Flash Element Tower Defense 2
The first Flash Element Tower Defense was a kind of revolution. It single- handedly brought tower defense games out of the realm of Warcraft mods and into the world of free online gaming, kick-starting a new genre practically overnight. If you're interested, Dave Scott has published a blog entry about the technical issues and history of his seminal creation.
But Flash Element TD1 wore its influence on its sleeve, with sights and sounds ripped directly from Warcraft III. Now that Dave has teamed with Paul Preece to create Novel Concepts, he has built Flash Element Tower Defense 2 according to the Casual Collective aesthetic — the audio/visual style pioneered by Desktop Tower Defense and perpetuated by Buggle.
In other words, it's totally cute.
In case you've never played a tower defense game before, your job is to stop waves of creatures, or "creeps", from reaching the end of a twisty path by buying and constructing defensive towers. The towers fire upon the creeps as they pass by, each kill earning you money to buy additional towers and upgrade the ones you already have. The creeps get tougher each wave, forcing you to continually strengthen and re-evaluate your defenses.
In FETD2, the enemy is after your "elements", a group of colored orbs that permit you to build towers of specific types. If a creep gets past your defenses, it will grab an element and take it back along the path, giving you a second chance to destroy it. If you manage to kill the thief, it will drop the element right where it died, and future creeps won't have to transport it as far. If you lose all your elements, the game is over.
Several different species of creep will assault you, each requiring a different strategy. You will be forced early on to use cannons that can damage whole groups at once, and if you don't spread out your towers, the Shifters — who can disappear intermittently — will devastate you.
You only start out with two elements, and thus can only build two basic types of towers, but you can purchase more from the store once you earn some tokens. Every seven levels, the game grants you ten tokens, and besides the new tower types, you can use them to reset the positions of your elements, or to buy bonuses that will increase your score.
Analysis: Flash Element TD 2 isn't a show-off. It doesn't add many gameplay mechanics to the tower defense repertoire, but what it lacks in innovation and flashiness, it makes up for in sophistication and personality. The ultra-clean interface gives you all the information you need about your options and upgrades, and the game graphics have a crisp efficiency that is easy on the eyes. An adorable little "creep cam" lets you select a creep or a tower and get detailed stats on it. Keyboard shortcuts make switching between different tower types a breeze, and for the first time, you can select multiple towers to sell or upgrade by dragging a box around them.
The creeps have tons of character, way more than I've seen in any other tower defense game. Their little legs wiggle as they weave back and forth across the highway, yelping with dismay as they perish. The best part is possibly the voices. Each species has a different library of quips that they shout out at the beginning and end of each round, and some of these are pretty amusing. My favorites are the gloomy gray ones.
(Alert: One of the voice clips involves some light cursing, so preview the game before letting young 'uns play it.)
The game itself is rich in strategy. You can always build, upgrade, and sell towers (for 80% of their cost) on the fly. But in-between rounds, you can sell your towers for 100% of their total cost, which makes each wave sort of like a puzzle, if you want to completely re-position everything. The more money you have left over at the end of a round, the more money you gain in interest, so you will be rewarded for matching your firepower precisely to the resilience of the incoming creeps. But when you leave a tower in place, it gradually becomes stronger, gaining experience by making kills. So there is a constant tension between maximizing your efficiency and your overall power.
Though casual gamers will enjoy FETD2's lighthearted style and quick play time (there are only 50 levels, and you can press the Fast Forward key whenever you want to speed through a round), there is plenty here for the hardcore tower defense strategist. There are many effective tower combinations, and the shop is mostly devoted to different types of score bonuses, so if you're into the math, there are near-limitless options to max out your points. It's not hard to beat the game, but the competition for a high score will be fierce.
This is a worthy successor to the game that launched a thousand imitators.