Since forever I find the concept behind Tower Defense games to be... fun! Starting out back in the day with playing RTS games such as Age of Empires or early C&C games where the singleplayer missions required you often to bunker yourself in until you become stronger to bring the fight to them.
The idea behind TD games, to stop various enemies coming at you with various towers and other means is actually very puzzle like. Where and when to use what Tower to stand in the way. Positioning and ressource management play a huge role. As does rechargeable abilities and sometimes even troops. Some TD games require you to bring the fight o the enemy base while others do not or they throw an unique boss at you.
What makes them most fascinating to me is how they require brain power from you but at the same time are never stressful. While in RTS games the pacign can become very hectic and the micro overburdening, a Tower Defense game can actually be played while playing another game like Total War.
In fact I decided to make this article after I've been playing Total War Attila primarily and on my mobile phone Bloons 5 TD. At some point it shifted so that Bloons became the primarily played game. I noticed that and well here I am now xD
So I'll be presenting some TD games that I came along and that I really like. I'll sort them in personal preference order.
On top of that I think I can provide some useful insight since I know them quite thoroughly.
After the exceptional Bloons 4 which is a free flash game by NinjaKiwi Bloons 5 takes the cake. It is pretty much what I would call one of the best games ever and one of the best Tower Defense games ever.
Its a perfectly executed game. Most importantly it features a game mechanic which is imo vital for any TD game but only few have it. Target Priority settings for towers. being able to tell your tower to target either First or Last or Strongest or Nearest is vital or else powerful towers waste their fire on weak minions or splash damage towers waste their fire away from blobs. it is solely due to Target Priority why Bloons 5 instead of Kingdom Rush gets the top spot from me.
What else makes this game great?
It bloody works. Total War Attila for example is still haunted by numerous problems... but Bloons 5? This game is working flawlessly and on top of that it delivers what it promises.
The sound design is great. I love the tune Youtube.com and the pop effect of a bloon popping is addictive. It is a pleasing game to the ear unlike some other TD games that rape your ears with poor mechanical machinegun sounds. While visually not the most pleasing it looks really decent but where it shines most is the:
There's a vast amount of perfectly designed maps. I haven't counted them but may they be 30 or far more? They still add new ones for free and Bloons 4 had a map editor. On top of that there's:
A challenge mode limiting you or changing rules making it a joy to play every day differently .
Cooperative game mode which worked well on my Windows Phone letting two players together pop bloons.
Odyssey mode requiring you to win 3 times in a row for a special reward.
Sandbox mode being a sandbox.
Special missions with certain objectives.
Excellent tower selection each with 2 upgrade paths mostly for either more killing power or stopping power. Other towers that provide money or buff towers. Self controlled gun towers and more. The mixture and the tower design is fantastic. There aren't just boring towers but some really unique and interesting ones. And you gotta upgrade them to match the bloons different abilities. Also land and water towers.
The importance and variety in tower placing stands out the most in Bloons 5. Nowhere else did I find such a huge variety in how to master a level. This is not a puzzle where you have to find the one winning formula. From mage towers combined with cannons, to snipers with ninjas. They all differ greatly and the combination and tower synergy and placement synergy is beyond.
The amount of content is phenomenal and it is all great content. It doesn't feel bloated or something feeling out of place or bad.
Whats bad about Bloons 5? I can only think about one minor issue. The enemy minions, those bloons aren't as varied as enemy minions are in other TD games. Still there's a more than decent selection of the following:
Multiple layer Bloons
MOAB bloon class being a more armored bloons requiring stronger towers to kill. Sounds simple but is more interesting than you might think. After death splits up into multiple weaker MOABs.
No "flying" bloons requiring anti air towers.
Bloons 5 is available for pretty much everything. PC Mobile Phone Browser you name it. Currently on sale in Steam for 7$.
There are various Kingdom Rush games. I focus primarily on the major one being available on Steam. The excellent Frontiers is available as a Flash game look it up and try it out it is just as excellent but also very much alike almost like a reskined clone with sometimes the same levels even.
Kingdom Rush comes along being one of the most beautifully crafted and thrilling TD games that I came along. If it wasn't for the sore lack of Target Priority and the levels sometimes requiring the "one and only winning strategy" it'd take the cake.
Kingdom Rush has a great selection of levels to play. Best of all each level with 3 different difficulties making them very replayable. On top of that 2 challenge modes for each level limiting your heroes or abilities or towers and throwing new compositions of enemies at you.
You can upgrade your towers and your heroes both before and within the match which makes it interesting to try different tactics even if they aren't the most efficient way since you don't know which one is most efficient till you found it. Completing a level however sadly is often dictated by rightly timed use of the Raining Fire ability.
The minion towers you got stand out the most. The concept differs from other TD games in the way that you build towers that place troops on the path. barbarians throwing axes for example or upgrade a magical tower to summon a mighty Golem.
The tower selection is fairly limited but they have variety in which branch they can be upgraded. Like said Mage tower which usually is just a strong gun tower suddenly becoming a armor destroying tower summoning Golems to stop the enemy.
It comes down to stopping the enemy with your forces while taking them under fire from gun towers while throwing the two Abilities at them finally utilizing your hero. Some minions are tricky to fight like flying ones or healers or a flying witch that turns your soldiers into zombies and stuff.
The tower placement is sadly very limited and so are the tactics dictated by what enemy you face in each level.
Kingdom Rush really stands out in the aspect of thinking how many troops do you need to stop the enemy while still having place for gun type towers taking them under fire.
A sore nuisance is the lack of a speed up function. Kingdom Rush is a bit slow and takes time. You'd often want to increase the game speed but can't. Its not bad enough to be a flaw but a nuisance none the less
Is available on Steam too and currently on sale. Kingdom Rush games are available for pretty much every platform and the devs had to recreate the game for each platform! They really love their game and it shows. I got a great 45 hours of fun out of this game!!!
Revenge of the Titans
I wasn't sure about where to place this one mainly because I haven't finished it yet but I want to write this article now.
What lets Revenge of the Titans stand out the most is how it includes so many RTS game elements that you almost think you're playing a RTS game. You build your base build refineries and towers and factories. Then you stop the enemy forces running at your buildings. Sadly the enemy variety is poor and the enemy is also stupid... but that surprisingly doesn't hurt the game much.
The enemy types include the usual enemy either armored or not or fast or not.Then there's boss like enemy having massive health. Finally a smaller enemy not targetable by towers only by your own forces. Oh and those nasty Ghosts that you must target yourself with a Tesla tower which are a huge nuisance since you don't know from where they come from till you restarted the level.
Your own forces can not be be given orders. They randomly run around your base and open fire. They have some mechanic that makes them stay near to you but also engage. There's a weak enemy type that only they can target. The most interesting about the concept is that you have to really think about the balance of funds and ability usage as well as building placement and tower placement. Some towers have friendly fire like rocket towers. There are also plenty of support towers with a short range to buff your own other towers.
The enemy minions favor the street but don't stick to it which I find great. There's a certain feeling of randomness in how the blob of enemy forces is coming at you. Unlike most other TD games where you know exactly what and from where it will attack you.
There's also plenty of very powerful abilities that you must collect by clicking on them when they're spawning on the map. There are also money drops that vanish after a few seconds. You gotta click on these too in order to collect them. This can be stressful and it draws your attention away far too much than it should from the main game. But it compensates for the lack of unit micro that a real RTS would have.
Revenge of the Titans is unlike other TD games a game that you have to be playing primarily. You can't do something else while playing it because it requires your full attention at all times. This isn't good nor bad, its just there and you should consider it. Overall it can be a hit or miss due to many subjective reasons.
The towers can't be upgraded but there's a technology tree in which you can progress after each level and you can re spend these research points so you're given a rather vast amount of freedom in what to build. The tower and building selection is pretty big but they offer no upgrades. There's no hero unit either which would of have fitted nicely into this RTS TD hybrid. Its also one of those TD games where towers can get damaged and you will need to repair them. They also have an ammo count which reloads during this they're inactive.
Art and Sound are good. I really like that neon look it got and its overall an enjoyable experience. It has a Campaign and a Sandbox and a special Yeti defence mode as well as a Survival mode but they're pretty much all the same kind of. There is a level editor available which I haven't tried yet but it lets you play levels made by others which is great. You will not lack maps thats certain.
Also available on steam also in a Puppygames Package including their other games. I don't know them but now I wish I got that package instead of just the game xD
StarCraft 2 Arcade: Stardrive TD & Tower Defense Tycoon
Take a kick ass engine like StarCraft2 provides it and craft a tower defense like no other? Has been done, at least twice! Keep in mind the StarCraft Arcade is freely available to everyone as is the starter edition of StarCraft. So you got full access to a really great game library.
Stardrive TD is just massive in every regard. Starting off with that kick ass introduction of the space ship that you gotta defend and build upon. You select the levels into which this ship then travels so you can play multiple times with different levels. You build and upgrade the ship and your base in all kinds of ways. I will not go into detail because one could fill a huge book with it and I haven't played it since a few months... but damn just damn. Like many other games in the arcade the game scales with the amount of players. So you can play it alone or with others. So there is a coop mode or a singleplayer mode. Its slight complexity at the beginnign can be overwhelming especially for those not familiar with StarCraft but it doesn't take long to get a hang out of it also due to some selecatable easy levels.
And frankly a good TD game is one in which you fail a few times first before you succeed.
Tower Defense Tycoon is at first glance less spectacular but has plenty of great features going for it. It is sadly just one track and the levels are always the same, it does however offer different difficulty levels. Since the setting is a TD Tycoon its all about the spectacle of the theme park. You gotta amuse the crowd and the small bits of "story" supplement it really well especially when the crowd goes "hot". It also has its fair share of complexity if you intend to master it. The better you do the more visitors you attract and some of the many support buildings focus on providing you more money through said crowd. There are some special events too and boss battles.
At the core you have a few different choices of which towers to build and where and from there on expand your network. The tricky part is to keep doing whats most effective since it isn't exactly clear. Is a bit more trial and error due to that. It has coop mode or lets just call it challenge where you compete with others for the highest score. You're not working together. Its a simultaneous competition. It is enjoyable alone too.