New from Hero Interactive, creator of Bubble Tanks and Light Sprites, is a unique combination of tower defense and role playing genres (with a little BowMaster Prelude thrown in for good measure) called Storm Winds. Defending the last fort against an oncoming enemy, you must purchase and place turrets on the structure and keep them in good working order. As enemy waves fly in, select a turret and start firing. It's an intruiging combination of game types that's both strategy-oriented and action-packed.
A tutorial session shows you the basics of Storm Winds before you start your first mission. It's really straightforward, though, and if you have even a little experience in strategy games you'll feel right at home. Before each wave of enemies attack you have the chance to buy many different weapon turrets and support machinery to place on the fort to the left. You can only have three at a time, but a storage box lets you temporarily retire purchased equipment for later use. Each item has a unique use and weapons have different strengths and weaknesses. For example, the machine gun turret fires at a rapid rate but its bullets do little damage. Forming a balanced mix of guns is a key to survival, but how you stock your fort is ultimately your decision (and part of the fun).
When enemies appear, click on a turret, aim, and start firing. No automatic destruction for you! Enemies range from tiny 'copters to large airships and have a number of varied attacks between them. The end result is always the same, though: they hurt you, so you have to hurt them first. Each destroyed foe earns you some experience points and cash to buy more weapons after the round is over.
Storm Winds is free, of course, but developer Hero Interactive has included a special deluxe package that adds three new items to buy (meteor gun, anyone?), new enemies, more levels, and a second boss to defeat. You can grab the extra content for $5 and it's well worth the donation, but it isn't necessary to enjoy or beat the game.
Analysis: The first thing that drew me into Storm Winds was its visual presentation. Nice, sleek images create a very clean look that simultaneously conveys a somewhat "dirty" feel of desperation defending the last fort from seemingly endless swarms of foes. Good art direction, and the music fits the atmosphere like a glove.
One point worth mentioning is the lack of sound effects. I didn't notice it until well into the game, but guns firing and enemies exploding are all completely quiet. On the one hand it feels a bit awkward to have all this action without aural feedback, and on the other it creates an interesting separation between the player and the game, turning you into the non-participating war general who can make the tough decisions without having to feel the impact on a personal level (even though you directly cause the destruction). The game gets by just fine without the added noise, so perhaps the silent treatment was the best way to go.
As the waves of enemies get stronger, so does your arsenal. Storm Winds progresses quite nicely and without any sort of hassle, creating a very pleasant experience. For a war game, that is. The inclusion of difficulty levels is a nice touch, and being able to save and return to the game at any time makes it a winner.
An excellent blending of genres, Storm Winds gives you instant gratification and plenty of reasons to come back for more.