Overall Score 84%
This is the way the story goes. As the member of a peaceful civilisation you live on the planet Dukis. All is going well until one day when an alien race, the Bavakh, launch a full scale invasion against your homelands with a force so superior in both technology and sheer number that all seems lost. Seizing the opportunity, the Bavakh's own slave race, the Raberata, defect to your side with the secrets of path defence. This is a technology whereby ships can be engaged whilst moving between point to point in hyperspace, leaving them virtually undefended. As the only hope against the invasion, path defence is adopted quickly and volunteers are called for to enter pathspace. In doing so, they must leave their physical bodies in stasis, and manifest themselves in pathspace as godlike ethereal beings. As the story progresses it's fair to say that the Bavakh might be the least of your worries, but I won't spoil the imaginative storyline - you'll just have to play it to find out. Let the game begin.
Immortal Defense plays like a hybrid of a shooter, real time strategy and an action puzzler. It is based on the universe from the novel "Raberata" by Robert Bisno and this makes it rather unique from an indie perspective. It's certainly not a tried and true genre, so full marks to Radical Poesis Games for some great creative and conceptual work good enough to provide such a fresh and innovative gameplay experience.
Essentially, enemy ships move through each level on a pre-determined path and the player must primarily set his defence to best advantage before the action begins. Once the level is started, however, the defence may be added to or augmented as the player sees fit and depending on the amount of credit or "cache" available. As enemy ships are destroyed extra cache is earned and at the end of the level the remaining cache is carried through to the next battle.
Aiding the player are various "points" (in effect, I think that these are manifestations of the consciousness of other path defenders), which will be the main defence against the invaders. Different points come in vastly differing flavours, and each must be utilised effectively if victory is to be attained. In all, there are eleven type of points that are gradually unlocked over the spread of the first couple of campaigns. Some can only shoot at right angles, some have random powerful but unguided attacks, some lay mines, and yet others have no special attacks of their own yet can boost the abilities of other points around them within a specific radius. The mouse cursor also serves as a weapon, continually pounding enemies with a stream of projectiles, and by right clicking the player can charge up various special attacks which are earned at certain intervals through the story. Points can be upgraded from their initial state by left clicking and holding over them. It seems that the rising cost of successive upgrades seems to be almost exponential, however the power of the point also appears to increase by a corresponding margin, so the balance feels just about right. This is the kind of game where balance between cost and effectiveness of all game elements is vitally important to the gameplay, and the developers have done well.
The gameplay is story driven and thus linear in nature, although missions can be retried at any time after completing them once. This is of interest since cache carries over from one mission to the next, and if a mission seems too hard it's often useful to go back a few missions and bank a little more cache by beating your highscores before retrying the more difficult levels in the campaigns. There are six campaigns to play through with hints that there is more content for the path defender who could get through the initial offerings. I would estimate at least ten hours play to complete the game as, after six hours on and off, I'm halfway through the forth campaign.
The visual appeal of Immortal Defense lies in its almost retro style ray traced graphics, with trails and blurs forming an almost hypnotic effect. Liberal use of vibrant colours and shades is excellent, and really helps to immerse the player in a feeling of inter-dimensional combat. It sounds great with fantastic robotic sound effects and a very satisfying shatter when enemies are dispatched. The background music is non-intrusive and fits the theme of the game well, but my personal favourite is the in-menu tune that was both unexpected yet somehow complements the game in an indescribable way for me.
I'm hard pushed to find any negative criticism although the levels do tend to feel a bit repetitive after a while. Even though there is a difficulty slider that could be used to replay the game for a greater challenge, I'm not sure that I'd want to play it through again. The good thing with the difficulty slider is that it can be adjusted mid-campaign if you find yourself hopelessly stuck on a particular level, but bear in mind that score and cache are both scaled up or down with difficulty.
I don't think that the appeal of Immortal Defense will be for everyone, but those who will enjoy the game will be immediately drawn to it. It's quite easy to pick up and play in that the game fundamentals are all explained in the first few missions. It can be a good coffee break game, but also lends itself to longer play sessions as well. I definitely recommend giving it a try. At the very least you are guaranteed a game experience unlike much you have played before. In terms of the big picture, Immortal Defense is a great advertisement for independent games at large. It's the kind of stuff that the commercial distributors would be too scared to go near since it refuses to be tied down into a particular well worn style. It's an edgy and confident production that will compel me to keep an eye on Radical Poesis to see what they come up with next.
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