Review: Hell Warders
A helluva good time
Title: Hell Warders
Genre: RPG Tower Defense
Modes: Single / Multiplayer
Developer: Antigravity Games
Platform(s): Steam, Switch, Xbox One, PS4(version played)
Sometimes it's really tough to get into a new game. Many adult gamers – myself included – suffer from a dreadful combination of a lack of free time and an overabundance of video games. I can't tell you how many games I purchased with the full intention of playing, yet letting it fall to the wayside once “the next big thing” came out. Without getting into too much detail, let's just say I still haven't played Paper Mario: The Thousand Year Door – and that's just the tip of the ol' backlog iceburg.
One of the problems I have in starting a new game is that a lot of them take a long time to complete. I'm still playing through the single-player mode of Red Dead Redemption 2 – I've had relationships that ended sooner! I don't know how fellow GamerHeads Podcast member Christian does it, but man is it tough getting in a full game while balancing real life. Starting a new epic game takes a real investment, and sometimes I just can't do it. Sometimes I just want to sit down, relax, and play a game that doesn't require weeks on end to complete. This is one of the reasons why I enjoy playing a game like Hell Warders.
The Tip and the Top
Hell Warders is best described as a Tower Defense game with RPG elements. You play as one of three characters, tasked with saving humanity from an onslaught of demons Hell-bent (get it?) on laying waste to all of humanity. Your responsibility as our race's last hope is to strategically place different warriors across a small arena in order to protect a large, magical crystal called the Nexus from being destroyed by waves of demons and monsters.
There's four levels in this game, and each level has five waves. You start the first wave with a certain amount of orbs (points). Each unit you place on the map costs a certain amount of orbs, and when you're ready to start the first wave, just press Start. A mini-map on the screen tells you which direction the wave will come from and head to in order to attack your Nexus, so that is a big help when deciding where to send your warriors. While not very diverse at first, you will unlock a lot of different and effective units that range from Pikemen and Mages to Ballistas and Catapults. The trick is to figure out which units work best in which section of the map, and against which enemies. If the demons make it past your defenses, they will attack the Nexus. If the Nexus' lifebar runs out, it's Game Over.
Once the wave starts, things get real chaotic. And don't think you are just going to sit idly by and let your warriors do all the work; Hell Warders places you smack-dab in the middle of the fray, and you can go anywhere to assist your troops. Depending on your playstyle, you can choose between a noble warrior, gunslinging loudmouth, and a hammer-weilding heavy. I found myself drawn to the gunslinger, but all three offer equally challenging experiences.
If you manage to survive the wave of demons, you have a set amount of time to use the orbs you obtained in that wave to summon more units or to upgrade the surviving ones, before the next wave starts. It really makes you think, as making the right decisions is the difference between making it to the next round, or falling to the forces of darkness. It was a lot of fun trying to figure out my next plan of attack; and in later waves it got downright hectic as I ran around, placing units at random because I was running out of time. That need of urgency really added to my enjoyment of Hell Warders.
The game is tough, but not entirely unfair. Yes, you will lose rounds. It's going to happen, so just deal with it. The good news is, you learn from it and it helps you during your next run. In one situation I was failing as my knight and decided to switch things up to the gunslinger – and I blazed through the round. But even though I lost a bunch, I kept coming back. Having that “just one more time” mentality is what really makes for a good game.
The Flip and the Flop
Hell Warders is not going to win any awards – but that's not a bad thing. The graphics and art style is very “Dark Souls-y,” the monster designs are confusing, and the voice acting is sub-par. It's passable as a current-gen game, but if you're going to dismiss a game just because it's not the most beautiful thing on the planet, then you've got some serious soul-searching to do, my friend.
One of the other things that rubbed me the wrong way with Hell Warders was its lack of explanations. Playing in Single Player, I was just dropped into the round without much of an reason as to why I was there. There was no tutorial level, and I was left to my own devices as to figuring out how the game plays. I was able to get the hang of it after a few rounds, but I will say it was a bit frustrating at first.
Additionally, some of the gameplay is not explained. Once you complete all five waves, you can earn beacons. If you earn a beacon for each wave, you unlock a special power-up bonus for your troops. The problem is, I was never told what parameters need to be followed in order to earn these beacons. After a few rounds, I assumed it was dependent on how much damage the Nexus takes. The problem with this is that if you have a bad round and don't earn a beacon, all subsequent rounds will be affected due to the Nexus' lower health. The good news is you can come back and replay those rounds after you advance in the game and unlock more powerful units.
Hell Warders also features online multiplayer co-op, which is a very smart idea for a game like this. Unfortunately, I was unable to find a match to join during my playthroughs. I am not going to knock the developers for this, as it was just very likely that nobody was hosting an online session when I was searching. I will continue to search for my fellow Warders, though.
Final Score: A-
I don't have a whole lot of experience with Tower Defense games. I think the last one I played was a browser game based on the kids Marvel cartoon The Super Hero Squad. So I was a bit apprehensive when I first fired up Hell Warders. But I must say after putting some good time into it, I thoroughly enjoyed it. The gameplay is a classic example of the “easy to get into, tough to master” idea that really adds to the replay factor. You can just play for 20 minutes, or get lost in a few hours, and still have a great time either way.
The price is just right, too. The entry fee for Hell Warders is $14.99, which is right in that sweet spot for a game of this style. You'll definitely get your money's worth, and adding the online co-op component only makes every subsequent playthrough that much different.
Hell Warders is a fun game. It's not perfect, but its shortcomings aren't enough to not give it a second look. If you are looking for something ridiculously deep with a ton of micromanagement, this may not be the game for you. But for those who are looking to kill some time after a long day of work or school, it's completely worth it. So abandon hope, all ye who purchase this game.
Review Copy provided by PQUBE