Star Wars: The Battle For Hoth Review

More fun than shooting womp rats in your T-16

Most tower defense games are over-simplified to the point of dullness nowadays. Set up towers, watch creeps follow a pre-determind path, and hope for the best. Every now and then you’ll upgrade a tower or buy a new one, but beyond that, tower defense had managed to become something of a spectator sport. The Battle For Hoth is looking to change all that, placing you in command of an army that needs your constant supervision.

Recreating the icy battle that takes place during the opening scenes of The Empire Strikes Back, The Battle For Hoth places you in command of Rebel forces trying valiantly to defend their base. Across 15 chilly levels, players will set up their defenses and try to fight off the Imperial invasion.

 The Battle For Hoth

A few things really manage to set The Battle For Hoth apart from most other tower defense games on the market. Most notably, your units can take damage and be destroyed. This means the “set it and forget it” mentality that most TD players have grown accustomed to doesn’t apply here. You’ll need to keep an eye on your troops health conditions and make sure you always have enough command points (their version of currency) stashed away to replace them with new units if needed.

The game also offers up an “open world” style of play, at least when compared to the pre-determined paths that most TD games offer. Like FieldRunners, enemies can enter the screen from a variety of locations and players can build their defences anywhere on the map they’d like. This means that a good deal of strategy and planning needs to go into each map – especially in the first few minutes. Locating the enemy entrance points and identifying the natural obstacles the Imperials won’t be able to cross, you’ll need to quickly decide on the best course of action if you want to make the best of every situation.

In my case, that usually meant extending impassable areas like rock formations by building trenches around all but one opening, forcing the Empire to go through a single path straight into the laser fire of my waiting infantry. Other choices factored into the location of my trap too – am I far enough back to have included every Imperial entrance point? Am I too far back that being overrun means the Rebel base will be destroyed? Am I leaving enough currency to properly upgrade my troops before the first wave hits?

 The Battle For Hoth

Interesting choices in unit design made me think a little harder than most TD’s do, too. Gunners are cheap, easy to upgrade, and surprisingly powerful – but they’re also kinda squishy. I could protect them with an energy dome, but it’s not cheap – maybe my money would be better spent sticking them in a trench, offering them only a minimal amount of protection? The game is full of little decisions like this. Funds are gathered off the bodies of dead creeps, but you’re never given so much money to play with that the game becomes a walk in the park. This means you’ll need to save up for some of the bigger items like ion cannons if you want to add them to your defences, and saving up means making smart financial decisions in tough situations.

While nearly every unit can cause trouble for every kind of Imperial, certain units have special skills that make them more valuable in certain situations. Take the snow speeder, for example. 90% of the time it just flies across the battlefield attacking enemies on the ground. But when an AT-AT shows up? You’d better hope that snow speeder has been upgraded to have its tow cable, because taking these beasts down quickly with a tow rope will save the lives of countless troops.

There are other touches here that deep strategy gamers will love, like the ability to tell units who to focus their attacks on – strong, weak, air, ground, closest, furthest, etc.. – though touching those settings is largely unnecessary unless you’re really striving for that high score. There’s also a power-management element to the game, as everything except the infantry needs energy to operate. Setting up a precarious network of power stations is essential, as is defending that power network. If a TIE Fighter takes out a few power stations at once, there’s a good chance your biggest guns are about to go offline.

 The Battle For Hoth

Though a necessary evil due to the battle that was chosen, we were a little bummed out by the repetitive and bland appearance of every map. The design in terms of gameplay was genius, but the visuals left a lot to be desired. 15 levels of dirty snow and rocks can really crush the soul – especially in a series with such a traditionally rich universe. Ditching the Hoth theme and keeping the game more generic would have allowed for a good variety of worlds… but then it would have also made a mess of the unit choices. It’s a tough call to make, and given how well everything plays with the choices FluffyLogic made, I think we can live with the dirty snow.

Gamers looking for a quick and simple tower defense game are going to be taken aback by the depth and strategy offered by The Battle For Hoth. Once they get past their initial shock, though, they’ll find that its depth and challenge make The Battle For Hoth one of the best tower defense games on the App Store. Just remember to bring your parka – Hoth gets mighty chilly this time of year.

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