The Humans Never Stood A Chance

HIGH Hearing human comms as I defeated all their forces.

LOW Failing toward the end of a long mission.

WTF Being given a bronze rating (or lower!) when I thought I did well.

It’s been a long time since I’ve played an honest-to-god shoot-‘em-up or tower defense game. Tower defense leaves me feeling uninvolved, and shmups are often too visually busy for me to enjoy. X-Morph: Defense, a combination of both genres for the Switch, was quick to dispel both of those worries for me.

As a commander of aliens invading Earth, players can fly around 14 levels in a spaceship while they defend their resource harvesters against countless waves of human military forces.

Right off the bat, X-Morph eliminated my biggest issue with tower defense — being left with nothing to do while waves of enemies come in. The twin-stick shooting action in the ship kept me engaged while foes spawned, and I could (when needed) quickly build new defenses at will as I gained more resources.

At the beginning of each level, enemy units and the path they will take to the harvesters I needed to protect were visible, and a wave of enemies doesn’t start until the player initiates it. This left me with plenty of time to think about where to build my defense towers and where to place fences that block enemy paths – the ultimate goal, as in most TD games, is to make enemies travel as circuitous a route as possible while exposing them to as much fire as possible from my defenses.

Enemy units are easy to identify based on size alone — the bigger they are, the stronger and slower they are. This goes for air units as well, making it easy to choose which defense towers should go where. Thanks to this readability, it was a snap to figure out where to put my anti-aircraft emplacements, and where to put mortars, for example.  

There are a good amount of upgrades available for the player’s spaceship, base, and towers, all allowing for different strategies. I ultimately landed on a balance between beefing up my ship and my defenses, and it’s not possible to exclusively do one over the other, but the option to put more weight on shooting or building is nice to have.

Every other level features a monolithic boss, each with different abilities, weaknesses and patterns to learn. The climactic encounter in Germany especially stood out — while most enemy units would creep toward my base, this boss fired artillery from extreme distances, demanding that I fight with my ship while frantically rebuilding towers as they were destroyed. In a last ditch effort, the boss made a suicide charge toward my base that I had to quickly adjust for.

That particular fight is X-Morph at its best, but those moments are brief compared to the bulk of the campaign. While the options and choices kept me engaged, missions tended to drag on well after I felt I’d proven myself in each area — an issue that becomes exacerbated as the enemy waves get tougher and denser.

However, that’s a relatively small complaint for a title that successfully combines two genres that I’m usually not keen on into something interesting and enjoyable. X-Morph gives the player ample time and information to strategize, and zipping around in the spaceship offers a level of real-time agency uncommon in tower defense games. It feels odd to say, but I’m glad the aliens conquered Earth.

Rating: 8 out of 10

Disclosures: This game is developed by EXOR Studios and published by EXOR Studios. It is currently available on Switch, PC, PS4 and XBO. This copy of the game was obtained via publisher and reviewed on the Switch. Approximately 11 hours of play were devoted to the single-player mode, and the game was completed. There are no multiplayer modes on Switch.

Parents: According to the ESRB, this game is rated T and contains Violence and Blood. Enemy and friendly units do explode with blood, but the overall style and top down angle made it feel more like I was playing with action figures.

Colorblind Modes: There are no colorblind modes.

Deaf & Hard of Hearing Gamers: Enemy pathing and spawns are clearly marked and notified. I didn’t run into any issues while playing without sound. Subtitles can be somewhat hard to read when playing handheld on the Switch and they are not resizable.

Remappable Controls: This game’s controls are fully remappable.

Kyle Bender
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