There are more tower defence games on the App Store than there are stars in the sky, fish in the sea or iPad 3 rumours on the internet.
And Fantasy Defense is one of the very best. Not because it does anything new, but because it does everything brilliantly.
I shouldn't really need to explain the tower defence formula, but just in case, let's give it a quick rundown. Waves of enemies slowly trundle along preset paths in an effort to destroy your Hero Gate (read: thing you need to defend), and to combat them, you'll need to intelligently place units (read: towers) who attack any foes who enter their attack range. So far, so absolutely bog standard.
However, Fantasy Defense manages to provide exciting and exceptional features at every turn, starting with your selection of towers. Units run the gamut from close-ranged soldiers to far-reaching archers and mages, each of whom can engage at different ranges and can be upgraded or transmuted into new versions who pack different abilities. For example, an archer can be upgraded into a Splasher who specialises in targeting multiple enemies, or optionally changed yet further into Sky Arrow who can only attack one enemy with greater range. Choosing who to upgrade, where to place them and how to spend your limited gold supply is the key to victory, and there are always multiple ways to win.
On top of that, 'special' versions of each class are also on hand to provide yet more combat options, and three distinct heroes can be recruited using a separate mana pool. You can't sell or move them once deployed (think long and hard about where each one can do the most damage), but their massive damage and recharging special abilities can turn the tide of a difficult battle.
The choice of three base classes and three heroes keeps the action simple and accessible to genre newcomers, yet there's massive tactical depth on hand for veterans. A supremely accessible GUI puts all of these features at your fingertips, letting you concentrate on the task in hand without ever having to wrestle with the interface. Impressively, you can also deploy units and designate targets while pausing the game. Quite simply, Fantasy Defense caters for everyone regardless of experience or ability.
Better yet, there's always a reason to keep playing, and it's technically impossible to ever hit a brick wall. Fantasy Defense features a persistent RPG system that allows you to permanently improve units and heroes using Hero Points gleaned from each battle. Win or lose, you'll still gain points, meaning that your forces will be constantly improving and there's no such thing as a 'wasted defeat.' Each level can be replayed in multiple game modes, increasing replayability to insane and wondrous heights.
Graphically, Fantasy Defense is a crisp and colourful retro homage that looks absolutely beautiful. The faux-pixelated visuals are reminiscent of classic RPGs, yet pin-sharp character artwork is on hand to cater for the new generation. Mind you, it's also worth noting that the art style is a little exploitative to say the least... and I'm amazed that the impossibly buxom female characters aren't too busy dealing with crippling back problems to fight!
- Accessible, brilliant, balanced gameplay
- Outrageously addictive and inclusive
- Looks brilliant
- Distracting boobs galore (may not actually be a con)
Summary: Fantasy Defense is a near perfect archetype of the tower defence genre, and one of the most addictive games on the App Store. Buy it.
Compatibility: Compatible with iPhone, iPod touch and iPad. Requires iOS 4.2 or later.
Price: £0.69 - App Store