Review: Aegis Defenders (Switch)

Developer: Guts Department
Publisher: Humble Bundle
Genre: Action, Adventure, Platformer, Tower Defense
Rating: E+10
Platforms: Nintendo Switch, PS4, PC
Price: $19.99

 

 There was a time when tower defense games were the cash cow of free to play mobile companies. However, thanks to a successful kickstarter, Aegis Defenders promises to bring a new twist to a popular genre. With its modern take on the 16-bit graphics and its own take on metroidvania platforming mixed with tower defense, Aegis Defenders looks to be one of the more popular indie hits of the year.

Content Guide

Spiritual Content

There is no specific spiritual content, though the game takes place in a fantasy realm where magic is used.

Violence

There is sci-fi themed violence, with characters using projectile and melee weapons to hit opponents. Enemies disappear when they are destroyed, and there is sometimes a small amount of red pixelated blood.

Language

There is some infrequent use of mild language

Sexual Content

There is no sexual content. However, there are mild suggestive themes, such as one of the characters wearing an outfit that shows a bare midriff and arms.

Drug / Alcohol Abuse

There are no specific drug references. But power-ups can be obtained from plants.

Positive Content

Aegis Defenders provides a story of protecting the land from invaders and preventing them from obtaining a weapon of mass destruction. The game promotes team work and cooperation and rewards puzzle solving prowess.

 Review

The tower defense genre has suffered a bit of a reduction recently. After the wave of FTP mobile games and the popularity of Plants Vs Zombies died away, the genre has lain dormant. That is, until a Kickstarter campaign by GUTS department put Aegis Defenders up for consideration has the void been left vacant. Billed as a platform with tactical strategy elements, the game follows the story of two relic hunters.

Bart and Clu scavenge and sell their finds in order to survive in a post-apocalyptic world. It is clear that technology has existed previously and cutscenes elude to the downfall of the previous civilization. However, early on the the game, the pair stumble across a robot, Kobo, who assists our heroes in discovering an ancient piece of technologyone which must be defended at all costs.

The start of each level is a metroidvania style puzzle-platformer, working your way through gates and switches in order to reach the second act. Once you reach a relic, the gameplay shifts from platforming to tower defense. The shift is clear which is beneficial if you struggle to differntiate between the two.

The platforming levels include one of the main mechanics: color coding. The puzzle elements sometimes contain colored gates that correspond to one of the characters in your party. For example, Clu is blue and Bart is yellow. This is linked to the combat as enemies have corresponding colors which can deal extra damage. There are also relics scattered around to collect which unlock additional items. The way the platforming stages play out though means that you can often miss relics without being able to return. This will be frustrating to completionists and collect-a-thon fans.

The tower defense levels are typical of the genre. Each wave has a build phase and a defend phase. During the build phase, the player can collect power-ups and build a variety of traps and turrets. Each wave then throws an array of variously colored enemies towards the central goal. The player can then switch between characters to combat the enemies that are advancing as well as repair the various installations.

In single player mode this can be quite frustrating. The game does give a good learning curve, introducing new items and mechanics slowly to help the player achieve mastery. However, switching between characters is difficult at times, and having to do this in time constricting situations poses a challenge for the veteran player and could definitely present an obstacle for new players to the genre.

Where the tower defense levels shine however is in co-op mode. This provides a fun experience for players and is something that the Switch handles very well. The joycons make it easy to get two friends playing quickly and the couch co-op can lead to a combination of well-choreographed tactics and hilarious interactions.

Graphically, Aegis Defenders follows the recent trend of pixelated graphics. However, far from being yet another pixel art game, the art style, combined with the story telling, draws parallels to Nausicaa. This is mainly drawn from the art style of Clu and Bart and the post-apocalyptic setting, but the cutscenes combine the gorgeous sprite art with well-designed and thought-out animations. The backgrounds and level art give the player breathtaking landscapes which distract from the fact that they follow the traditional platform rubric of forest, desert, ice world, etc.

Overall, I enjoyed playing Aegis Defenders, the gameplay is challenging at times but I kept going back. Losing a level didn’t feel unfair due to some poor luck, but through my own failure to plan correctly. The satisfaction of completing a level more than made up for the frustrations of failing. The co-op gameplay is also fun and creates some interesting banter between friends and loved ones as you try to scream instructions at each other.

Still, the single player campaign is frustrating at times. Switching between characters is difficult and slows down the building phase. This gets more complicated as you gain more allies. The other big complaint is also linked to the characters. With the Switch being able to accommodate 8 players at once, it is a shame this isn’t exploited. The story is interesting, but the character development is superficial, making the abilities more memorable than the characters at times. But with all that said, this is an enjoyable title that will definitely be a must have for any tower defense fan.

Review code generously provided by Humble Bundle

 

The Bottom Line

Aegis defenders is a fun and challenging take on the platformer / tower defense game. It has clearly defined boundaries between the two game styles and has an art style reminiscent of a pixelated Studio Ghibli film.

 

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Gareth Tucker

Residing in the UK, I spend my free time working through an ever growing back catalogue of new and retro titles. I love RPGs of all types and generally go for games that have a rich story behind them.

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