I’ve always quite enjoyed tower defense games. I’m not entirely sure as to what it is that I like the most, but that tactical-esque gameplay is right up my street. Titles such as Van Helsing: Deathtrap, Defense Grid 2, and even Dungeon Defenders, all have a special place in my heart. Needless to say that when Hell Warders crossed my desk, I was instantly excited. It’s quite a fitting title, really, given that the main objective consists of killing bucket-loads of demons. That being said, does Hell Warders stand out in a crowd that’s rapidly bulking up?
The game follows the story of a city that’s decently ruled by Godfrey the 1st. Well, until the demon king makes an appearance and bestows death upon the nation, that is. With hell at the gates, players are tasked with rising up as one of the titular Hell Warders; an ancient order of heroes that house unique powers and abilities. Now, it falls to you to reclaim the fate of humankind and send evil back to where it belongs. It’s a simple story structure to say the very least, but it does succeed in giving the game some added meaning and weight.
Hell Warders, by and large, a dungeon crawler with RPG elements, and includes three different heroes to select from. Much to be expected from a traditional tower defense game, enemies will appear from different doors over the course of a set number of waves. Your job is to kill them all with use of the troops that you dispense throughout the allocated areas. The aim of the game is to keep these demons from reaching your crystal. This crystal has its own health bar, and should the demons chip it down to zero, it’s game over for you.
If that happens, you’ll need to restart your level. As alluded to above, there’s three heroes to select from, each bringing a unique build; sword and shield, double shotguns, and a massive hammer. These heroes house individual abilities, each of which are handy in their own way. That said, you will indeed need to readjust your upgrades if you swap them out. Example; if you use the swordsman for the first few missions and level him and his troops up, and then swap to a different character, you’ll need to independently bulk-up their progression paths.
There’s no need to replay levels, mind, not unless you plan on max-ranking everything. Back on track, your upgrades largely determine how powerful you are, ranging not just your character, but your character’s troops. Due to the fact that Hell Warders is RPG-based, there’s several different ways you can pursue said power; health, attack speed, damage output, and even luck. This all feeds into your character (not all three), however, if you don’t want to distribute points to your character, you can choose to put them into your troops.
Troops serve as your towers, and come in a range of different shapes and sizes. The first six are unlocked for completing the first six missions, and include the likes of archers, healers, flame troops, and so forth. There’s many to unlock via your points as you get further into the game, lending it a fair bit of diversity as a result. There’s a catch though – you’re only able to take up to six of them into each mission, meaning that when you get deeper into the fray, you’ll want to carefully consider your options to maximize your chance of success.
There’s a fair bit of trial and error involved here, but it’s a good way to learn the ropes and get a feel for the pros and cons, so to speak. There’s some added depth to way that these troops function. Not only can you upgrade their base stats, but you can also upgrade them in each level; to the maximum of level five per-level. This enables you to make stronger troops, but there’s a cost and a balance to be mindful of. You see, as you kill demons, you’ll earn two different items for your troubles; one being a red orb, and the other a white orb.
The red orbs heal you, whereas the white orbs are used for upgrading, as well as for purchasing new troops. Each level has a troop cap, so it really becomes a dance between choosing when to bulk up your numbers, and when to capitalize on their capabilities. That leads us to the artifacts that you’ll acquire through natural play – another way to upgrade your troops overall. Players can only hold three artifacts at any given time, but they do indeed come with benefits; such as mithril arrows, which improves your archers’ output.
There’s around twenty levels to work through, with boss battles thrown in to mix up the pace. The boss encounters are fairly tough, and will certainly give you a run for your money if you don’t prepare. Not only will they smash you about like a Hulk to a Loki, but they’ll oftentimes kill your troops in a single blow. They’ll also spawn in standard enemies for you to contend with, making for a very challenging affair overall. Whilst indeed tough, I did appreciate the way they mix up the game’s natural flow. I only wish there were more.
I also appreciate the enemy design and variation. Most enemies (and there’s plenty of them on show) all sport their own distinct behavior and attack patterns, constantly forcing you to evaluate your conditions throughout. Whether it’s flying units to keep your archers occupied, tortured souls that will rapidly move to your crystal, or, big towering brutes that tend to go out of their way to destroy anything, Hell Warders knows how to keep you on your toes. That said, the game does well at informing you of what enemies are present.
Not only will you be privy to this useful information before each mission, but you’ll get extra insight as to which enemy is coming from which gate during play. Bottom line? Get to know your enemy, and get to know them well. In regards to their visual presentation, this is where things go a bit south for me. The game isn’t that good looking, especially as far as the game’s character models are concerned. It’s got a cheap early access whiff about it all, which is hardly a game breaker I know, but something that did break immersion nonetheless.
Hell Warders, unsurprisingly, sports a very dark, gothic, and gloomy presentation. It does well to set the game’s fitting tone, but it would have been nice to see more detail and refinement. Sadly, I cant be quite as pleasant towards the game’s horrendous voice acting. I’m not sure what talent was employed to relay the script, but it’s massively overdone. It just constantly feels over the top and too forced. Thankfully the soundtrack is a worthy addition, but even then, it’s not something that’s going to stay with you after the credit roll.
There’s some other problems too. The controls feel a bit sloppy throughout play, which is never a good sign for a tower defense game. That, and I felt as though the damage output was somewhat inconsistent when it comes to the attacks of both heroes and troops. I daresay some more time on the proverbial drawing board, some stricter QA, and more feedback insight, would have seen Hell Warders to greater heights. Though, as it stands, it’s a serviceable tower defense game, nothing more, nothing less. Make of that what you will.
There’s enough content here to keep you going for a good while, and I’ll confess, it can be quite gratifying to see a plan come together as you create a strong defense and lay waste to the waves of enemies that ensue. The only thing keeping repetition at bay is the game’s diverse level design, but outside of that, little is present, save a few mechanics, to keep things fresh. Perhaps the best selling point here is that Hell Warders can be played in co-op with up to four players, locally and online. Just, don’t expect fireworks and deep innovation.
The game blends its few mechanics together well enough to maintain traction, and includes support for co-op play to bolster its worth. The problem, however, is that it lacks the depth found in many of its contemporaries. Furthermore, its visuals are fairly poor and its handling can be sloppy. If you’re in the market for a run-of-the-mill tower defense game, Hell Warders isn’t a bad choice, but you can get much better elsewhere at around the same cost.
This game was tested and reviewed on Xbox One. All of the opinions and insights here are subject to that version.Want to keep up to date with the latest Xt reviews, Xt opinions and Xt content? Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.