Hero Defense - Haunted Island Review

Hero Defense: Haunted Island's title believes in truth in advertising, letting you know right up front that it's a tower defense game in which your towers are replaced by heroes. It's still a tower defense game, but in this game your towers can move. Rather than placing static towers and then sitting back to watch them do their work, you are an active participant in the battle itself, commanding your heroes to where they're needed the most to stop the latest wave of monsters. Each hero has their own style of attack and each is particularly effective against a certain type of enemy, and the game makes this easy to keep track of by color coding each hero and enemy type. If you've played tower defense games before, then you'll notice that each hero's attack style corresponds to that of some typical tower archetypes, but the game adds RPG elements that give you more opportunity for customization than you get in a typical tower defense game.

After completing a level your heroes will gain experience based on the number of enemies they took out during the level. When a character levels up they'll earn skill points that can be used to purchase upgrades on their skill tree to improve their skills or give them new abilities. There's also a rune system in the game - runes can be earned when completing levels or through the game's crafting system - and you can equip these runes on the heroes. The runes provide various stat modifications or bonus abilities that can be enabled during a level. The currency that you earn by killing enemies, the currency that other tower defense games use to pay for new towers, is used here to enable the heroes' runes during battle. Each of a hero's subsequent runes cost more to enable than the prior ones, so you not only need to give some thought as to which runes to give each hero but to the order in which they're placed as well.

Hero Defense - Haunted Island screenshot 2

The levels work basically the same as in any tower defense game. The enemies come in waves, follow one of a couple predefined paths through the levels that all lead to the same exit point. If a set number of enemies survive the trip to the end of the level, then you'll lose. Conversely, if you can make it to the last wave of enemies without letting too many through and you'll win. Your heroes take to the high ground around the paths and you can move them around the map so that they can attack enemies anywhere along their route. While they're moving they won't be able to attack, so you'll need to be smart about which hero you decide to move and when.

The game adds more twists to the formula than just moveable towers, though. Potions can be used on the pathways to aid in your defense by slowing enemies or unleashing poison to do damage over time. Shrines provide various bonuses when occupied by heroes, and you can even build some of your won on some of the maps. I particularly like the peasant horde. If you're in real trouble you can unleash the peasants, and the pitchfork wielding mob will go racing down a pathway destroying all monsters in their wake.

Hero Defense - Haunted Island screenshot 5

The missions are unlocked as you play through the story mode, but you can return to replay any completed mission at any time. Most gamers who've played tower defense games before can make it through the missions on the first playthrough without too much trouble. However, each mission can be played again at an increased difficultly level and with additional restrictions such as not letting a single enemy through to the end of the level. Replaying the missions at the higher challenge levels not only gives you full credit for clearing the level and the additional experience your hereoes will gain from it, but there are also often rewards associated with clearing them as well such as rare ruins. The difficulty ramps up really quickly from the first playthrough on a mission and it's often the case that you'll cruise through a mission the first time through and then get quickly crushed when you try it again on a higher difficulty.

I had fun with Hero Defense and I liked the game's art style and tongue-in-cheek storyline. The RPG elements and upgradable hub area are nice touches as well. Like all tower defense games, the primary variety between the levels comes from the layout of the enemy pathways as there's not much in the way of gameplay variety. I would have liked to see a little more challenge from the first playthrough of each level and a more gradual increase in difficulty for the subsequent playthroughs. Overall, the game's unique twist on tower defense adds some welcome variety to the genre and it's worth your time to check out the game.

Final Rating: 84% - Who wants towers when you can have heroes?


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