Review: geoDefense Swarm


Following on from the success of the Xbox Live title geoDefense, geoDefense Swarm expands the concepts presented in the original title based around the 'tower defense' genre, and manages to improve on the original title without destroying the core concept.

Author: Microsoft Game Studios

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As the title suggests, you are the defense, with the simple goal of stopping any of the various enemy creatures making their way to the exit tile. If they do, you lose a life. Lose them all, and it's the end of the level.

To stop them, you can build up a number of towers with various weaponry. They all cost money, and while you start with only enough money to build a few basic towers, you get cash whenever you destroy an enemy. To buy more towers. More towers with better weaponry. And you'll need them, because it's not just the occasional enemy, it's waves and waves of enemies, that never stop, that swarm all over the grid to escape.

Again, the clue is in the name.

   geoDefese Swarm geoDefese Swarm 

The big change in geoDefense Swarm is that it takes place on a hex grid (as opposed to the square grid of the previous title). This provides far more options for you to lay out your towers and create channels and tunnels that you force the swarm of enemies to go down. This is a pretty traditional Tower Defence strategy, ensuring that the cheap weapons create areas where the swarms linger so your heavy weapons (that take a long time to reload) have plenty time to cause a lot of damage to the swarm.

The swarm have a little intelligence - they will always try to move towards the exit hexes and will never stop moving, so they are relatively predictable, but unlike the first geoDefense title, will not follow a fixed path. It's just that there are so many of them. You'll need to continue building more towers, more complicated tracks, and work on weapon placement. The easy levels are just that, but as you progress there are more waves in each level, more swarms, and you need to focus because you can barely afford to let any of them through. Neither can you block off the path to the exit, you have to always leave an option.

That's what gives geoDefense Swarm it's tactical nous, the mix of planning and frenetic game play (as you have a rest between waves to build and tweak your tower layout), coupled with a simple tap and drag interface to select and place towers, upgrade them (again, which costs money), and selling them back for half price if you need more cash or want to change the layout.

   geoDefese Swarm geoDefese Swarm

The futuristic glowing lines are on show again, with a hint of neon. What's nice is that the different towers have their own colour, and their ammunition (be it rockets, laser beams, or bullets) stay in their tower's colour so you can see how effective they are. Even with a lot of action on the screen, forty plus swarms coming down, with rockets and bullets flying, everything somehow stays comprehensible to your brain. I always get the feeling of where something is wrong, even if I'm not sure why it is wrong. That's good design.

Added to this you have some fantastic sound effects, with lots of crunching destructive noises, weapons fire, and damage being taken by the swarms. Again it helps you to decide what's working or not, almost by osmosis.

As you go to the higher levels though, you start to find some towers work better on a level than others, or certain swarms are easier to kill. You could say this is a number of variants to keep the game fresh, or perhaps that it's unbalanced gameplay. Take your pick, I prefer the first. After all if you have a good strategy, it should make it easy.

Yes, geoDefense is a sequel, but it's a sequel that adds more, with the hex grid and the swarms not taking fixed paths to the exit tiles. It increases the challenge without increasing the complexity, it soaks up spare time like a sponge, and it's a perfect mobile game. Recommended. Strongly.

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