geoDefense Swarm is the successor to the highly-rated and greatly-lauded Xbox Live title geoDefense. Admittedly, I did not play the original geoDefense at its release, so I am a newcomer to the series, but for the purposes of this review I played the Trial in conjunction with the full version of geoDefense Swarm to facilitate making comparisons between the two games in the series. While that may mean I am not as educated on the finer points of the original, it does mean I can give a newcomer’s perspective to Swarm whilst also being able to compare the two titles.
First off, I can imagine that the worry of many – especially when seeing the new menu, which is identical to the old – is that buying Swarm is effectively to buy a few extra levels at the premium of buying a new game. Granted, even that would give a few extra achievements worth 200G, but it would be unfair to market an update as an entirely new games. Fortunately, I can allay those fears by saying that most certainly is not the case here, as explored below.
I should start by explaining the game, before delving into details comparing Swarm to its predecessors. Doubtless some of you will be familiar with the game and the genre already – if so, feel free to skip the remainder of this paragraph – but for some this may be a new game, series or genre. geoDefense Swarm, like its predecessor, is a Tower Defence in dazzling, bright neon colours, much like Radiant Defense, another game I reviewed recently for this site. The task is to use towers to prevent the incoming attackers from reaching the exit – or, in some cases, exits. Tower placement is critical (doubly so in Swarm; more on this later), as is choice of tower and choosing between upgrades or new towers altogether.
To start with the negatives, when I moved from Swarm to its predecessor, I was rather disappointed that I still had the full repertoire of towers available to me. That is, no additional towers have been added to the successor. It would have been nice to see additional towers, but instead Critical Thought Games has decided to tweak the performance of the existing towers (especially the targeting system of the laser turret, apparently) as opposed to introduce anything new. The price points of turrets and upgrades have also been tweaked, and whilst minor these two things do improve gameplay mechanics somewhat. Positives, but I feel I have to reiterate that I would have liked to see a successor expand on the arsenal available.
Update: There is a new tower called the Thumper; from playing certain levels with it, this tower seems to cause an earthquake so that attackers in its vicinity are slowed down. Think of freeze towers in other TDs. It can be useful, but I deployed it mainly to vary my strategy a bit – it is possible I was not using it as efficiently as possible, but I did not find it had a great effect. Still, that rules out the one negative I found with this game.
The menu looks exactly the same and seems not to have undergone any cosmetic changes, retaining the seizure-inducing neon colours that we have also seen in Radiant Defense. Past the menu, however, there is significant change in the visual department – with ramifications on gameplay. The square-tiled grid of the first title is gone, replaced with smaller hexagons. This provides a far greater number of tiles but means that towers are placed in the centre of the tile with no option to reposition a tower within a square as we saw in the original. With smaller tiles, that is no longer feasible and I cannot say it is any worse off for losing that – the greater number of smaller tiles more than makes up for that. Gone, too, is the pre-defined ‘trail’ which attackers follow from level entrance to exit. This causes the single biggest shift in gameplay between the two games, and ruins the credibility of the argument that Swarm is just a premium-priced level expansion. So big is it that I am giving it its own paragraph.
Removing the trail means that the incoming attackers are now free to choose the shortest route from any of the entrances to any of the exits (although some do seem to be going for a particular exit, but still take the shortest route there). Similar to Radiant Defense where ‘modules’ are built to fill in empty tiles, upon which towers can then be built, which extends the shortest route and re-routes the attackers, in Swarm tower placement is no longer just about maximising damage but redirecting the attackers along a player-decided route. This can be used to great effect to force attackers to coalesce in their search for the exit, or to force them past a greater number of towers. This adds a much greater sense of strategy to the game, whereby a player needs to keep track not only of upgrading or building towers, but how building a new tower will change the shortest route – it may even mean that building a new tower along the bottom of the screen will mean the shortest route sees towers redirect to advancing along the top, bypassing all your defences. This adds an extra dimension of difficulty and challenge such that, in comparing the Easy levels from each game, the first title is incredibly easy, merely requiring a stash of towers along the trial, whilst Swarm makes you think hard about tower placement. Even in Radiant Defense there is a form of trail, but here it is simply freeform – an empty board with your first tower being the marker for where they will head.
Like its predecessor, Swarm is also an Xbox Live title and as such carries with it a set of achievements totalling 200G. Whilst they provide a challenge and encourage total domination of the game, they are largely unchanged from the Achievements in geoDefense. It is slightly disappointing to see that only minor tweaks have been made to the Gamerscore awarded and the conditions required, but if it worked the first time around then I am sure they did not want to change a good thing. Besides, they probably had their hands full reworking the entire gameplay by removing the trail.
On the face of it, when opening up the menu, there may be an impending sense of ‘great, I have just paid full price for a few extra levels’. However, playing the levels it is such a shift in gameplay and is so much more challenging and rewarding that only the towers, menu and colour scheme link the two games. If you enjoyed the first, this is surely a must-have.
geoDefense Swarm xBox Live Achievements
- Easy Start (1 points): Beat any Easy Level.
- Beat Easy (2 points): Win 9 of the Easy Levels.
- Easy Owned (10 points): Beat 9 Easy Levels without losing a life on any (excluding endless Levels).
- Medium Start (5 points): Beat any Medium Level.
- Beat Medium (10 points): Beat 9 Medium Levels.
- Medium Owned (30 points): Beat 9 Medium Levels without losing a single life (excluding endless Levels).
- Hard Start (7 points): Beat any Hard Level.
- Beat Hard (15 points): Beat 9 Hard Levels.
- Hard Owned (85 points): Beat 9 Hard Levels without losing a single life (excluding endless Levels).
- Green Machine (5 points): Upgrade a Blaster Tower to level 7.
- Blue Thunder (5 points): Upgrade a Laser Tower to Level 7.
- Red Menace (5 points): Upgrade a Missile Tower to Level 7.
- Shock and Awe (5 points): Upgrade a Shock Tower to Level 7.
- Flux Vortex (5 points): Upgrade a Vortex Tower to Level 7.
- Close Call (5 points): Score a x50 Multiplier Bonus from a Creep.
- Turret Happy (5 points): Place every type of Turret in a single Level and win.
geoDefense Swarm Gameplay Video
geoDefense Swarm Screenshots
There is a trial version available and the full version is available for $2.99, we are not sure what the limitations of the trial version are.
Our Rating for geoDefense Swarm
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