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Army Wars Defense Review: Gory Fighting with Many Flaws

We’ve seen quite a few tower defense games on the iPhone, likely because the small screen space and touch controls accommodate them well. It would be nice to think that each title will stand on its own thanks to unique features and its own brand of exciting gameplay. But when compared with games like Mikado Defenders (see review) and Castle Conflict (see review), Army Wars Defense gets quickly overshadowed, and rightly so.

I hope it doesn’t crush anyone’s dreams about the mystery and allure of writing game reviews when I say that I follow a format when approaching a new review. A word about the story line usually comes near the top . . . Well, developer AFEEL, Inc. has done me a favor with Army Wars Defense, because there’s no story to speak of. You choose between being a “Metal Trooper” or a “Lonely Wolf” and then it’s straight to the battlefield for some mildly confusing, often frustrating combat. I’m not saying tower defense games demand a developed story. But Mikado Defenders comes to mind as a game that does a great job of building an atmosphere and characters that get across just enough story in an unobtrusive way. The effort is greatly appreciated, and AFEEL could have done better.

When it comes to gameplay, Army Wars defense is structured more in the vein of games like Castle Conflict. This means that your army’s tower is on the right side of the screen, and you can scroll across the battlefield and quickly find your enemy’s fortress on the left. Tap and drag units from the bottom panel, then drop them on the battlefield. They issue from your tower and behave according to their attributes . . . But this brings us to one of the main detractions of Army Wars Defense. While there are plenty of available units, upgrades, and customizable armies, you would practically have to memorize what each tiny icon symbolizes in order to know how they are going to function during a fight. These icons are not very self-explanatory, and in the midst of a battle it’s annoying and unavoidable to forget which tiny soldier does what. Unfortunately, dragging and dropping whatever units your resources allow while turning a blind eye to what they actually do does not provide for a satisfying experience.

However, perseverance is eventually rewarded. You’ll get used to the troop icons and get a feel for which icons represent rifle men, medics, SWAT, snipers, scouts, and then the more obvious vehicles. Hovering a unit over the battlefield without dropping it will cause a red, rectangular shadow to color a portion of the battlefield. This represents the range of the selected unit, and helps you decide which unit is the best choice. One of the game biggest strengths comes to the fore in situations where strategic decisions must be made regarding which unit to send out to fight the opposing forces marching toward your base. Recognizing the enemy’s class and countering it with a unit whose range, armor, or HP will prove effective (example: sniper vs. rifleman) are the ingredients for success. And Army Wars Defense gets it right when these strategic placement situations are front and center.

Expect to figure all of this out on your own, as the tutorial does a poor job of explaining things, and an even poorer job of utilizing the English language. I’m not saying it should affect our judgment of Army Wars Defense, but there are enough misspellings/dropped words to raise the eyebrows of even the most accommodating individual . . . The bottom line is this: There are too many great tower defense games on the iPhone to put up with a story this shallow and gameplay this poorly executed. But not all is lost. Army Wars Defense stands out as one of the only TD games to tackle a more modern setting, and the visuals are not bad, even offering up a bit more gore than we typically see in the app store. If that floats your boat and you just can’t wait to load up your iPhone with another version of tower defense (and if, for some reason, you’re not still playing Mikado Defenders or Castle Conflict) then go for it. It’s cheap enough and offers enough eye candy that any feelings of regret will be short lived.

Our Rating: 2.5/5

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