Tower defense is one of those gaming genres where you can really just keep switching the skin and the bad guys, and if you like the genre you’ll be happy with the game. Think about it, that doesn’t work for puzzle games, first person shooters or even side scrollers. Those formats still require the individual physics or level designs to make them fun, but with tower defense you just need some tower types and enemies and you start building away. With that in mind, this latest tower defense game is just another tower defense game.
300 Dwarves HD has kind of a Lord of the Rings skin to the tower defense model, including many of the same heroes and enemies – dwarves, orcs, etc. In each level, the dwarves have to stop the enemy “greenskins” from breaking through their gates. You pick from five types of defense structures and choose spaces on the map to place them, hoping for the best combination to fire away at incoming hordes. As you earn more money from killing monsters, you can upgrade your existing structures or add new ones to the empty slots.
The basics are clear. Three of the towers you can build fire projectiles. Rangers throw axes, riflemen shoot guns and my favorite are the mortar towers that launch powerful explosives. The rune tower is surprisingly effective because it slows approaching enemies down. Pair it with a firing tower and you can zap a lot of orcs that way. As cool as it sounds, the Forge (flame tower), is the most disappointing. It turns out enemies don’t just walk right into flames.
The more treasure you earn by completing levels, the more you can upgrade the five tower types. You’ll want to go back to earlier levels once you acquire more powerful towers, so you can wipe out more greenskins and earn more treasure which you can then use to buy new towers in subsequent missions.
Most of the game is waiting around and watching your towers work, which I guess is the point of all tower defense games so you can’t really complain. Thankfully you can speed up the attack in 300 Dwarves but you won’t want to use this feature constantly. You’ll have to slow back down to normal speed to address gaps in your security lines and occasionally use a god weapon on attackers who slip through.
300 Dwarves is really hard. You’ll think you’re doing a good job zapping 90% of the enemies but still get a “mission failed” screen halfway through and have to start over. In each level you’ll have to rejigger your towers because the more obvious places you put them didn’t actually protect you. You can get really antsy watching your towers, feeling helpless until you earn enough money to buy an extra mortar tower to help you out.
The graphics are great with really detailed environments. There’s a wide variety of locations, from mountains to dungeons and castle gates. It’s way too small on an iPhone though, so you’ll want to focus on the iPad version. There’s a lot of text between each levels and you really can’t read it. The descriptions of the weapons and upgrades are even smaller, and in cursive, so forget it on the iPhone. The dwarves talk to you in English so the sound is good, plus the epic battle music adds to the thrill.
300 Dwarves HD is a solid tower defense game. It had me a little too frustrated, and I wouldn’t have stuck it out through the later missions if I didn’t have to review it for work. Who needs that when you can play another game and feel like you’re accomplishing more? It was fun enough that I didn’t mind putting in the work, and satisfying those times when you did put the rangers in exactly the right spot to save your castle.