Towering Inferno: Sol Survivor

By Jim Rossignol on March 27th, 2010 at 11:57 am.


It’s that time of year again when the fresh spring towers erupt from the ground and begin to gun down passing alien body-snatchers. We’ve seen tower defence games overhauled again and again, but the greenest and most flexible of these rejigs is probably Sol Survivor, which I’ve been playing on and off all week. Read on for some thoughts on a game which makes titanic efforts to raise this least-appreciated of genres.

Tower Defence has a bad rap, I think. Recent efforts have been genuinely elegant and technically impressive, and Sol Survivor manages to out-dazzle everyone with its snazzy effects and sequinned 3D-engine party-frock. The game consists of four campaigns with a number of different maps, each of which can be attempts with a different commander, whose repertoire of support skills dictates just how much you can do to divert the flow of battle out side of just putting down more towers.

Sol Survivor’s maps a set path for the invaders, which means you can’t define the route by placing towers as you would do in Defense Grid or Fieldrunners. Nevertheless there’s an interesting challenge to be had once you start playing Sol Survivor on the harder difficulty levels (normal sees you winning pretty much by default if you place enough towers down, and you only need to start thinking about it on hard). The amount of resource you get to build towers almost certainly won’t be enough to produce the damage output you need to kill all aliens. That’s where the support skills come in. These range from an orbital laser which you apply with the mouse, right through firebombs and artillery, up to a nuclear bomb. There are more subtle powers too like a temporary “fear” effect that causes enemies to retreat back up the path a bit.

Sol Survivor’s neatest trick, however, is that it’s also a multiplayer tower defence game. You can play versus, with teams of up to four aside taking it in turns to deploy the “creeps” into the level and try and defeat the defenders, or you can play co-operatively through the campaign with one player building turrets and the other calling in the support. I’m not entirely convinced of the appeal of that – I’m happy with it being a single-player experience – but I’m sure there are some folks out there who will get a kick out of it.

Sol Survivor is a predictable tower defence game in almost all other respects, but the size of it and the high production values mean it’s totally worth the £6.70 it’s currently up for on Impulse (£8 on Steam). I’ve lost hours to it already, and I’m keen to lose a few more.

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27 Comments »

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  1. SpinalJack says:

    I’m never too impressed by fixed route tower defence games… except balloons tower defence which is oddly fun despite bring on a fixed track. Still, there are plenty of other defence games without fixed tracks to play.

    • Vinraith says:

      @SpinalJack

      Yeah, I’m not a fan of fixed tracks. Defense Grid is one of the only tower defense games I’ve seriously played and enjoyed, and a large part of the fun was the non-tracked levels. Since FIeldrunners turned out to be an iWhatever exclusive, anyone care to recommend some other PC-based non-tracked TD games of quality?

    • Soulless One says:

      Try Desktop Tower Defense, it is an online free flash game. The only map is a simple square. So you decide everything about it by building towers. It is on Kongragate, if you want to find it.

    • DrazharLn says:

      If you own warcraft III, you’ll be able to find a wealth of tower defence maps, including some very clever multiplayer ones. Picking out the good ones can be a chore, and the average player on battle.net is rather unpleasant, however.

      One of my favourites was Power Towers, but that’s hard to find and my friend hated it, so YMMV.

      You can find all manner of custom wc3 maps at hiveworkshop.com

    • MadMatty says:

      Harvest: Massive Encounter is totally worth it

  2. Premium User Badge

    Thermal Ions says:

    Well, I enjoyed Defense Grid, so Cadenza can thank you for your write up Jim as I’m now downloading the Steam demo.
    EDIT: Interestingly here it’s $9.99 USD on both Steam and Impulse.

  3. alseT says:

    I played this and I love it. The biggest boon it has is that it looks and feels like it’s made for mouse&keyboard unlike Defense Grid. Coupled with the fact that the tactics for each map change depending which commander you choose give it immense replayability. It’s probably the best TD game on the market right now.

  4. Metalfish says:

    There’s a game released on the 360 “indie games” service with the same name (it is as far as I can tell, the same game) priced at 800 pseudo-monies. I know this is a PC site, I just thought it interesting as you can play a demo on there -is there one for the PC?

  5. mcnubbins says:

    Yep, just played the demo on Steam.

    Seemed like a decent game, one that I will probably buy when a bit cheaper.

  6. Freudian Trip says:

    “Sol Survivor’s neatest trick, however, is that it’s also a multiplayer tower defence game. You can play versus, with teams of up to four aside taking it in turns to deploy the “creeps” into the level and try and defeat the defenders”

    These were always my favourite type of TD’s if it had to be fixed route.

    Did Starcraft/Warcraft invent the TD? With DOTA games kicking off and now TD’s. Has one game ever created as many new genres of game as the ‘…Craft’ series?

    • Mr Labbes says:

      I see a lot of influence from mods for Unreal Tournament. I’m not sure, though, how many of those mods were derived from Quake mods (much like Starcraft->Warcraft 3).

    • Tei says:

      I can remember a quake mod for everything FPS do. But not for turret defense.

  7. mechanoid says:

    The first game of that kind I remember was “The Horde” by Crystal Dynamics in 1994. You have to protect a village that is overrun by monsters in certain intervalls. To defeat them you build pits and hire warriors and archers.

  8. Peter Radiator Full Pig says:

    Just picked up defense grid. Which would be better to play. This or defense grid?

    • sana says:

      WarCraft 3

    • Heliocentric says:

      Defence grid having fast forward and rewind gives it the edge in playability for me. Tower defence can be frustrating, grid lets you prototype.

    • DrGonzo says:

      Get both! If you like one you will probably like the other.

  9. ArtyArt says:

    I played one 4-player coop game on the hard difficulty recently. That was really satisfying, with different players being able to choose different roles (AoE damage, single target damage, debuffs etc.). That single session alone made it worth the purchase.

  10. Severian says:

    I’m with Helio on this one, even though I haven’t played Sol. Defense Grid is an awesome game, and one major reason is the rewind/fast-forward mechanic. On the higher levels, this is an absolute must to resist madness and rage-fueled destruction of your PC.

  11. Jonathan says:

    Defense Grid is excellent, I agree. Another one which doesn’t exactly fit the normal tower defense mold is Harvest. I played that quite a bit and enjoyed it. You might also try Creeper World if you want some variety.

  12. Mr Popov says:

    I second Harvest. It’s a really simple elegant game, but with tons of re playability since the map is semi-random every game. Lots of pretty visuals too.

    As to Sol Survivor, the demo just about has me sold. Just waiting on what my friends think of it.

  13. Will says:

    I really hate the new powers. While I think 98% of everyone else will agree that they add a much-needed immediacy to the genre, I feel that it ruins the magic I’ve always got from these games. I like them because I can sit up there, on that hill, and plan and watch and grin.

    I suppose another way of putting it is as so; everyone is aware that as more and more limitations are placed on something (a work of art being made, a building being designed, a personal project), the more awesomer it turns out – somehow those limitations eek out the ingenuity in people. I feel that direct interaction with the enemies totally blows that out of the water. Defense Grid had it right, a few limited-use things at most.

    Plus, I feel like a commoner, actually having to directly confront those nasties down on the battlefield.

    The demo really turned me off, which was a shame. I could really do with another high-caliber tower-defense game right now.

  14. Tei says:

    I like the game, but a good pause button, to think, or some delay betwen waves (maybe a autopause mode) is much needed. I don’t like much the direct kill intervention powers.

  15. suibhne says:

    Seems super-duper easy at Normal – I just skated through the first several levels without many of my turrets even firing and without using any of the orbital powers. Does this signal a difficulty spike later, or is Normal always this easy?

  16. Cydereal says:

    Normal is intentionally pretty easy, yeah. It ticks up at the later levels, but if you’re a more experienced turret defense player I must recommend playing on Hard or Intense!

  17. KillahMate says:

    Is the Blue Öyster Cult song in it? Otherwise I’m not playing.

    More on topic, I think that the dual shock of Defense Grid and Plants vs Zombies has worn me out on high-end tower defense games. And when I recover there’s still Immortal Defense waiting to blow my mind (so I’m told). So you see, there’s plenty of brilliant tower defense games already – it’s not as if the genre is suffering. I just don’t think I’ll have time for this.

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