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Xbox Live Indie Game Review - NextWar : The Quest for Earth

xboxboxartI'll fully admit that I'm not that into tower defense games. Especially Desktop tower defense, which this game thankfully is not. This is actually the first tower defense game I've ever played for more than a few minutes. And I probably wouldn't have ever bought it if it weren't for the vector graphics. That's what initially sold the game for me. If it has vector graphics, no matter WHAT kind of game it is, I'll give it a try.

But, regardless of that, I've had the game for about a month or so now, and I have to say it's one of the better games of the genre I've played. It isn't a huge epic game like Sol Survivor of course, and the graphics are all 2D vector art, but it's a little different in the fact that the gameplay fast paced arcade style stuff.

It's apparent when playing the game that this was created by a guy who likes these games a lot, and put a lot of personality into it. I almost wanna put this game into an arcade cabinet with the look and feel it has. :)


Graphically, the game is very simple, yet stunning at the same time. Of course, I'm a little biased because I love vector styled graphics. But everything about this game looks great from the playfields to the menus. And the graphical effects that are here and there look great as well. There are some problems though. My television is an old style 480p 36" with the 360 hooked up via component. Due to that, the text is almost too small to read since this was made with high definition televisions in mind. And, though it doesn't hurt the gameplay that much, when there's a lot going on onscreen, the frame rate plummets. It happens sporatically throughout the game, but I definitely noticed it in the last level of the game. Of course I tend to overdo it by a lot placing tons and tons of towers in when I probably don't need to. The text being near unreadable for us SDTV owners, I think we're getting pretty used to that. But the frame rate when there's a lot going on ... it might turn some people off. Other than that, the graphics are a visual treat if you're a fan of that graphical style.


The sound is just as good as the graphics. The music is epic sounding and fits the game perfectly, and the effects themselves are perfect. From the laser fire to the explosions and bombs and everything else (especially the Doom Tower) it just sounds great.

But with all the graphical polish, the gameplay is also great. It handles just fine with the controller. I won't get into all the little details here because if you're reading this you probably know how to play tower defense games. You place towers down to destroy the enemies before they get to your base. There are six different types of towers in the game. There's an EMP that will slow down enemies while they're within range of it, there's a Prism Tower that shoots a beam at a single enemy, and it can collect strength from up to 5 other towers near it. A Rail Tower that basically bombs the enemies and does some splash damage. Two different types of Laser Towers going from a basic one up to to an advanced one that has a frightening radius and deals a massive amount of damage. And my favorite, the Doom Tower. It's expensive as hell to build, takes up 4 spaces and is slow to reload, but when it fires you know it right away. Of course, to build the advaned laser tower and the Doom Tower, you need to build a Tech Center first, and once that's built you can use your money to research ways of making the various towers more powerful. All the towers but the EMP can be upgraded without the need of the Tech Center up to level 6. And the way it handles money is pretty neat too ... it obviously has interest levels you can raise from your headquarters, but if you don't have enough money to build something or upgrade something in the Tech Center, it'll queue it up on screen and take the money out as it's collected from the downed enemies. Which makes the game immensely more fast paced than the other ones I've tried and adds a level of strategy to an otherwise excellent game.

And there are the little options which actually come in handy. Because you control the selection curser with the right analog stick. But you use the left stick to zoom in and out and rotate the levels, which comes in handy because the cursor moves a little slow when going over large fields to get somehwere. Zooming out speeds that up quite a bit. And, while you can drag the cursor around holding the A button to select multiple towers ... it doesn't seem to work the same way for actually building them. Everything is placed in a grid form, and with the exception of the Tech Center and the Doom Tower, they all only take up one space on the grid. But you've still gotta go around and build them one at a time.

And, while there are only 11 maps total in the game without a map editor (man, that would rock) the level design is quite good and just feels right.


8.0  - Despite the frame rate problems this is a spectacular game that doesn't get too involved with story (though it does have a pretty decent back story) or any frills like that. You have a 10 level campaign mode and a Skirmish mode with 11 maps that ups the replayability. Even though it is a tower defense game, it's a much different feel than the awesome Sol Survivor, and if you're like me and new to the whole tower defense thing, this is a solid buy at 80 points that has a great arcade feel to it and enough depth to keep ya going for a long time on the cheap. It unfortunately has no high scores list, and it's only single player. But it's cheap and fun.

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