Steampunk’s Not Dead
Your employer owns and operates the one and only Ethereum mine on earth, and he is quite the dapper gentleman. From beneath his posh top hat, he speaks to you: “I am not about to let the government take over my mine without a fight!” As Ethereum is the rarest of rare elements, there is money to be made – especially for your side. And so, with a laboratory packed to the brim with experimental weaponry, you must defend your employer’s interests from an evil government hell-bent on taking that which does not belong to them.
Chillingo is best known for a more casual approach to gaming, but with Steampunk Tower, the publisher turns to most tower defense tropes for a title that is accessible to newer players, but addictively satisfying to seasoned veterans. Whereas the genre has most often put an emphasis on preparing defenses and tending to multiple locations while fighting off enemy waves, Steampunk Tower instead places the focus on a single tower with varying slots to place your weapons.
As opposed to most other TD games, however, your guns (consisting of four types: machine gun, cannon, lightning gun, and saw-propeller) can be assigned to any slot at any time by swiping the screen. The more weapons you purchase and place, the more slots become available. Your once nominal tower soon becomes a ziggurat of dizzying height, and a gruesome killing machine to all who would oppose you. Enemy waves approach from the left and right in various formations, so the ability to reposition your guns on the fly makes for a feeling of greater control and strategy.
Additionally, each weapon type is upgradeable. Your once weak machine gun can become a double-barreled menace after you’ve spent points earned from winning rounds on upgrades. Other perks include a wider area of splash damage for cannons, chained electricity attacks, or critical hits landing with more regularity. You’ll also unlock Ethereum-powered super attacks which range from a devastating laser to precision airstrikes and a recurring wave of powerful electricity. These can be deployed by spending Ethereum earned through victory, or bought via the in-game store with real-life money.
As you make your way through the levels, new enemy types are introduced often. Troopers begin to parachute from the sky, heavily armored tanks roll up on your tower, and experimental mechanical monstrosities stomp across the land. Before you know it, your tower stands tall and armed to the teeth, the screen a cacophony of infantry, weaponry, and explosive destruction. And all of this is accomplished with a charming steampunk style that is unlike just about any TD game you’ve ever played.
Admittedly, Steampunk Tower isn’t the deepest gaming experience, especially within its specific genre. This is, however, sidestepped by providing plenty of reasons to replay. Returning to earlier levels to bulk up your bank account is wise, especially if you wish to reach victory in the challenge stages scattered throughout. These missions require the player to defeat waves under varying conditions of duress. Perhaps your tower is at lower health or only certain weapons are available to you. The more upgrade options you have the better, as the qualifier “challenge” is putting it lightly.
Music is light and jazzy, which, while not unpleasant, seems a sort of misstep. Certainly there are no particular rules for what sounds must occur under the steampunk umbrella, but Chillingo seems to have missed an opportunity to provide a more appropriate soundtrack. Industrial music comes to mind first and foremost, and would have fit in perfectly amongst the mayhem.
There are plenty of achievements to unlock in Steampunk Tower, and many actually require more thought than most can’t-miss story-based accomplishments rampant in many of today’s games. One of the coolest was to destroy a tank that was already on fire. Think about that sentence for just a second…awesome, right? You bet.
Though Steampunk Tower may seem watered-down or over-simplified compared to other TD titles, it is a deceptively complex experience brimming with lots of content and more strategy than meets the eye. This would be a great introduction to the genre for newcomers or a relatively mindless experience for those who favor tower defense. Steampunk fans will find plenty of reason to join the fold, and the rest of us will just have a blast dropping bombs on enemy tanks from our glorious pantheon to chaos.