Block Fortress Review: Goblins Must Die!
As Minecraft PE has grown in popularity, the App Store has become home to a number of rip-offs and riffs on the sandbox survival game, each one trying to appeal to the Crafting crowd. Many of these are duds, but Block Fortress from Foursaken manages to tap the Minecraft genre and skillfully blend it with the tower defense genre.
In Block Fortress, you are given a blocky, Minecraft-esque landscape and a bunker base. You must place the bunker base somewhere on the terrain and then build defenses, block-by-block, to protect from waves of enemies. When those enemies come, you must also fight them, FPS style. As in Minecraft, everything in the landscape is destructible and build-able. I can’t help but be reminded of the PC game, Orcs Must Die!, when I play Block Fortress. There’s just a kinship there in the way the two games feel. In Block Fortress, though, it’s goblins that are the problem. Burrowing, hitting, killing goblins.
Given the odd mash-up of genres, it’s surprising that the game works so well. It almost feels like it began as a Minecraft mod, that someone decided to spin off into its own app. Heck, that may very well have been the genesis of the game, for all I know. What I do know is that though the concept is great, the execution takes some getting used to.
First, expect to lose your first few games, and not always due to things you were aware of. There’s a tutorial, but it’s not very robust and you’re quickly left trying to figure everything out. Now, I loved the open sandbox, learn-as-you-go style of Minecraft, but this is a more purposed game and I wish they’d do a more thorough job of training you to defend your bunker.
Second, I am not a fan of the shooting and combat controls. If you’ve ever tried shooting a moving target with arrows in Minecraft, or suffered attacks but couldn’t seem to find your attacker, you know what I’m talking about here. I wish they had a 3PS view to switch to, as Minecraft does. It would make the combat a little easier.
Even with these complaints, there’s still plenty of fun to be had here. As you learn what works and what doesn’t work, you begin to see more effective and elaborate solutions to the defense problem. And of course there’s always the terrain to explore for hidden resources — the beginning supply of building materials will only get you so far. Hidden in the terrain are rare blocks and resources that you can use to improve your defenses. As you succeed in the game, you also unlock better hand weapons to make FPS more exciting.
Eventually, you’ll drop into that Minecraft zone, the one where building becomes almost Zen … only this time, your Zen will be disrupted by goblins who want to kill you. It really is an interesting mix, but it’s one that can pull the right player in with its charms. Personally, I recommend playing on the larger iPad screen, which minimized some of the control and perspective frustrations. But even on the iPhone, you’ll have a good time.
Our score: 4 out of 5