Elf Defense proves that tower defense games can still be fun and feel totally original
2012 is shaping up to be a great year for tower defense games on iOS. Last month, we got the delightful Kingdom Rush, and now Elf Defense has hit the App Store. This new title has some great tower defense content, and it’s complemented by the fact that this is easily one of the most stylish things you’re likely to play. Needless to say, I really liked it. Odds are that you will, too.
Elf Defense tells a story about a world where — until now — people have lived in harmony with nature. However, mankind is getting greedy and is starting to encroach on the territory of the Elves. As a result, you have to help the Elves fend off the invasion of their lands. It’s a cute premise, especially with how it puts humanity in the villain’s seat.
The first thing you’ll notice is that this is a very good-looking game. It features a unique blend of the cartoony and box styles that are so popular right now. Something that’s really great is how organically your units will change when you upgrade them. When you start out, your units are little more than potted plants, but by the time you’ve finished upgrading them the things are full-fledged forces of natures in their own right. Everything here has an amazingly unique cel-shaded look that will wow just about anyone. That said, the environments sometimes feel just… weird in the way they’re designed. I don’t know what it was, but something about some of the levels’ visual style —mainly how so many squares are so different from one another— just felt sort of strange at times. It’s not really a bad thing, but it’ll probably throw some players off.
All the usual stuff of a tower defense game is here, complete with the winding pathways, units that can be upgraded and work together to achieve greater effects, and increasingly powerful waves of enemies. The basic gameplay works flawlessly, and it’s incredibly addictive. However, the fun mechanics aren’t really what make things interesting. That’s what the “holy leaves” and special items are for.
The holy leaves are the in-game currency that some defeated enemies will provide, you can also purchase them from within the game’s store. You can spend these leaves on all sorts of things like permanent upgrades for your units, purchase “mercenary” characters, and acquire the aforementioned special items. Now, the items are used to sort-of cheat in the game: To name a few of the effects, you can restore life points to your tower, dig up rocks that are blocking viable squares, and place bricks in the enemies’ path. You’ll probably want to spend a few bucks on the leaves instead of spending a few hours earning them through gameplay, but they’re not so expensive that it’ll rub you the wrong way.
Elf Defense is a really great game. Between the addictive gameplay, the stunning visuals, and the clever (but not necessary) in-app purchase system, developer Jellyoasis has managed to really knock this out of the park.