Blockheaded AI Sinks Cubic Tower Skirmisher
Download Size: 60 MB
Time Played: 30 min.
What I'd Pay: $1
Steam Price (3/25/12): $5
I remember one moment in particular during a Skirmish against the AI. I was advancing my mortarmen into a flanking position against the enemy gunners. One reached his new position, targeted a gunner, and lined up a shot. The shell arced through the air... and crashed harmlessly against the side of the cube he was standing on.
I watched the mortarman take bad shot after bad shot, the shells exploding uselessly on the very same spot the first one hit. Why was this happening? They were on level ground and according to the UI, he was in range. In frustration, I shifted him a few squares over. Now his shots managed to hit the gunner. I sighed and turned back to ordering the rest of my troops around.
Cubemen takes on the next step in tower defense (defend your tower while your waves attack the enemy's tower), but the generic feel and horrendous troop AI makes the game feel alternately boring and frustrating. Rather than placing fixed towers, you instead buy armed defenders and order them to a position. You can order them to move somewhere else and they will, firing at any enemies they see along the way. At least, they should...
In addition to taking constant bad shots like the mortarman above, I've also seen my own cubemen choose poor targets ("Don't shoot the ones in back, shoot the ones in front!"), try to shoot through walls, and even constantly point at an enemy within range without firing. This turns defense and positioning into a crapshoot; it's tough to think about the tactics involved when you're just trying to find a spot where your troops won't bug out.
Not that the tactics involve much thought. You have your standard defense types (weak gunner, slower, rockets, etc.) which you buy from your base at set prices. You can position them, order them to target a specific enemy defender, sell them... and that's it. No upgrades, no entrenching, no focusing on a certain angle of approach. It doesn't even look like they have specific strengths and weaknesses, either; if they do, it isn't apparent from the tooltips or the gameplay.
The setup barely elicits excitement, either. There's no campaign or even a tutorial sequence; instead, you just pick one of the maps, gets a few tips, and play the game from there. Although some of the maps have interesting-looking layouts, since your guys can't block or reroute the enemy's route, the different paths are usually moot. Furthermore, they all have the same gray/white cubic look and the same song playing in background. It gets stale fast, and left me with little reason to check more than a few maps.
Between the Skirmish mode and the online multiplayer, I suspect Cubemen was geared towards playing against a human opponent. I tried to join an online game to see if playing a human was more fun than the computer, but after 15 minutes of waiting, no games popped up. Either the multiplayer is broken or almost no one is playing this online.
Cubemen's generic setup makes the game unmemorable, but its AI issues sink it. Just a week ago, I reviewed Defenders of Ardania, which had a similar premise. Although I gave it only 1 star, I would still consider it a better deal than Cubemen. At least it slightly entertained me for a few hours; this game bored me within a half-hour.