mikelemmer's Defenders of Ardania (PC) review

Collapses on Itself

Download Size: 2 GB

Time Played: 7 hrs.

Number of Crashes: 3

Length of "3-Minute" Timer in Minotaur Mission: 15-20 minutes

Unit Types Available in Campaign: 8

Unit Types Needed to Win Campaign: 3 (usually just 1)

What I'd Pay: $5

Steam Price (3/20/12): $15

The Majesty series has a history of trying new mechanics and ending up with decent games from them. Majesty 1 & 2 played like RTSes, but only gave you indirect control of your units. Defenders of Ardania plays like a tower defense game, but lets you send out waves of troops as well. In theory, it sounds like an interesting twist. In execution, it holds up for a bit before completely collapsing as you learn the system.

The goal of the game is to destroy the enemy's castle before they destroy yours. To defend your castle, you build towers. To attack their castle, you build troops. You earn gold by killing enemy troops, while your troops earn XP for every step they take. Your unit types level up as their troops gain experience, culminating in a hero of that unit type that does more damage, soaks up more punishment, and generally makes life hell for the enemy. It's a delicate balancing act of offense vs defense, focusing on certain units vs keeping your opponent guessing what you'll send next... in theory.

In execution, the AI is so incompetent you can win without trying. Once you build up a decent defense, the AI will continually send the same units into it over & over again; few, if any, will breach them. After that, it's a slow, methodical process of building up your own units, gaining their heroes, and ripping apart the enemy defenses to storm their castle. That's how you play for the first few levels. Then you notice, "Hey, the AI keeps sending troops out before it builds towers. Perhaps I should try attacking earlier." So on the next level, you send out a few initial waves of guardsmen, the cheapest unit available... and watch them utterly annihilate the enemy within 3 minutes.

The Unit of Champions!

I'm not joking. The AI can not handle a zerg rush of guardsmen. It slowly builds some towers, only a few of which are strong versus the swarming guardsmen, and as a result you can blast through the missions within 7 minutes or less by building a single unit type. This tactic will carry you through 80% of the campaign.

On the other 20%, the enemy sends an insta-death hero towards your base once you destroy his castle. This obscenely powerful unit instantly kills you if it reaches your base and can't be stopped by anything short of a fully-upgraded defense focusing on hero-killing, careful spell usage, and several waves of dwarves. The last boss can't even be stopped by that, as he one-shots most of your towers before he even gets within range of them. After spending an hour trying to defeat him (you can't save mid-mission), I looked up strategies to beat him on the forums. The only strategy offered? Trap him in a maze of long-range turrets, constantly move the exit, and whittle him to death. I quit the campaign at that point.

However, the game had 3 different races. The campaign only let you play one... I needed the full experience with the game. I tried running single-player skirmishes; none of them let you use the other 2 races. In desperation, I tried to join a multiplayer game... nothing. I tried to create a multiplayer game... nothing. Either no one else is playing, or multiplayer is completely broken. I wouldn't be surprised if it was both. Its Steam forums have other posts wondering the same thing; a few have managed to play multiplayer, but whatever voodoo they cast to do that is unknown.

Everything else about the game kind of pales next to those issues. The graphics are decent, albeit cluttered. The voice acting ranges from serviceable to abhorrent. The story is stereotypical with a lot of flat jokes. The controls are clunky, deleting units rarely worked, and trying to inspect a unit rotated the camera more often than not. If the rest of the game was decent, I could live with that. But an utterly broken & cheese-filled campaign? A complete inability to play the other 2 races in bot skirmishes? An apparently nonfunctional and/or uninhabited multiplayer? Those are dealbreakers for me.

Sorry Majesty. Good idea, atrocious execution.

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