Prime World: Defenders Review (PC)

Prime World Defenders merges classic tower defence with card collection and deck-building for a deeply customisable strategic experience. Tower Defence games are essentially made up of a number of different puzzles that ask you to find the solution in each level using the tools you're given. Which tower should I place, where should I put it and which of them should I prioritise for upgrades? Prime World Defenders will be very familiar to fans of the genre, but in many ways goes deeper, by giving agency to the player.

Prime World Defenders rubbed me the wrong way instantly upon installation. Tower Defence is all about the mechanics and satisfaction of tower placement, shuffling enemies through your devastating array of towers and traps, watching as you rack up the kills to power even more death-dealing constructions. Instead here, we're greeted with an interminably long, dull cut-scene detailing a mostly irrelevant back-story about two rival nations, who actually don't play a particularly big role in Defenders at all. Defenders is a tie-in game for the upcoming MMO-MOBA hybrid from Nival and this introduction serves only to distract and extend the not very compelling tutorial aspect to the game. Perhaps by necessity, Tower Defence games are slow starters, introducing you to the basics of tower placement and how to create combinations between your towers and as you stroll through the early chapters of the campaign - you'd be forgiven for nodding off.

The thin line between pleasingly colourful and eye-wateringly garish is often breached

Yet while the early chapters are slow and uninteresting, you'll sharply regain your focus as the meta elements of the game are finally revealed and you come to realise there's a game of startling depth and fiendish difficulty hidden beneath. The focus of Prime World Defenders isn't merely on the clearing of waves and the creation of towers, but on building up a hand of cards that allows you to select and upgrade towers between levels, as well as choose spells and create powerful combinations. You can fuse towers together to create more effective versions, imbue them with elements to increase their efficiency and unlock talents to increase your options. Going into later levels for the first time you'll probably fail the first few times as you come to terms with the nuance of each layout. Each set of enemies will force you to consider how exactly you need to configure your hand for this latest challenge.

Boss battles will throw powerful enemies your way and you'll have to consider their strengths and weaknesses when formulating a plan to take them down. For instance the first boss is a slow mover with very high health, your best bet is probably to accentuate that weakness by corralling him down a path where slowing towers are combined with numerous single-target damage dealers. Or perhaps you found a card that gives you a tower capable of stunning enemies briefly and you can use that to your advantage. On the other hand, if – like me – you foolishly chose to focus on upgrading your towers with powerful area of effect damage you'll find yourself extremely ineffective. Fortunately, repeatable sub-missions surround many of the levels, effectively allowing you to grind yourself out of a tight spot. While 'grinding' is never a term I'd use with much fondness, the chance element in finding new cards for your deck makes it more palatable. With a lucky draw you can come out of any level with a powerful new tool at your disposal.

One of the best things about Prime World Defenders, especially coming to it after other Tower Defence games, is that the store where you buy card-packs with a chance of gaining a rare tower, the talent tree and the forge all use in-game currency. It should go without saying perhaps for a title priced at around $15 that you're getting everything. But it's refreshing to find a Tower Defence title that isn't burdened with in-app purchases, even though you wouldn't expect that from a PC game. While the game is presented nicely, the comic-book cut-scenes are largely a bore. The menus and aesthetic outside of missions is pleasing enough, but within levels Prime Worlds lacks the charm of titles like Kingdom Rush. Your towers are for the most part rather ugly constructions and enemies are made up of Kobolds, Trolls, Harpies and other stock fantasy types. Sound effects too are a little laboured, with disappointingly little impact to many of the more useful towers.

Is there a more welcome sight in gaming than a chest overflowing with loot?

Prime World Defenders' card collection ends up being the game's saving grace, allowing you to to create a largely unique hand with the many towers, spells and upgrades available. While occasionally you'll hit a brick wall where you'll find the need to grind to be able to overcome a certain level, beating the really testing levels is very satisfying, especially when you devised and executed a strategy perfectly. With so many combinations and towers available, it's perhaps less obvious what the strategy for each level is and it can be frustrating to repeat the same level multiple times without making any real progress. But for the most part you'll have the right tools at your disposal, deducing how best to utilise them and which cards should form a part of your hand is the key to success.

With a long campaign, randomly generated side missions and many cards to collect, Prime World Defenders offers fans of the Tower Defence genre a lasting and varied challenge, with new elements being added throughout. If you're used to playing Tower Defence on a mobile device, it's a welcome and somewhat relieving feeling to know that you won't constantly be tempted to head to the store when you come up against a significant obstacle. While grind is present and the game could both look and sound better, for the puzzle-hearted among you it's a solid title, with addictive elements as you expand your deck and power-up your defences.

Top Game Moment: Seeing a once seemingly invincible boss fall to his demise

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