guaranteed to receive rare cards if they purchase higher tier card packs, but these cost gold stars. Up to three Gold stars can be earned from each mission depending on how much life a player lost during it. With only the twenty-three story missions in the game awarding gold stars to a player, they become a very limited resource. Thankfully, they can rarely be found as one of the five random cards a player could receive after completing any mission.
The dialogue in Defenders is fully voice acted, whether it is during missions or the comic book style cut scenes that accompany many of the story missions. While these are not terrible, at times it can seem like the voice actors were reading the line off a sheet of paper during their performance. It can be distracting at times, but it is nice to have plenty of dialogue througout the game.
All the visuals in Defenders Are bright and shiny. Paths that enemies will take are shown on the field. Even if there are multiple paths open to them, a player can see what route will be taken and can plan accordingly. Sadly, the only graphical option open to the player is the resolution size. Players with lower spec computers should ensure that their computers are suitable for the game. The number of maps available to random missions is limited by a players progress through the story. Early on this means there is very little variety on offer.
Prime World: Defenders is a game that will appeal to MMO fans. Many of the same mechanics are found in this single player game and can occupy attention for large periods of time without any real story progress being made. A daily reward is offered to players to keep them returning and missions take very little time to complete, so the game can be enjoyed infrequently between other titles. Prime World: Defenders is released on June 5th, but purchasing now on steam will give players access to the beta.