It was the best of times, it was the worst of times... No, actually it's just the worst of times. How else could you describe the situation in Menara Games' turn-based strategy/tower defense mix Demonrift TD? As the Baroness Milena, you command the last of the troops of the kingdom of Emaeron, which has fallen to the forces of a demon horde. Using your mouse to control the various aspects of the game, it is your duty to restore the empire and send the enemy back to whatever depths from which they came.
The turn-based portion of the game is played from the map screen. This is the lighter of the hybrid halves as there's not much strategy involved in it. Once you've recaptured a town (in the tower defense part) you earn one of three different types of resources from that town, the type indicated in the corner of the town's icon. The resources (coin, anvil and crystal) can be spent in the Training Camp to improve and purchase unit types for the tower defense levels. They can also be used to construct a building in your towns, each of which give different benefits to your game in both strategy and tower defense.
Most of your efforts toward glory for Emaeron will be spent in the tower defense levels, which are entered by clicking a town on the map screen with a red flag by it. While there are four total 'towers' to build, the game starts you out with just two: the cheap swordsmen and the archers, which are your only defense against flying creatures. Towers can only be built on the hexagons indicated on the level screen. The thing to figure out is whether it's better to build more towers to attack a greater number of enemies or to upgrade your existing towers to create up to three units (all the defenders from a particular tower attack the same enemy). 'And what are we defending exactly?' you may be asking. Well, you're protecting ancient shrines which provide vital information toward permanently defeating these vile demons. The shrines have a specific defense counter which runs down for each enemy that reaches it. The number of counters left at the end of the level determines your rank for the level, and thus the amount of resources you're rewarded for your win. It's not clear how defending these shrines regains the town for you, but a win's a win, right?
Analysis: The tower defense portion of Demonrift TD lives up to expectations. It's nice to see a tweak to the usual formula. The graphics are nice with a mélange of paint-like backgrounds and cute character sprites. Even the enemies are cute in a demonic, 'I'm going to eat your face' kind of way. Where this game struggles is the imbalance between the two aspects of the game. It posits itself as a mix, but the strategy portion is so light as to be unnecessary to even mention. There are times when your towns can be attacked by the enemy, but you don't see the enemy movements or any other indicator of what they're doing, so it's more of a random event.
It's great to see a developer make the effort to update a game after its release based on player feedback, which Menara Games kindly did on this title. It shows humility and a true desire to create a game people will enjoy. Despite a few issues with the turn-based strategy side of this game, and the fact that the combat is on the easy side for a tower defense, it's definitely a solid play with an interesting story and cast of characters. Will you be able to fight back the demons, and what will become of Emaeron if you do?