The Roman Numeral part of my brain tells me that the title doesn't quite scan, but the tower-defending part feels nothing but glee: Protector IV.V, an expansion pack for Undefined's popular fantasy tower defense strategy series has just hit the internet! It's nowhere near a sequel, but it has a host of new quests and all the exploration and variety the series has displayed so far. Those who were put off by the cuteness of Little Protectors should enjoy the return to form, but really, it's a treat for all strategy-lovers looking for an complicated addictive challenge.
As before, the factions of the kingdom of Arkandia are caught in a twistily-plotted struggle for power, and spoils are there for the smart and strong to grab. After a quick character-generation personality quiz, you are thrown right into the action. Using the mouse to select a quest from the map screen and three heroes to fight for you, you enter the battle map. You start by selecting a mercenary, then place their units on the grid-map by clicking, holding [shift] for multiple units and hitting the [spacebar] to cancel. Different mercenaries have different units with different strengths, weaknesses, attacks, defenses, and specials, the better to use against the myriad enemies you meet. Click the "Start Wave" button to begin the enemy charge. Succeed in defeating all enemies, and you will find yourself with loot (to buy new units and level them up, along with store goods), experience (to upgrade individual units), reputation and equippable items, along with the possibility of new maps to play. Really, this is just a basic overview: to truly understand all the aspects of the game, a quick run-through of its predecessor or a trip to the in-game Protectorpedia might be in order, though the gameplay is easy enough to pick up... after a half-hour or so. Sadly, you can't load a save game from Protector IV, the result of some minor engine tweaks. But hey, if you don't like building armies from scratch, why on earth would you be a strategy fan in the first place?
Like the previous installments, Protector IV.V will not be for everyone: Its complexity makes for a steep learning curve, especially if it is your first look at the series. Even those familiar with the concept may wish for easier item sorting, a streamlined update system, a better sense of balance, a faster speed-up option or other nitpicks. Still, it has all the advantages of the game it is expanding: depth, customization, polish, clever writing (especially in the item names), and some cool art. I can't deny that Protector IV.V feels like "more of the same", but when it comes to quality, whether it's casual gaming or Grandma Tricky's Pumpkin Pie, I never turn down a second helping.