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Otherwar – Review

Tower Defence games are often more passive experiences as you load up your towers and watch what happens. Otherwar merges that tower defence style into a bullet hell style top down shooter. It isn’t the first game to do it but this small indie title definitely has charm to it despite a few issues which has since been fixed post my video review.

Otherwar doesn’t let you place towers everywhere, only in certain slots and each level has multiple paths to defend. These are marked with red and blue arrows as with each wave of enemies, the enemies will alternate each path. You have 10 tower types that will slowly unlock over the campaign and each can be upgraded three times to become more powerful, with better range. Some of the towers will attack the enemies but some also act as support for you such as the towers that shoot enemy bullets down so you don’t have to keep dodging quite so much. These aren’t required so much on the easy modes in Otherwar but on harder difficulties they can be quite helpful. The other subtle way the game keeps you on your toes is to limit the amount of each tower you can place. You can take 5 tower types into a battle but you can only have a few of each type. Money is largely very tight in the game but this also stops you abusing the more powerful towers. It also makes you think more strategically about tower placement.

Bosses move around and take different paths to the enemies so your tower placement needs to juggle multiple onslaughts.

The bullet hell element of the game comes from the variety of enemies and the fact that each one attacks differently. Trees fire leaves that blow around in a lazy circle for example, whilst other bullets may split into explosions or fan out. You are constantly having to move all of the time and this makes collecting coins a little tricky when things are full tilt. One design choice I took a while to get use to is how everything in Otherwar is fundamentally slow. Your movement, the bullet movement, the enemy movement – nothing is speedy. Initially I didn’t like this but over time I found that this was a wise decision because you have to plan out your evasive actions and it means you need to actively avoid being near enemies to escape their fire. Your character does have an upgrade tree with a few extra moves but you’d be wise to focus on your main gun damage and attack speed. It definitely makes the game easier but you’ll need to grind for a few hours to really make a difference.

Like all tower defence games, you’ll be defending your base. Your base has limited health and if an enemy reaches it, you’ll lose a heart. Your character has its own health meter which gets larger as you lower the difficulty. When you die from taking enemy bullets though, you’ll revive by taking one of the base hearts so it means you’ll need to stay on your toes at all times. Even if your tower defence lines are kicking enemy butt, you’ll need to be a good dodger to stop a level ending in tears. Boss levels are where this comes into the biggest force. Bosses are massive tanks and will often have their own paths to run around the levels compared to regular enemies. You might have everything in hand enemy wise but the boss will always be spewing bullets at you until eventually it dies.

Your character can be upgraded and attack back just as hard – so long as you grind for it.

I did have quite a few bugs on release, which heavily impacted Otherwar’s video review score. I gave it a 4 because the second boss had a game breaking bug and other levels were freezing or not ending correctly. These have been fixed since launch, although I still have issues with using a controller. I recommend a mouse and keyboard set up which isn’t ideal for me personally but does the job. With the bugs fixed, this is a game that is the definition of a slow burn. It isn’t quite in the top tiers of TD or bullet hell games but its mixture of ideas keeps it fresh enough over its runtime. There is also plenty of challenge as the difficulty ranks up. An intriguing game.

Review copy provided by developer. Out now on Steam.

Final Thoughts
With its bugs largely resolved, this is an interesting mix of bullet hell shooting and tower defence. Just be advised that its slow pace is an aquired taste.
Tower defence elements are more strategic than you'd initially expect.
Bullet hell elements keep you on your toes.
Balanced in a way that stops you overearning or spamming towers - there's always a challenge.
Issues with using a controller - it doesn't work.
Its slow pace will not appeal to some.
You'll spend quite a few hours replaying the same couple of levels to grind for upgrades.

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