Arthouse Games
Review: Base Invaders
by jcr13Tuesday, December 5, 2006 [12:59 pm]

http://www.digipen.edu/GameGallery/websites/Base_Invaders/images/ss_19_s.pngThis is the first in a series of Slamdance Finalist reviews.

Base Invaders is a real-time strategy (RTS) game, but it gives that well-worn genre a twist. Instead of building unit factories and leading attacks with the resulting units, your task in Base Invaders one of defense only. In fact, you only really have one “structure” on your side: the tower that you are trying to defend.

Around the tower, you can build walls and set an assortment of comical traps. Simultaneously, hordes of little invaders try to gnaw their way through your defenses.

I should point out that walls and traps, for defense, are nothing new when it comes to RTS games---I’m reminded of Tesla coils and flame towers in Red Alert. The novelty stems from the fact that Base Invaders leaves out everything else. What's left is not devoid of strategic depth, however, because the traps and defenses have interesting mechanics.

Some traps, such as the hammer, can only spring in one direction (you chose the direction when you build the trap). Other traps, such as the fan, can only destroy invaders in conjunction with other traps. The fan, like the hammer, only blows in one direction. If you place and aim your traps in a clever fashion, you can build an elegant, impenetrable defense web using very few resources.

The unidirectional defenses remind me of power projection in games like chess. I'm also reminded of the unidirectional units in the RTS NetStorm.

But in Base Invaders, despite this glimmer of strategic depth, you don't have time for too much planning---the invaders keep on coming. Furthermore, many of the traps that you place wear out rather quickly, so you need to be constantly on guard to refresh them.

Unfortunately, the interface seems to get in the way of everything you are trying to do. This is clearly a 2d game with a 3d presentation. As an example of why a 3d view is not ideal, consider the most basic defense in the game: picking up and throwing invaders. To do this, you need to position your 3d "disembodied hand" over the target invader and click the mouse. This is rather difficult, especially when you are in a rush, because you must master 3d object alignment. The only reliable way to pick up an invader is to watch the shadow of your hand (and thank goodness the sun is at high noon, or else we'd really be lost). But you don't want to be watching shadows when you play this kind of game. An optional top-down view would be helpful (if that option was there, I missed it).

Except for the problems associated with a 3d view, the presentation is nicely polished. The overall mood of the game is a cartoonish one, with a variety of different types of invaders that arrive in wave after wave. I would call most of them “cute.” The artwork and animations are top-notch.

So what's the bottom line here? Except for the novelty of focusing only on defense, Base Invaders falls into some of the standard RTS ruts. For example, the game "progresses" through various missions in which new defense units are unlocked and new enemy types are introduced.

Is it art? I get the feeling that the designers weren't shooting for art with this one, so we could just avoid the issue entirely. However, the game does pose an interesting question about its genre (what if defense was your only option?). Even so, it avoids plumbing any of the possible philosophical depths (attacking vs. self-defense vs. justification) and opts to happily skim along the surface instead.

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by Capt_PocoTuesday, June 12, 2007 [7:13 pm]

Truly, this game marks an industry-defining moment, the birth of a new genre, a new genre I shall call....

Tower Defense

Google Results of about 1,870,000 for tower defense.

Hmm, then I guess it marks the birth of a new genre, a new genre I shall call...

3D Tower Defense

(Master of Defense)

Hmm, wow I guess it's not innovative at all, except for that hand you use to control everything.

(Dungeon Keeper)

Whooops.

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