It has to be said, Deathtrap's a pretty appropriate name for this game. That's what it's all about, see. Traps, the placing of said traps, and ensuring the death of anything silly enough to wander into aforementioned traps. Hence, Deathtrap!
A standard tower defence game at its core set in a network of broken, floating islands in a place known as the 'Ink', enemies wander in from entry points dotted around the map, amble along a predetermined path towards the player's home base – a portal into their home realm in this instance – and if enough of the belligerent sods make it through without being squished into a fine paste along the way it's time for a level restart.
Clearly then, it's in the player's best interests to transform the initially trap-free landscape into something resembling a medieval mincing machine before the enemies start pouring in. The basic concept is simple. Enemies go in, enemies are shocked, stabbed, impaled, burnt alive, doused in acid, generally mutilated in a myriad selection of weird and wonderful ways, and the only thing that remains in the end is a pile of blood, guts and bone fragments. Oh, and loot. More on that later.
A variety of traps can be erected or upgraded on predetermined spots at the cost of some essence (a type of currency which is gained through defeating enemies) and they all have various attributes such as slowing down enemies or simply doling out huge amounts of damage in short periods of time. Naturally, certain traps are strong against certain monsters and less effective against others, so selecting the right tool for the job is paramount. Spear trap, flame jets or acid bath, sir?
Deathtrap is slightly less passive than many tower defence games as the main character – which can be a mercenary, sorceress or the currently unavailable marksman depending on whichever class is selected at the outset – can wade into battle themselves and start chopping up kobolds for fun and profit. It's a good thing too because certain adversaries are able to circumvent traps in various ways and the hero may have to slaughter any demons interfering with them or get them back in working order after they've been encased in solid ice or whatever to keep the stream of pain flowing nicely.
Enemies also drop gold, health potions and other types of equipment and loot which can be equipped to proved the usual stat bonuses for defence, attack and special moves. In between levels characters can be upgraded in various ways. Shaving seconds off trap cooldowns, for example, doing more damage per attack or garnering more essence per kill. They're typically slight gains at first, but add up over time.
Deathtrap's graphics seem slightly generic in a slightly gothic, steampunkish sense as a result of its setting, but it does the job and doesn't obscure the minion slaughter too much once things get hectic and the limbs start flying. Sound, likewise, is pretty pedestrian – although the limited amount of voice quips per character will undoubtedly get old pretty fast.
The other thing of note is that Deathtrap offers co-operative play so that teaming up with friends to massacre a horde of slavering beasties is never more than a stone's throw away, and a map editor to craft some truly devious levels that will test the skill and mental acuity of even the most battle hardened players out there. Or make a ridiculously easy, one sided map full of cannon fodder with dozens of cannons pointed at them as they emerge in order to farm items. Whichever!
Honestly, Deathtrap seems fine. From the early access version that I played for this preview, it's a fun diversion that does a solid job of offering up a slightly more involved tower defence game than usual. I didn't come away from my time with it gagging for more, but smushing beasts into a fine paste remained enjoyable throughout. As an early access game it's constantly undergoing balancing and further development, though what's on offer right now is already competitive with other games in the genre. It just needs a little more spark to truly stand out from the crowd.