Some Thoughts On: Revenge Of The Titans

By Jim Rossignol on July 12th, 2010 at 3:24 pm.


I’ve been playing a bunch of Revenge Of The Titans, which is currently available in incomplete form via demo, and also via slightly more complete pre-order beta access at half price, I think? Yes, that seems to be the case. Anyway, there’s something about it.

The game is a variant on traditional tower-defence designs, with a base towards which an army of aliens march, and lots of defensive technologies that you can place along their path to fight them off. As you play you also collect resources from clusters of crystal that are distributed across each map, and these are the primary way to make money, with the destruction of the titans themselves also giving you a trickle of cash.

The game starts on Earth, and heads off into the solar system as you defend your way through various stages of alien invasion, with the titans themselves becoming more fearsome as you play. Between levels you can choose to spend some of your budget on research – unlocking research options which then allow you to unlock forcefields, physical defences, and various tiers of offensive tower.

Where Revenge Of The Titans perhaps differs from most tower games is that it’s heavy on the micro-management. While you have to place refineries, towers and other defences, you also have to click to pick up your resources, click to reload towers, and click to collect cash and other bonuses that are dropped during play. This actually makes the game fairly hectic once you get past the first few levels. I’ve found this interesting, because it gives you an extra tier of involvement – a bit like the sun collection in Plants Vs Zombies. Combine this franticness with the beautiful, minimal art and general ambience, and you have a mixture that I find rather compelling.


But there are some weird things I’m not entirely comfortable with. One is that it’s possible to get yourself in a bit of a hole long term, because the research costs rely on you not spending too much as you play. If you’re a bit free with the turret construction – as I tend to be – you’re actually making things harder for yourself down the line. Puppgygames are tweaking this stuff right now, so I expect a really good balance by the time the final version arrives, but I can’t see it being entirely expunged, and it’s been a mild frustration up til now. Related to this, I wish there was a little more clue as to how the tech tree is structured, because without playing the game through several times, I can’t really work out what I am aiming for techwise.

The other weirdness is that the levels are randomly generated. This means – thanks to the layout of the roads that funnel the titans towards you, and the location of the crystals on the map – that one generation of a specific level might be easier or harder than another. In fact, when I got really stuck because of the lack of funds I mentioned previously, I ended up restarting one level until it gave me a favourable defensive alcove amid rocks, one that was easy to hold against the incoming hordes. It’s an odd thing to be able to do, and felt a bit cheaty.

Anyway, play the demo, see what you think. I suspect there’s a certain kind of RTS player or tower defence junkie who will, like me, get a kick out of it. I’ve been putting a load of time into the beta and I’m genuinely looking forward to the final release.

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46 Comments »

  1. Tei says:

    Thats exactly my problem with the game.
    a) you can’t make informed decissions, since you don’t know what will unlock, or how that contribute to the fight.
    b) you are limited to unlock 1 thing. even if you swin in money.
    c) the game penalty these with bad luck, with less money
    d) you can lost 3 levels ago, wen you choosed to buy one upgrade over another
    But the game still feels different, epic and fun.

  2. Koozer says:

    I tried the demo, but felt all the manual reloading/crystal collecting was just…annoying. The freeform placement of turrets wasn’t very attractive either, or as the venerable Jim says digging a (insert research/tree/roots/hole metaphor here) is frustrating. I’m more of a Defence Grid man myself; much more structured and more like a puzzle game than an RTS.

  3. Cas says:

    We’re trying to come up with a solution to the “research tree” thing… maybe something involving floating arrows and being able to hover at least the names of not-yet-researchable stuff… in the meantime we might pop up a page explaining it all!

    It’s a deliberate mechanic to only allow one research per level. Choose wisely – or choose not at all, if you need the cash! It’s a strategic decision. After all, there’s 50 levels in which to research 35-odd technologies. You don’t need to research every level! In fact if you do, the game will decide you’re doing exceptionally well, and make life difficult for you.

    You will notice that the randomly generated levels get subtly easier each time you restart… but then, you won’t be getting the gold medal achievements for quitting. Achievements yet to come! Gold for 1 try, silver for 2, 3 for bronze, and, er, no reward for taking 4 attempts.

    • Mil says:

      You don’t need to research every level! In fact if you do, the game will decide you’re doing exceptionally well, and make life difficult for you.

      To be honest, I hate that sort of mechanics. As Oblivion showed, it’s very easy to cross the line from dynamically adjusting difficulty to provide a better challenge to an immersion- and fun-breaking punishment for success. It reminds me of this Dilbert strip: http://www.dilbert.com/fast/1999-05-11/

    • LintMan says:

      Same here. That sort of punishment of success drives me crazy: it can make it hard to feel like you’re improving or doing better (and can sometimes make it feel like you’re doing worse!) It also sometimes can leave players stranded as they cross some invisible line and suddenly they can’t progress any more because the game has gotten too difficult and unfun.

    • Vinraith says:

      For all that self-adjusting difficulty is easy to do wrong, it can certainly be done right. Escalating the opposition to insure that everyone gets a suitably challenging experience is a good thing, it just needs to steer clear of being too overt lest it become frustrating or defeat the feeling of “doing well.”

    • Vinraith says:

      @Lintman

      That sort of punishment of success drives me crazy

      I can understand that, but it actually drives me more crazy when a game with persistence “rewards” doing well in the beginning by making the latter parts of the game incredibly easy. It’s the old “late game 4X” problem, where you’ve “won” by mid-game and everything else is just going through the motions. It’s a delicate balancing act to provide a challenge without undermining a clear sense of success while keeping the game from becoming an exercise in trivial tedium.

    • Mil says:

      Escalating the opposition to insure that everyone gets a suitably challenging experience is a good thing, it just needs to steer clear of being too overt.

      In my opinion “not being too overt” way underrates the challenge of doing dynamic difficulty right.

      If I may digress a little bit, I believe that game design shares quite a few similarities with novel writing. In both cases, the author tries to engage the audience in an activity that is absurd on the face on it: doing work that doesn’t result in anything useful, or learning about things that never happened. The audience expects some rewards, such as a feeling of progress towards something good in games, or maybe good things happening to the hero in novels. But those rewards can’t come too easily or arbitrarily, or they feel worthless. They must be earned through some sort of struggle that makes sense in the context of the corresponding fantasy.

      Coming to the point of this comparison, just like we expect that a good novel will play by its own rules, that it established while telling us about the world where things happen, the same expectation exists of a good game. Sure, for the purposes of the story or the game mechanics it may be expeditious to just make things happen with little or no justification, but as any reader knows, after a couple of such Deus-ex-machina the illusion of being told about something real goes down the drain, the pointlessness of the whole activity becomes sharply evident, and more often than not the book stays unread after that very page.

      So if I’m to feel that playing a game is “fun” and not just a way of wasting time by completing absurd tasks, I must definitely not see the designer doing such artificial, outside-the-setting things as increasing difficulty because I’m doing too well. And just like it’s the mark of poor writers to underestimate their readers and believe they won’t notice or care, so it is for game designers. We do notice, and we do care.

      Ok, re-reading what I wrote I’ll admit it sounds a bit rantish, but I’ve given up on too many otherwise quite promising games because they cheated on their own rules. It’s really one of the worst things to do.

  4. SpinalJack says:

    I’ve been playing the hell out of this game, it’s loads of fun. The clicking does get tiresome so I’m hoping that the out collectors you get later on were a whole lot cheaper as 1000 credits could buy a handful of blaster turrets instead.

    Some things still need balancing I think, lasers and missiles win every match and droids are useless.

    • Cas says:

      Don’t worry, the nerf bat swingeth… lasers and rockets won’t be quite so good for long. Well, maybe they will be, but you’ll only be able to afford 1 or 2 :)

      Might make collectors / autoloaders a bit cheaper too, if people aren’t using them.

  5. The Innocent says:

    Yeah, the tech tree and weird long-term decisions/difficulty are the only problems I’ve had with the game. I preordered it because I think it’s awesome as-is, but it would be great if some of those niggles were to get worked out.

  6. Hodge says:

    I played the first beta back when it came out and really liked it, but like Tei I got caught out when I bought a ‘wrong’ upgrade and was subsequently destroyed once I reached the moon levels. I chose one of the economic type upgrades – more efficient harvesting or something like that – but the levels seemed to be designed around having upgraded firepower instead, and I never stood a chance.

    Haven’t had time to try the later releases, though. I hear there’s lots of balance tweaking going on with each one, which is a good sign. The version I played was 90% towards being something great, and I really hope they bridge that last 10%.

  7. RyePunk says:

    I pre-ordered it.
    Adore it to death. Took me several hours of restarting my campaign before i found the good stuff. ( Rockets & Shotguns ) then another several restarts before i figured out how the +range +ammo worked. After that it became frightenly easy. 1 rocket with 11-16 ammo and range of half the map, would pretty much stop everything. Add the super shotgun if necessary.

    • SpinalJack says:

      That must be the old version then because support buildings are now capped at 4 per type XD

  8. Adrian says:

    Wow when I first heard the music i turned my speaker volume all the way to max and was just witing for the guy to star screaming :D

  9. John Peat says:

    I’ve been on a TD binge recently and whilst I loved the look of RoTT, I found the manual reloading etc. just a bit too tiresome…

    Manual actions work well in something like PvZ where it’s all on one screen, but when you combine manual actions with loads of scrolling I think you just make the game too much work.

    For me, TD should be about careful planning and astute use of upgrades/territory/routing etc. and not flying around clicking stuff.

    I did LOVE the look of RoTT tho and I’ve been known to buy games on that alone!! :)

  10. Westin says:

    I want to like this game, but about half way through the moon, I hit this wall where these three eyed round headed one legged things just rush me. They don’t die from anything I throw at them either!

  11. bakaohki says:

    Minimap, please. The first couple of levels are okay without it, but later on it really would help – or at least that’s how I felt with the demo (until I deleted it because of the stupid click-fest micromanagement).

  12. Cas says:

    Too much micromanaging? You want to research automation! (And maybe plan a bit better ;))
    Gidrahs immune to bullets? Probably you need mines! Or bigger guns! Or capacitors! And barricades to slow them down!

    • bakaohki says:

      1. I said “demo”
      2. research minimap, k thx by

    • SpinalJack says:

      You don’t need to listen to every comment on the internet, plenty of people like the game the way it is. If they wanted to play a grid-based, no-clicking tower defense game they can play any of the other plain garden variety defense games around.

      Looking forward to the finished product XD

    • bakaohki says:

      yeah I know, but I really wanted to love this game – the graphics are so cute (having nice 2d graphics – with vector style – is quite rare nowdays) and I do like tower defense, yet I found it was something lacking; maybe not the map, not sure, but the moon levels in the beta became very annoying, even with barricades all over; maybe the new tech trees would’ve helped, but I just lost interest :(

  13. geldonyetich says:

    I bought it back when it was first mentioned in RPS. Sure, it’s incomplete game, but it’s a fairly cool one, much more “game” here than many which bear the label. The last patch I added prevented more than 4 boosters from affecting a gun turret at once, which is undoubtedly a good thing, because I found an effective winning strategy was just pumping up a single turret to the point where it could single-handedly win the game for me. Balance remains a difficult endeavor in this interesting RTS/Tower Defense deviation, and I suspect it’ll be awhile before it comes together well enough to call it done.

  14. Vinraith says:

    I tired the beta and quite liked it. I particularly enjoy the sense of continuity, that decisions on a given map affect your finances and impact the game overall. The research system, the totally free placement of objects, the fantastic general aesthetic and sense of humor, it all works for me. That the developer has a presence on RPS is just icing on the cake.

    • Vinraith says:

      tired = tried. Edit function, please come home. Don’t you love us anymore?

  15. Boris says:

    Mouseacceleration, Noooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo!

    • SpinalJack says:

      There’s no mouse acceleration, try adjusting the mouse speed in the options.

  16. frosty says:

    i bought this a while back and found the research to be a bit tricky, but found you can go back to a specific level (ie b4 you burned your funds on something that didnt pan out / overspent on towers) and make differnt choices, this eventually lead to me heading for rockets & improved rockets, which is when i broke it, turns out 1 rocket launcher with around 10 or each of the range/ammo/fire rate boosters is pretty much invincable and can kill things that you cant even see with the camera centered on the launcher, despite this seeming a bit broken, it felt like victory

    • SpinalJack says:

      Can’t do that anymore, support buildings are limited to 4 per type now. Also scanner are more expensive.

  17. Vinraith says:

    OK, preordered. Pie and ale for everyone!

  18. roBurky says:

    The biggest problem I had with the demo was actually the controls.

    It required you to be moving the camera around far too much, I felt, and I didn’t like the control options for it. I would have much preferred something that either fit the game onto a single screen, or at least allowed click-and-drag camera movement.

  19. 7 Seas says:

    Loving the game! Just bought it, really has me on the edge… just as I like. Don’t listen to all the haters, there are plenty of games that are exactly up their alley, I think RoTT is different… and delicious!

  20. Mimsy says:

    I really think the whole idea that one decision you make in level 3 can fuck you up more or less permanently in level 12 without a single warning beforehand is just unacceptable, to be honest. It has no business being in any game, whatsoever. It’s not even remotely “different… and delicious!”, it’s blisteringly unfair, and it is, to be honest, a bit poorly thought out.

    Sorry to be so angry and harsh on you, but I really wanted to drive that point home. I love the style. I love the graphics, the (general) gameplay and I really – really – wanted to like the whole game. But that one single, decisive detail overshadows the whole experience.

    You guys should really have a forum. (Or did I just miss it?)

    • Simon says:

      I just (thanks to this post!) realized that my pre-order got me some sort of nice beta access, so I just finished playing through two and a half worlds. I can’t say I’ve been annoyed by any research choices so far. If one thing with the research, it’d be nice to have a general idea of how much whatever you want to research will cost – some things cost 250, some cost 2500, and to have money to save for a 2500 item is a decisive factor.
      Really though the only issue I noticed was that the game is, well, easy for the first two worlds. I expected the first levels to be easy (and I’m happy they were!) but a little more challenge in the 1st and 2nd worlds wouldn’t have been a bad thing.

      Either way, I love this game! Its a bit of a pain to micromanage the crystals and reloading when I use a touchpad for a mouse, but it works and I’m having a ton of fun. Love the game(!), bought a copy for my brother as well :)

  21. Simon says:

    Oh, and did I mention the music is EPIC? :D

  22. Lim-Dul says:

    Well – I’ve been playing RotT for weeks (months?) now since I preordered it – on and off of course.

    Thing is – many people make valid arguments about certain things BUT they are integral to the game – if you have issues with them perhaps it’s just not your type of game and it shouldn’t be changed.

    I mean – upgrades screwing up your progress? There are some KEY upgrades that you need to buy (i.e. armor penetration) and you could possibly get a more clear advance warning (though it is there in the mission briefings =) but I believe the tech-tree/wiki/info page will help with this. Otherwise going back a few levels and restarting is the way it works. And it expects you to optimize A LOT. I for my part tended to go back as far as the early Earth levels to like place a turret less and have more cash later on – or delay the Titans with obstacles to fully deplete mineral deposits. Unlock limits make sense too in the greater scheme of things and will be fixed by more info as to what they provide you with or lead to as well. When you get more info you will probably still screw up three levels earlier but it will have been YOUR fault, not the game’s. Now it kinda is out of your hands, I agree. The core mechanic of screwing up and an overarching “campaign” should remain IMHO.

    Other complaint: too much micromanagement. Well – this is an RTS/Tower Defense hybrid. Less micromanagement and it would become just another Tower Defense game. Some of you might expect or even welcome that but a large part of the user base WANTS this micromanagement and huge actions per minute requirements. The point being – there are thousands of less “clicky” Tower Defense games out there (mostly in Flash =), so why change the one game that takes a different approach?

  23. nathanebht says:

    Very fun and also frustrating. Trial and error on the research is causing me to restart the level. Some are pure research that give a free bonus. Good! Some pure research doesn’t seem to do anything. Bad! Oh I stumbled into a new weapon. Good! Will it be useful? Doh, I don’t know. Bad!

    It would also be much more fun to see more of the play field at once. I have a large screen and their didn’t seem to be anyway to change the resolution.

  24. Simon says:

    I cant seem to figure out how to kill those ghost-titans on the late (2nd to last?) Mars level. Anyone have tips?

  25. undu says:

    I’ve been think about buying it, but the lack of a minimap and the lack of information in the research screen are dealbreakers for me, they make the game too confusing, specially the latter one. Feedback in these two points is much needed, imho.

    To have a general idea about the tech tree I made a crappy diagram using a xml I found in the game’s blog, maybe someone finds it useful: http://i.imgur.com/hsytV.jpg

    • Simon says:

      Minimap? The levels are tiny, just a few screens big at the most, I don’t see why you’d need it? :)

  26. Cas says:

    Indeed, we’re not going to add one either, because it’d just clutter up the UI too much.
    Your tech tree diagram is awesome btw, I’m going to blog it :) I wonder why people don’t like to experiment and find this stuff out themselves! That’s part of the fun isn’t it?

  27. foreign says:

    after playing the demo i bought the game, but not played it again because i’ve acquired too many games in steam recently, hehe…the research and funds problems are a pain in the ass, i agree, but the game has a great potential…and make me remember me of playing company of heroes against some nazi counter attacks in single player campaign, since that old days i have not enjoyed any other rts until now.

  28. Simon says:

    Cas, the problem with the research is that it took me quite a few levels before I understood that many things did nothing (except allow for further research), which made me research a bunch of the basic things for no reason.

    Anyway, I replayed the game and instead of lasers, I got rockets… But am I missing something here? I built two rocket turrets and neither one fired a single shot through the whole level. Whut whut?

  29. Eliot says:

    For those of you reading all the way down and still looking for help, take a look at my list of tips and tricks for Revenge of the Titans.