Hero Interactive described the inspiration behind their latest game, Star Forge, as follows: "it had to be simple, it had to have a lot of action, a base you can build, and explosions- LOTS of explosions." In a better world, I would have just copy/pasted that quote, posted the link, and called it a day. You can read the rest of my review if you like, but that's all you really need to know about this strategy game that nestles snugly on the line between the general defense and the niche tower defense categories. Don't look for much of a plot, though. You have a base. Some ships want to explode your base. You must explode them first! Ah, simplicity.
The game provides the tutorial as you play, and new options are unlocked gradually, which on the one hand is great because you don't get overwhelmed by too much at once. On the other hand, bad choices you make early on can really hamper you later, so you'll probably want to restart the game at least once keeping later levels in mind. You start out with a base that is only able to build basic towers. You can arrange these towers as you like, but once you put them down, you won't be able to move them at all (except for much later in the game, when you will be able to recycle them). Use the mouse to arrange the towers around your base quickly, because waves of enemies are going to start coming in from all directions. Hopefully, your towers will make short work of them.
As you defeat waves of enemies, you'll progress up in levels, and unlock new kinds of upgrades and abilities. You start with a basic damage and defense upgrade, but soon you'll have the ability to increase range, make your projectiles explosives, slow enemies down, set bombs, heal units, and more. Each tower can take up to six upgrades. You switch your base from producing one kind of upgrade to another by clicking on its button. Your base will keep producing the same thing over and over until you change it to another thing, going by a timer which may be fairly fast (eg heals) or slow (some of the better tower upgrades and late game tower production). That's a good thing, because your enemies are going to get tougher and tougher as well.
You must play the game all in one session; there is no saving mid-game. Your game ends when you beat all the levels or when you die, although you can restart from the level before you died with a high score wipe. The game can get quite processor intensive, so if you have a slower machine you might want to click on the quality control in the lower right. The same area also includes controls for music, sound, and a pause button.
Analysis: Like many defense titles, emotions tend to run between cockiness and sheer panic when playing Star Forge, depending on whether at the moment you're beating the waves back effortlessly and racking up extra upgrades, or frantically hovering over your base waiting for the timer to tick down and screaming at the monitor "I TOTALLY DRAGGED THAT HEAL ON YOU!" as a unit explodes. When you play through the first time, things can really come out of nowhere to devastate you. For example, my first play through, I focused on beefing up a few towers with six slots filled rather than building lots of towers with one or two slots filled. Then the range upgrade was unlocked, and along with it, enemies which settled just out of range and fired on my towers. I couldn't do anything to improve my towers' range because they had all six slots filled, so they were sitting ducks. I was frantically trying to build more towers to upgrade with range and save them, but it took too long and all but one was destroyed by enemies.
I ran into similar "Well, if I had known that was going to happen, I wouldn't have done that!" issues later as well, though none of them were as devastating as that one. So this isn't a game you should expect to beat on the first play, unless you are lucky enough to make the right choice before being given the data that allows you to know it's the right choice. To be fair, I made some right choices by serendipity as well, clustering some units in such a way that I was able to use cluster upgrades that I didn't know were coming the next level.
To a certain extent the fun you have will depend on your personality. If you're the kind of person who likes to play tower defense games like a general in main HQ, analyzing wave data twenty steps ahead and relying totally on planning, this probably isn't your game. On the other hand, if you think a more field marshal kind of war experience sounds more thrilling, with unexpected challenges just making the triumph that much sweeter, and if you take pride in your speed and your ability to change strategies on the fly, Star Forge is going to really suck you in. You'll probably even be crazy enough to play the game again on insane mode, or the appropriately named Awesome mode available only at Armor Games, with your shirt off saying "I love the smell of explosions in the morning!" I, for one, salute you.