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.