Developer: EXOR Studios
Publisher: EXOR Studios
Release Date: 30/08/2017
Format(s): Playstation 4 (Reviewed), Xbox One, PC
Do you like tower defense games? What about twin-stick shooters? If you answered yes to both of those questions, you’re in for a treat – X-Morph: Defense blends the two genres together to offer an action-packed Earth vs. Aliens experience that offers as much strategy as it does all-out shooting. It makes for a thoroughly entertaining video game that might actually sway gamers who typically aren’t fans of either genre.
X-Morph: Defense features a story that sees Earth taking on Alien Invaders that want nothing more than to destroy everything, kill everyone, and pretty much rule over the planet. It’s what you’d expect from any Alien really (come on, we all know E.T. was a bit shifty). There’s a twist though – rather than defending Earth, you actually take on the role of the Aliens yourself. It’s a neat change to the formula that feels different to your traditional Alien invasion storyline, though that doesn’t mean you should expect some big gripping narrative; it’s still full of your typical clichés, even if it is seen from a different perspective to the norm. Still, the storyline does enough to accompany the hectic action-packed gameplay nicely.
In an unusual twist of genres, X-Morph: Defense combines tactical tower defense elements with twin-stick shooting, with the player able to co-ordinate all of their defenses whilst getting stuck into the action themselves. Now I’ve never been a huge fan of the tower defense genre, but I’ve always loved twin-stick shooters. The combination of the two has made for an experience that I’ve thoroughly enjoyed though. I’ve not just put minimal thought into my strategy and just focused on shooting either, with the game offering the most satisfying experience when you utilise a balance of both. Believe me, it’s so rewarding to see a strategically destructive plan come together in-game, especially when you’re taking part in the plan yourself.
Each stage of the game sees you taking on multiple waves of Earth’s soldiers, with plenty of ground troops and assault units mixing it up with aerial fighters that are desperate to take you down. The main objective in each stage is to protect your Harvester Core that is sucking the planet of its life, so you’ve got to utilise both defensive units as well as your own offensive skills to keep it operational.
Each wave of enemies is made up of two phases: the planning phase and the attack phase. During the planning phase you’ll clearly see where enemies are going to come from, so you can place down your defense units along their path to ensure you’re ready for their onslaught. Then when the attack phase starts they’ll start marching in, though fortunately you can dive right into the action to help out the defensive effort too. Interestingly, you can keep reinforcing your defensive units as well as build new ones during the attack phase too, so you’ll never find yourself too overwhelmed – at least in the planning phase you can do it without the worry of enemies attacking you though.
X-Morph: Defense has some pretty clever elements in place to assist your defensive efforts, with the player actually able to block off enemy routes by destroying buildings or using special laser towers. It means you can force the enemy to follow a specific path, which if littered with your most powerful units will typically mean the end for them. It’s a neat idea and places an emphasis on strategic thought, with X-Morph: Defense never simply relying on just the twin-stick shooting efforts of the player. You can’t exploit the lasers though since the game doesn’t allow you to block off all enemy pathways, so they’ll always find a way through to you one way or the other – having a hand in dictating which way they go can be the difference between success or failure though.
That doesn’t mean your ship itself isn’t powerful enough to take down your enemies. You’ve got a wide array of weaponry available to you, each of which are effective at taking down the varying types of enemies that’ll come your way. One of your weapons is particularly effective at taking down airborne enemies for example, whilst your bombs are great at taking out clusters of foes. You’ll unlock new abilities as you progress through the game too, so you’ll always feel empowered. It’s a good job too, especially since the screen will get completely swarmed with enemies on occasions.
Visually, X-Morph: Defense is a really attractive game, with some slick unit design mixed in with some incredibly detailed environments. The game’s destructive elements look superb too, especially when you’re wiping out buildings and unleashing hell on the world around you. It really gives off this ‘Alien Invasion’ vibe that makes it feel like you’re actually reaping destruction across the world and wiping out the human race.
The only disappointing thing about the environments was that they never feature any distinguishable landmarks that you could destroy. You go all over the world in the game and whilst locations do feel like a decent representation of the countless cities and environments you’re visiting, you never see anything remarkable like the White House, Eiffel Tower, or Statue of Liberty. Still, it’s just a minor issue, but it would’ve gone a long way in providing a more authentic experience.
Whilst X-Morph: Defense’s blend of tower defense and twin-stick shooting is a lot of fun, it can feel quite repetitive over time. Don’t get me wrong, you do visit different environments and utilise upgraded weaponry, but levels always felt the same from a gameplay perspective. It can be pretty long too, with a fairly lengthy campaign and plenty of optional missions for you to take on along the way. The fact they all consist of doing the same tasks over and over again could make some of them lose their appeal though, even if the gameplay is really fun for the most part.
At least playing in the game’s local co-op mode adds to the fun. There’s always something incredibly satisfying about unleashing destruction with a friend, so naturally X-Morph: Defense’s action-packed gameplay suits it perfectly. Neither player is ever restricted either, with both being able to place defensive units as well as shoot down foes. It was just really enjoyable to play through, whilst the addition of an extra player could actually be incredibly useful – X-Morph: Defense can be tough at times, so having a helping hand can be the difference between a successful invasion or another victory for humanity.
X-Morph: Defense is a hell of a lot of fun, with the mish-mashing of genres proving to make for a thoroughly entertaining experience. It can start to feel a little repetitive at times, but the all-out destruction, tactical gameplay, and great co-op modes ensure that your time killing Ali- I mean, HUMAN scum – will be well spent.