By lawblob 1 Comments
As a semi-serious fan of Tower Defense style games, I became very engrossed in geoDefense, the excellent TD game for the iPhone released last February. The game combined a Geometry Wars aesthetic with a brutally difficult, fixed-path TD gameplay. After roughly 20 hours, I completed all 30 stages of geoDefense.
Released last week, geoDefense Swarm is the direct sequel. It abandons the fixed-path TD style, instead allowing the player some freedom to forge the path of the enemies. The Geometry Wars aesthetic now overlays a beautiful hex-based grid.
While the game retains the same overall feel and style of the first, I can't help but feel that the developer went a bit overboard in the difficulty. One of the best aspects of the first was the feeling that even on the most difficult levels, there were numerous ways to solve the level, and any number of approaches would work. In Swarm, it appears that on many levels, the game only allows for a single solution. This has the effect of reducing the game to what many lesser TD games already feel like. You as the player are brutally punished until you randomly discover the single "magic" formation required to pass the level. Anything other than this precise arrangement will be futile.
This frustrates me because in my opinion it represents a lack of balance that the first game had. By designing levels in such a way that only a singular solution exists, as a player I feel like I lack control. The game feels more like random trial and error, the player haplessly pokes around, placing random towers at seemingly random locations.
While this frustration could simply be chalked up to my lack of skill at the game, I do not feel that adequately addresses the problem. A steep difficulty curve is one thing; but forcing a player who mastered the previous game to now bash his head against the proverbial brick wall as he brainlessly plays the same level 50 or more times hoping to stumble into the correct alignment, that seems to take things too far. When thoughtful strategy and trial & error are replaced with mindless frustration, the TD genre loses its basic appeal.