Reclaiming the Throne
Being the tower defense fanatic that I am, I was elated to stumble upon Protector: Reclaiming the Throne while checking to see what this week's Kongai's card challenge was. Developed by indie development team Undefined, Protector: Reclaiming the Throne is sort of a sequel/upgrade to the original Protector, a tile-based tower defense strategy game with a focus on unit upgrades. In fact, Protector 2 has only two basic units; a mage and a warrior (although both can be heavily modified, even into different classes like archers and rogues). The mage and warrior both have strengths and weaknesses, the most prominent being the low damage but high range of the mage (and vice-versa for the warrior). But through an amazingly deep system of experience levels, class choices and skills, these two units can be configured into many different sub-types.
As mentioned, Protector 2 is more of an upgrade to the original Protector than a full-fledged sequel. Released only a few months after the original, Protector 2 doesn't offer a new graphics scheme or gameplay engine. It's basically just a bigger, better version; probably the game that the developers imagined from the start, but finally had the chance to complete after the original's release and player feedback. Unfortunately the interface is still a bit clunky and the graphics are sub-par, especially when you compare the complexity and gameplay of Protector 2 alongside modern tower defense games. Some gamers might be turned off before they've finished the first level, never discovering the great underlying gameplay that fans of the genre can sink their teeth into.
At face value, Protector 2 follows the footsteps of most tower defense games, featuring a map with a pre-defined path for "creeps" to traverse. Your defense units can be placed on any "paved" tile along the road, with a visual radius marker representing the unit's attack range. Creeps are sent in waves, and you control the start of each wave by clicking "Initiate Wave" in the lower-right corner. Mouse-clicks handle everything you control, with the exception of a couple hotkeys mentioned in-game. Before each wave starts, a window pops up that displays information about the coming wave, such as element strengths and weaknesses, speed, hit points and more. These "elements" play a big role in Protector 2 (physical, fire, frost, poison and energy).
Before I go any further, I should mention that you'll really want to check out the "Protectopedia" in the main menu. It's an easy-to-understand help guide that explains all aspects of the gameplay mechanics. It's especially useful after you've first played the tutorial stage, so you can find answers to the questions that no doubt arose from your first foray into this complex upgrading system. But to try and sum it up, most creeps have a resistance to one element and a weakness to another. When one of your units first levels up, you can choose its own elemental path to follow. Every time the unit levels up after that, there will be even more dynamic abilities to choose from.
Analysis: To entirely explain Protector 2's gameplay would take double the word space of our usual reviews. I find that a positive thing; a tower defense browser game with above-average complexity. For example, depending on your play style, you can even choose to follow one of three schools of gameplay, called skills (accessible only between levels). The skill menu features three different skill trees in which you can spend attribute points to gain new abilities or inherent effects. Each time you beat a level, you get one point to spend. If you're going for the long haul and planning on playing many levels, these skill trees can pay off in the long run because they will enhance your effectiveness in whatever strategy you decide to follow. It's basically like an RPG character's "spec," as in Diablo or WoW.
If you're a fan of strategy games (tower defense in particular), you'll probably find Protector 2 one of the better titles released since Gemcraft. Just make sure you give it a fair chance and play the tutorial, or at least check out the help guide.