geoDefense Swarm Hands-On

On a system choked with tower defense games, the original geoDefense stood out as one of the most unhinged, twitch-responsive, action-packed instances of the genre we’ve played. Since its release, developer Critical Thought Games has been hard at work on the followup, geoDefense Swarm. Can this new iteration duplicate the energy and success of the original? We got our mitts on a near-final build of the game to find out.

The original geoDefense was a tower defense game defined by the linear paths the critters traversed to get to the exit. The only variables you had to worry about were the creeps’ toughness and speed. geoDefense Swarm is a different beast altogether. It eschews the path mechanic for an open-space level design, and also adds a few other twists while still maintaining the key elements of the original.

Now that you have to worry about what route the critters will take, a new layer of strategy is required on the part of the player. Left to their own devices, the creeps will find the shortest path and bee-line to the exit as quickly as possible. So, as with most open-space tower defense games, you’ll want to carefully place your towers to create a gauntlet for the baddies to run through. And just like in the original geoDefense, the creeps come in ever-stronger waves.

Each map is laid out on a hexagon-based honeycomb grid. Every stage has a uinique shape and is composed of different types of terrain. Some hexes the creeps can’t traverse, some you can’t build towers on, and some have special attributes, like speeding the creeps up or healing them. Much of your strategy is dependent on the terrain, but you don’t have much time to plan your defense before the creeps start their invasion. Take it from us: you’ll have to replay levels often, honing your strategy each time.

Once again you’ll find three levels of difficulty, with ten unique stages in each. According to developer David Whatley, an endless mode was the most requested feature by fans of the original game. To that end, the final map of each difficulty level is now host to an endless swarm mode, where the creeps keep on coming as long as you can fend them off.

One new tower type has been added this time around: the Thump Tower. It emanates shockwaves that damage any creeps within range. The other towers are still available, although Vortex Towers are now pre-placed within certain stages and cannot be moved. There are six towers total, each of which can be upgraded seven times.

All the critters from the original are back, along with a new one that looks like a swarm of sparks. These new creeps are actually healed by laser fire, so you’ll have to plan accordingly. Online leaderboards, tracked by OpenFeint, have been included as well. geoDefense Swarm will cost $0.99 at launch, and Critical Thought Games is hoping for a release date of August 14.

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