Death From Above

HIGH A great twist on the Tower Defense formula!

LOW One of the later challenge missions had no margin for error.

WTF The story.

Full disclosure, I’m not a huge fan of Tower Defense games.

I like the idea of setting up a base and protecting it from attack, but the classic formula — place towers, watch enemies stream in, hope for survival – leaves me unsatisfied since players don’t usually have many options once the action kicks off. TDs are largely about ‘good’ planning and then watching results of said plan play out, but getting hit with unpredictable curveballs and being unable to respond is a recipe for frustration.

With this in mind, I tend to stay away from vanilla TDs, but I’m always curious about the offshoots and I randomly stumbled across a pretty significant outlier with Steampunk Tower 2 on the Switch eShop.

What makes it stand out? Where most TD titles ask players to install rows of towers along enemy routes, this one offers just one tower and every enemy makes a beeline for it! It’s a pretty big flip of the genre’s conventions, and it absolutely works.

Steampunk Tower 2 takes place on an alternate Earth, and mostly in Europe. There’s a talky story about an evil empire using poison (or maybe it was brainwashing?) to take over the world, and the only people who can stop it are some steampunk scientists who have a high-tech tower they dispatch when conflict is erupting. Honestly though, the plot never amounts to much, but the action is good.

Players can choose from dozens of battles across a map of faux-Europe, and before the selection is made, the game will let them know what kind of enemies will be present – infantry, tanks, robots, flying units and more.

At this point, ST2 will ask the player to load their tower up with various kinds of turrets. Gameplay happens on a 2D plane, so we get a horizontal view of things and both the left and right sides of the tower can equip up to five turrets, for a grand total of ten.

Each kind of turret is strong against a specific type of enemy and they fire automatically, so choosing a loadout carefully is important – shotguns clean up against troops on foot, but mortars firing dumbly at the ground will do nothing against incoming helicopters, for example.

This is not a bad start, but what put it over the top for me is that the turrets can be repositioned around the tower as needed in real time, and retracting them inside the tower helps them reload faster. This means that as a player who likes to take action, this Tower Defense game gives me options in the moment.

A battle might start with the tower having shotguns on the left side, but if footmen come from the right, just retract a turret, reposition the shotguns, and mow them down. Robots coming in from the left but the tesla ray is on the other side? Relocate the anti-air cannons and shift the tesla over to fry some walkers. Guns running dry up top? Pull them in and fill ‘em back up in a hurry because the next wave is coming.

The moment-to-moment management of moving turrets around while keeping them loaded never gets too overwhelming since the guns’ operation is handled by the game itself — the meat of the player experience is managing which gun goes where (and when!) and restocking the ammo. It might not seem like much on paper, but it’s exactly the right kind of busy and I had a blast operating this lone tower standing tall against entire armies.

The icing on the cake is that the turrets can be upgraded with resources earned in battle, and there are even diverging tech trees. It’s not a mind-boggling amount of depth, but it was enough to keep me experimenting with loadouts until the end. Is it better for a cannon to shoot further or to shoot faster? The answer is… it depends!

Steampunk Tower 2 offers a spin on Tower Defense that I’ve never seen before, and not only was it different, it was great! Both the ideas and the implementation are on point, and this unassuming, random purchase ended up being an unexpectedly clever and delightful surprise.

Rating: 8 out of 10

Disclosures: This game is developed by Dreamgate and published by Drageus Games. It is currently available on PC, Switch, PS4/5, and XBO/X/S. This copy of the game was obtained via paid download and reviewed on the Switch. Approximately 12 hours of play were devoted to the single-player mode, and the game was completed. There are no multiplayer modes.

Parents: According to the ESRB, this game is rated T and contains Blood and Violence. This “T” feels like a bit of a stretch to me. Tiny little human-shaped silhouettes do get destroyed by the tower in addition to a number of vehicles and robots, but it’s so abstract and unrealistic that I find it hard to worry about it too much? I’d have no problems letting a kid play this. There’s no salty language or any sexual content.

Colorblind Modes: There are no colorblind modes available in the options.

Deaf & Hard of Hearing Gamers: I played the entire game on mute and had no problems. Text cannot be resized or altered. there are no sound cues needed. This game is fully accessible.

Remappable Controls: No, this game’s controls are not remappable. The left stick moves a cursor, A confirms, B cancels, and the L/R buttons are used to flip between tabs in menus. The Switch touchscreen can also be used at the hub or in battle.

Brad Gallaway
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