When the original Defender Chronicles was released in 2009, it was a well-done tower defense game with a few twists: you could customize characters as if you were playing an RPG, and enemies advanced up and down levels from a side-view perspective. Defender Chronicles II gives you more characters, more options, and more monsters to fight. Like most sequels, however, it’s more of the same.
The story follows Melwin and the General from the previous game as they battle a dark power stirring up orcs, trolls, undead monsters, and ninjas. You’ll lead the heroes and their armies through nine missions, including towns, desert canyons, and underground caves. Each battlefield is full of locations where you can place troops to intercept the oncoming hordes of enemies.
The missions are cleverly constructed and offer plenty of variety. Tunnels send enemies at you from unexpected directions in the caves, while a canyon forces you to defend two separate paths at the same time. The battles are further complicated by flying enemies that ignore the standard paths and force you to defend new areas in the middle of a battle.
The cavalry has arrived.
The battlefields look great, as does the other art and animation in the game. The backgrounds have rich colors and lots of detail, with animated touches like creepy wiggling cocoons. The characters are distinct against the backgrounds and smoothly animated. The levels are much larger than one iPhone or iPad screen, but are proportioned so that you can see what’s going on and make decisions with a minimum of scrolling.
All this attention to detail makes Defender Chronicles II a fun tower defense game. However, the game doesn’t stop there. There’s a distinct ‘But wait, there’s more!’ feel to the RPG elements that may go a little too far.
Each of your heroes has five equipment slots and six skills. You get loot each time you complete a mission, and your character usually gains a level or two. (Higher difficulty levels get you better equipment and more experience points.) You can spend a lot of time trying out different loot and tweaking your character’s skills, and if you like that part of RPGs you’ll enjoy doing that.
You can make statistics say anything.
The decisions don’t have much effect on the game, though. No matter which choices you make for your hero, battles play out more or less the same. You’ll set up your army and watch the waves of enemies come in, upgrading now and then to keep up with the bad guys. At one point we actually nodded off during a late-night testing session, and when we woke up a few minutes later the game was doing just fine beating the level on its own.
There are many stores in the game, full of loot and ways to customize the game. There are even two new characters that you can unlock. (These characters are expensive, though. You’ll play for a long time to grind out the necessary imperial tokens, or pay for the characters through an in-app purchase.)
The choices you make may be more important at higher difficulty levels, or in the freestyle mode that randomizes the waves of enemies. But the RPG elements feel like unnecessary complications tacked onto a simple game. You’ll finish the campaign realizing you haven’t seen everything your character can do, but you may wonder, ‘Do I really want to see more?’
Defender Chronicles 2 offers so many options and difficulty levels that you can play it over and over again. Hardcore fans of the series will want to do just that, but casual players are likely to have had enough of the game after just one trip around the kingdom.