Tower Defensing through history
Selknam Defense is a tower defense RTS hybrid from Bad Games that first made waves on Samsung’s line of smart TVs. Thanks to its success on that platform the developers were able to port it to PC for a Steam release, which dropped last week and is currently on sale for $4.99.
Selknam Defense tells the 200 year old tale of the Selknam people of South America and how their lands and culture were ravaged by the European settlers. It’s up to you as the player to implement defensive and offensive strategies using various Selknam warriors to thwart the onslaught of the invaders over twenty four levels of tower defense action, which gets more challenging with each new level. The story as a whole is secondary to the gameplay and is only mentioned in brief static exchanges before a level begins in a new area of the map, so there isn’t much focus relegated to it, ultimately making it forgettable. This feeling is further compounded in the fact that some parts of the story’s dialogue boxes are cut off from the viewer, and some of the writing doesn’t come off as coherent English, so the attempt at telling a heart felt tale about the Selknam people is mediocre at best.
The game’s visuals are also a bit underwhelming, especially on a large monitor, which is odd considering that this game started as a title for large screen HDTVs. The maps don’t really offer exciting color palettes, nor do they vary much between areas. Certain assets on the map appear fuzzy and out of focus, and they don’t really exude any HD qualities. Most of the environment textures are also a bit rough around the edges in terms of quality you’d expect from a $10 game, so overall the graphics of Selknam Defense leave much to be desired, which is disappointing because the art style does have a bit of charm when it comes to the Selknam warriors and their enemies.
Selknam Defense’s gameplay is a blend of the tower defense genre and the RTS genre thanks to the ability to move units on the map after placing them. Unlike pure tower defense titles, Selknam Defense allows you to reposition your forces after they have been placed to increase the strategies and tactics players can employ on each map. For example, this feature comes in very handy when it comes to the mage class of warriors, which can be used to heal other units, or provide offensive and defensive buffs. You can place one of these mages on the map to perform their magic, but once that is accomplished you can move them in real time to another area on the map to help your other warriors who are in need of some love. I found the ability to move your forces around after placing them to be quite helpful, but it also adds to the natural tension of a tower defense title, making the challenge of implementing bullet proof battle tactics even more complex.
Outside of the ability to move positioned forces, Selknam Defense plays out like most tower defense games. Each map has a set route for the enemy combatants to travel along, so you must setup Selknam warriors to prevent said combatants from reaching the Selknam settlement. In total there are twelve warrior types (eight must be unlocked using mission rating stars) from four different classes (Soldiers, Archers, Stunners, Mage) to choose from to setup your defenses. Each type can be further upgraded using mission rating stars, but unfortunately these upgrades are only stat based, so no new abilities get added to the mix throughout the campaign. This makes the gameplay feel rather repetitive since no new powers can be used as the campaign progresses, and in all honesty you can mainly rely on the original warrior classes to get you through most of the levels, so there isn’t a ton of motivation to unlock the remaining classes and upgrades.
One thing Selknam Defense does masterfully is challenging your brain intensely as the levels progress. This game is very unforgiving and requires precise strategies to ensure success and perfect mission ratings, which when earned yield stars that can be used to upgrade your warriors. Coins regulate how many units you can build, so from the get go you must manage your resources wisely, or you’ll find certain doom. On average you can place around 6-8 warriors on screen if you’re great with resource management and battle, which does yield more coins if you defeat enemies. There are no dull moments thanks to the fact that you can’t just build massive forces to defend your base, but rather you must sparingly use your resources and the ability to reposition forces to ensure any type of success.
This setup guarantees replayability because you will have to learn the flow of a level’s map a few times before you can setup a defense that will foil the enemy forces, which consist of seven different varieties that range from soldiers to suicide bombers. Although, once a level has been beaten with a three star rating there is no need to play it again, so outside of learning more efficient tactics, Selknam Defense doesn’t offer a whole lot of replayability to keep you coming back for more once you beat the campaign. There is a survival mode to play in addition to the campaign, so you can squeeze a bit more gameplay out of Selknam Defense, but overall the package isn’t loaded with hours upon hours of content.
In the crowded tower defense genre Selknam Defense does a few things to try and stand out, but overall it’s just an average experience. The ability to move units after placing them offers up all sorts of strategies and tactics, and the game does get very challenging about halfway through, but the lack of graphical polish and a few technical glitches (units not engaging enemies when they should) end up making the experience quite mediocre and not entirely memorable. It will provide multiple hours of gameplay depending on your skill, but don’t expect to be blown away by any innovations to the tower defense genre while playing Selknam Defense.
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