How do you make a tower defense game stand out? This over-saturated genre has seen just about every variation imaginable, but that hasn’t stopped the developers at Prophetic Sky from testing the waters with Spires. This game attempts to differentiate itself with an epic fantasy narrative. But with unremarkable gameplay, dull writing, and an absurdly short campaign, it does little to make the case for story-driven tower defense games.
The story is centered around a group of young Makers, who have various magical abilities. They can create the titular spires– essentially magic-infused turrets– and they also apparently help people in some fashion. Aside from that, what a Maker actually is isn’t adequately explained.
You also don’t get much of a sense of who the characters actually are, aside from the fact that one of them really, really enjoys taking baths. The young group is forced to fight off an army controlled by a mysterious young woman, who herself has conflicting reasons for attacking.
Giantism has its perks.
Spires is full of bland dialog that frequently interrupts the experience. Chatty cut-scenes bookend each stage and are frequently interspersed amongst the action as well. This wouldn’t be so bad if the narrative was actually interesting, but it’s not. It’s just a remarkably boring sword and sorcery tale. This is especially disappointing considering that the story is one of the few selling points for Spires.
Worse still, the first episode, which currently is the only one available to play, can be completed in under an hour. So not only is the story bad, it’s ridiculously short. There are multiple levels of difficulty and some puzzle and survival modes to beef up the play time, but there still isn’t a whole lot here.
Meanwhile, the gameplay is your run-of-the-mill tower defense game with a few new ideas that aren’t implemented all that well. You have a place to defend, enemies come at you in waves, and you can place automatically firing spires in their way to stop them.
You’ll control different Makers throughout the story, each of whom has control over different types of spires, but they all do the same thing. One may shoot ice and the other fire, but the end result is the same. More useful spires cost more energy to use, which you can collect from fallen foes. Energy can also be used to upgrade existing towers. So basically, it’s like every other tower defense game you’ve played.
Put your tracking skills to use.
The only somewhat new ideas come in the form of spells and magically powered plots of land. The spells can be dragged from the corner of the screen to wherever you want to use them, and they range from a black sludge that slows down enemies to a ferocious bear that will kill anything in its path. They’re useful, but even on the hardest setting Spires is easy enough that you won’t need to use them.
The magical plots of land, meanwhile, can imbue spires with special abilities if you place one on them. Some will provide light in a night level, others will make the spires shoot harmful poison. But for the most part, these plots are located in places where they are strategically useless, defeating the purpose of having them at all.
Throw in some ugly, dated visuals with bad animation and there’s really little reason to get excited about with Spires. A narrative-driven tower defense game with a bad story and generic gameplay isn’t exactly what the genre needs. It’s not terrible overall, but with so many other options out there, Spires just doesn’t make the cut.