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Duke of Defense - Switch Review

Video Review:

Duke of Defense is an indie, action-based tower defense game presented in an 8-bit style. I’ve always had a fondness for tower defense games since being introduced to it as custom maps on Starcraft and Warcraft. Duke of Defense is currently sold on Steam and recently released on the Nintendo Switch for $15. This review is for the Switch version.

Like most TD games your goal is to prevent enemies who start from one side of the map to getting to your base, and in this game getting to your castle. Unlike other games you can’t build towers anywhere and can only build where you see a tree. Each level has a different layout and some maps have many trees while others have a limited amount. Selecting a tree allows you to choose different towers, and you get access to more towers as you progress through the game. All the goodies are here, the anti-air tower, the AOE tower, and the slow tower. This game also has another resource of gems that you start each level with a limited amount of that is used for some advanced towers.

On the technical side, when playing on the switch in docked mode. The edges of the screen get a bit cut off, obscuring text. There are no in-game feature to adjust the display screen like many AAA titles but isn’t an issue if you are playing on handheld mode.

The game does include a simple story where you play as the new duke of defense, helping various townspeople ward off the hordes of monsters and threats of the 3 evil wizards that act as bosses as you play through the 3 main worlds. With each world having 3 sub-areas like 1-1, 1-2, and 1-3, like a Mario game.

The soundtrack is my favorite aspect of the game. It’s fast-paced and matches the 8-bit art style perfectly, reminiscent of the best game music of the era. I could listen to it on repeat over and over, and it never got stale during my 6 hours with the game. The soundtrack is also available to purchase for $5 on Steam for those that want to take it with you even after you’re done with the game.

As you complete levels you earn coins to invest in a talent tree, granting you passive buffs to your Duke. These are separated into three trees of offense, agility, and building. You can’t re-spec once you use the coins, but by the last world of the game, you will unlock all abilities so even if you invest a coin in a skill you don’t use to often you’ll soon get more coins, and it doesn’t feel like a big loss.

This game also gives more variety in how you can play as you have your hero on the battlefield. Not only can he build towers, but he can run around slashing enemies with his sword inflicting some damage. Another thing you will be doing often is running around to collect the gold that drops off of defeated enemies used to build new towers. You can also upgrade towers by standing on them, with each upgrade taking longer time. This game gives you more flexibility and styles of play. For example, you can have few but powerful upgraded buildings versus many level 1 towers, or if you like to do damage to the enemies yourself with your sword versus letting your towers do the work. The later levels also introduce enemies that are immune to certain types of tower damage forcing you to have a variety of tower types. Once more enemies emerge and coins are flying all over the place, it reminded me of the mad frenzy of coin collecting from the game Insaniquarium, where I felt fixed on collecting all the gold before it disappeared.

On the Switch, you can have another person join you anytime you load your game. With the simple controller, utilizing a select button, attack, and roll, allow each player to use just a single joycon, so there is no need to have an extra controller. The one problem I can foresee with the co-op multiplayer, with my limited time I had with it, is that when building a tower the prompt for the 1st player will always appear on the left hand of the screen and prompts for the 2nd player always on the right-hand side. This can get really confusing if both players are building towers and happen to be on opposite sides of the screen. However, if one person is solely attacking enemies and/or collecting coins and the other person is building towers, this wouldn't be an issue.

Overall the game is much too easy and doesn’t really get enjoyable until the last world, and especially more so during the extra levels that are available after completing the story. You start with 25 hearts at the beginning of the level and lose one each time an enemy makes it past your defenses and to your castle. The only time you will lose lives is generally at the beginning of the level when you have limited gold and time to build towers before the first wave begins. Even the larger, slower enemies that can absorb a lot more damage only reduce your hearts by one, but they do drop more gold making them worthwhile to kill.

One mechanic that sets this apart from your standard tower defense is the boss battles against one of the three wizards. You start these battles with no money and don’t have your traditional way of killing enemies for gold. Instead, you follow the pattern of avoiding the wizard's attacks until a friendly NPC throws you enough gold to build an anti-air tower to bring down the wizard. During these battles you start with fewer hearts and taking damage from the wizard will cause you to lose hearts instead of dropping gold like you do if a monster touches you during regular stages. The boss battles look flashy but the attacks are easy to avoid and don’t incorporate the traditional tower defense mechanics which I prefer.

The characters and dialogue is what you would expect from the style of the game. I generally enjoy witty and funny dialogue, but all the characters act the same way and don’t have anything significant or interesting to say. Also during cutscenes, you aren’t able to press a button and make the dialogue move after, especially inconvenient for those that read fast or are replaying an area.

Overall I think this game was average and would suggest purchasing it if it goes on sale or better off looking for another title. I’ve spent more time and got more enjoyment on the custom Starcraft or Warcraft maps personally, especially since this game is reminiscent of Warcraft 3 and its hero characters. However, I can see this being more enjoyable for younger kids new to the genre or those looking for a family friendly co-op game to occupy your time for a day or two.

I hope you all enjoyed this review. Let me know in the comments below what your favorite TD game is since I still have an itch to get lost in a good one. Have a nice day and hope to see you again soon.

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