My first experience with Revenge of the Titans, indie developers Puppy Games’ take on the tower defence genre, ended in a fit of rage. With my fortifications in ruins, I could only watch the 8-bit horror unfold as I was powerless to stop the chomping monstrosities from working their way through my base, saved only by a spineless decision to quit before my failure was finalised and recorded for all to see. I’d lost to waves of creeps in other games before, but never like this. What makes Revenge of the Titans so different, so relentlessly addictive, is that it cheats.
Finally released from beta recently, Revenge of the Titans initially appears to be the standard tower defence fare. You build structures to protect your weak home base and research new ways to blow up your aggressors in between onslaughts, shifting the balance from entrenched survivors to invading aggressors as you push the eponymous Titans back to their corner of the Solar System. Whereas other games feature creeps that politely follow a set path, however, Revenge of the Titans allows enemies to do whatever they damn well please. More often than not, they’ll ignore my puny human roads and stomp straight for the nearest, most expensive piece of kit I’ve left lying around. Fortification becomes as important as firepower and, as they grow stronger, the Titans get even more aggressive, ignoring my carefully placed turrets and making a beeline for my most vital resources. In short, they don’t play fair.
Thankfully, help is on hand in the form of a sprawling tech tree that allows players to upgrade and enhance their existing arsenal whilst also discovering new ways of converting the invading menace into goo. As new types of enemy appear, alternate solutions are required and the mad dash in between levels, whilst nail-biting, provides a refreshingly authentic experience. Rather than giving you the tools to fight the latest foe right before they appear, every change can throw you off, forcing a scramble to figure out how to beat them before it’s too late. This lack of hand holding is a surprisingly welcome addition, reminding players that it’s ok to make mistakes and figure out the best course of action rather than waiting for the next shiny gun to simply drop from the sky.
Sadly, the upgrade system isn’t perfect. The game presents you with a vast array of potential technologies to research and a wide range of broader categories that will lead to future developments. While it makes for exciting battles with a plethora of weapons, powers and unique buffs, it’s not clear from the beginning how funding research into one area will affect the game further down the line. Early on, I found myself haphazardly selecting upgrades that I quickly forgot about, having failed to see the direct benefit in the next round. Still, while initially daunting, as more options become available, it becomes easier to get a feel for the system and you can confidently bolster your forces with more effective upgrades.
Adding to the frenetic pace of the game is the need to micromanage every encounter. Turrets require constant babysitting, reloading them when they’re safe to be taken offline for a moment and adding buff-providing structures such as cooling towers and additional power sources when the enemy makes a concentrated push on one area. Bonus cash, energy and powerups also randomly appear, requiring quick reactions, á la Plants vs. Zombies, to secure an edge over the constantly massing foe.
With so many units on screen at any time, it’s easy for any strategy game to descend into a confusing mess as it becomes impossible to tell what’s going on across the map. Wearing their old-school influences on their sleeve, Puppy Games presents Revenge of the Titans in a charming and clean 8-bit style. If not for their menacing grins, the Titans would seem cute as they bob along, devouring everything in their path. Supported by a punchy chiptune soundtrack, this is a hardcore game with the casual trappings that make it so easy to pick up and play in short, satisfying bursts, as well as providing enough of a challenge with which to settle in for the long haul.
A testament to the range of the strategy genre, Revenge of the Titans is a perfect evolution of the tension and tactical gameplay of tower defence alongside the micromanagement and quick thinking RTS trappings. A shining example of indie innovation.
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