Tower Defense games feel like they’ve had their initial boom and have now settled into their own niche game genre. This allows innovation with how you use the usual game structure to switch things up a bit. This is where the clever Core Defense comes in. This is tower defense crossed with roguelike deck building… and its great.
Core Defense starts off in a very simple grid. You have to defend your core in the centre of the grid and enemies will attack you on the path of least resistance from the four corners of the map. You start off with seven walls to begin to make that path as long as possible and you get the choice of some randomised towers to place to start with.
Each game lasts 50 waves and at the start of each wave you are given a choice of between 2-5 cards to pick from. This could give you a new tower to place, a new passive ability to obtain or an upgrade to either. It could also be a wall card to build out your maze further. The choice is entirely yours and there are over 100 cards that can crop up as more unlock the longer you play. Levels are seed generated so you can replay the same scenario over and over until you conquer it if you like.
There are some crucial limits placed on you though. You only have seven slots for towers or abilities. If you want that passive heal ability, you’ll have to deal with having one less tower dealing damage. Quickly opt for seven towers and they’ll all be weak as you’ll have not picked any upgrades to make them more effective. On top of tower and ability upgrades there are also mods to the entire playing area. These can increase all damage by 3%, add a shield that generates 3% each wave or increase the drop of rarer cards. That might be handy if you’ve got a rare tower you want to buff up but maybe you want to ability to order double walls when you select a wall card instead – thus making the enemies wrap around your towers as many times as possible to kill them. The possibilities really do spiral out and experimentation is key. The fact that each seed gives you different cards and enemy waves means you cannot rely on the same strategy over and over again – you must adapt to each case.
Whilst the game itself is absolutely superb, outside of that there is a lack of drive forward once you’ve unlocked all the cards after the first couple of hours. There is no campaign to speak of but instead you have a difficulty bar that puts you at an increasing disadvantage. i found that my skills landed me on game over screens very early on in the 20 tiered difficulty and I couldn’t really see how I was missing the mark so badly – mainly because of the seven ability and tower limit. You can completely redesign your maze and layout between waves but as you don’t really know what is coming next it feels a bit wasted unless you rinse and repeat. As the difficulty increases, enemies also get more aggressive. This brings into play the shield and healing cards but if you spend in that department, you’ll also not be upgrading your towers to be stronger. The con to that is that if a tower gets destroyed, you lose it for a few rounds before it can be regenerated and replaced. You can also pull in status inflicting towers too that poison or reduce armour of the biggest tanks. Choice, choices, choices.
That aside, the deck building element is superb and really makes Core Defense stand out from the crowd. I really enjoyed my time with the game, even though I spent most of the time losing. I couldn’t help but dive back in and tweak my strategy again and that is the hallmark of a great strategy game.
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