Nobody ever said that volunteering to be one of the first experimental path defenders would be easy. Leaving your body and pregnant wife behind while you undertake a hyperspace mission to fight millions of aliens using only the power of your consciousness is not going to make you feel any better. Thus begins the intriguing plot of Immortal Defense, another offering in the very popular "tower defense" genre created by RPG Creations. If you are about to say "Oh no, another Tower Defense game", think again, because Immortal Defense has some aces up its sleeve.
The premise of Immortal Defense is similar to other tower defense games you may have played: creeps walk a line and you must annihilate them before they finish by placing lots of damage-dealing towers. Use your mouse to move your ethereal alter ego on screen, which, in a nice twist to the genre, can directly shoot at enemies, adding a nice arcade-y feel to a static genre. Drag and drop the icons located at the bottom of the screen to place eleven different kinds of towers, each representing an aspect of your personality (the "Fear Point" slows enemies, the "Pride Point" gains attack power after each kill). Left clicking with your mouse will target a single creep, making all the towers in range concentrate their shots on it, while right clicking will make you charge a slow but powerful attack which will prove very useful against certain enemies.
Defeating enemies gives you cache (money) that you can use to buy new towers, but since your balance carries over to subsequent stages, you may want to save some for later levels. Between each level, another page of the obscure and intriguing story unfolds. It's obvious that RPGCreations put a lot of effort in creating a sound background story for the game, which indeed succeeds in keeping the player interested throughout the game.
Graphics-wise the game is pretty minimalist, resembling an improved version of Tempest or Asteroids, but the special effects more than make up for the simplistic design. Although the sound effects are nothing to write home about, the orchestral score is truly remarkable and perfectly fits the weird sci-fi universe.
Analysis: There are a lot of things to like in Immortal Defense. Let's start with something that could be easily overlooked at a first glance: the extremely deep and intricate gameplay. Sure, things start off pretty easy and hey, you could even complete the 2 demo campaigns with little effort using the default settings, but each mission can be played at 10 different difficulty levels, and believe me, the higher ones are TOUGH. One of the things I liked the most, though, it's the fact that each level is generally quite short (no more than 5 minutes) although there are some pleasant exceptions. This allows you to play the game even if you have nothing but 10 minutes to kill. Another selling point is the compelling story: which other tower defense game has kept you awake till 3AM?
Immortal Defense is not without its faults, the most notable being the fact that the action can sometimes get very confusing. This is in part due to the design of the creeps, which are a bit too dark and hard to spot the one you really want to target. Another one may be the price tag. With so many enjoyable freeware defense games around, it's easy to summarily dismiss this game's price as "too high". The guys at RPGCreations probably know this, and that's why they put together a very, very long freeware demo version. The demo alone can last 3 or even 4 hours depending on how much you want to improve each single level score, and that's more than enough play time to help you decide whether the game is worth $22.95 or not. In the meantime, go download the demo and have a psychedelic tower-defensive trip with it.
Patrick Dugan phases into path space to say: I did some QA testing (unpaid, out of LOVE) on Immortal Defense back in April, when it was in Beta, but bought it anyway when it was released just to play the balanced version and unlock the secret levels (which extend the story in a really cool way). The game immediately struck me as something dank, one of those rare games whose generic fun is delivered in an iconic and unique way. You're not going to be disappointed there, so you owe it to yourself to try the demo.
As far as making a purchase goes, I can say that the writing and narrative design here is among the best I've seen in a long time in any indie game, much less a tower defense game. "I love you grandpa" is a piece of text that haunted me, leaving me shaken with wonder and existential horror, for hours after I finished the game. The only other game that made me feel that way, pushed over the top by a single piece of crux writing, was Planescape: Torment's "what can change the nature of a man?" Play Immortal Defense, then become enlightened, that's totally worth the price tag.