Title: X-Morph: Defense
Available On: PC, XBox One, PlayStation 4
Played On: PC
Developer: EXOR Studios
Publisher: EXOR Studios
Genre: Top-Down Shooter, Tower Defense
Official Site: https://www.xmorphdefense.com/
Release Date: August 30, 2017
Where to Buy it: Steam, PS Store, Microsoft Store
It is extremely unfortunate that so much of X-Morph: Defense is so generic. Don’t even get me started on that title. Plenty of other things, from the goofball story and strange dialogue to the “seen that a thousand times” graphics, are hardly anything new. It is unfortunate because, otherwise, it’s a pretty solid game, and a great combination of two much-loved genres.
X-Morph: Defense is a combination of tower defense and top-down, twin stick shooter. Players take control of a consciousness of an alien invasion force, flying around a small map and blasting human military units as they roll and fly towards the alien core. In between waves, you can place towers around the map, defending valuable choke points and blocking off short paths to force units to take the long road. Survive enough waves and you can upgrade your ship and towers and move on to the next level.
This is all wrapped around a rather thin story about the alien force covering the world with a mysterious metallic substance that sucks the energy out of the planet. Your alien commander is a very Protoss-sounding individual who teaches the mechanics in monotone voiceover. Your central antagonist is a typical hot-headed military leader who simply cannot believe that aliens who have mastered intergalactic travel and constructed a material that absorbs energy from planets also have the technology to blow up his tanks and helicopters. The story is goofy as hell, but the gameplay on both fronts is solid.
As a tower defense title, X-Morph: Defense is a bit simplistic, but solid. Good design choices abound, and controls are responsive whether played with mouse and keyboard or gamepad. Tower building is much more basic than in many tower defense titles, probably for ease of console play, and it is very difficult to build towers when waves of enemies are approaching. It would be nice if, graphically, it was easier to tell different towers apart from one another and better see just how many enemies there are.
As a top-down shooter, X-Morph: Defense succeeds a bit more. The shooting feels frantic without feeling like you are overmatched. It does a good job of making you feel like a technologically superior alien force without ever feeling too easy. It helps that, despite the chaos and “sameness” of some of the assets, X-Morph: Defense is pretty. Tanks explode into shrapnel and fireballs. Buildings collapse around you as you fire your missiles. Charged attacks feel impressively meaty, as jets fall out of the sky and buildings are destroyed in a single blast. Striking a balance between “powerful” and “overpowered” is tough, and it is pulled off very well here.
Even more fun is the cooperative mode. Two players can take to the skies and blow up enemy waves together. The framerate holds up surprisingly well as two alien ships blast enemies and destroy skyscrapers, and it showcases the amount of detail put into the world destruction in X-Morph: Defense. As buildings collapse, their interiors are revealed, girders fall apart, and individual pieces of furniture collapse to the ground. Again, these small details add to the feeling of power that the game tries to instill in the player. Even though you are destroying the cityscapes of Earth, it feels like a fun time.
Not everything is perfect in X-Morph: Defense. Again, the generic feel of so much of the game makes it difficult to invest yourself into it. The difficulty of the game can spike at odd times, especially when something you’ve never seen before is introduced 75% of the way through a mission (which can often take between 30 minutes to an hour each) and completely wrecks your strategy. It can feel cheap and frustrating when this occurs.
Also frustrating are the pre, during, and post-mission story sections. As already stated, they are dull and generic. Even more egregious is the fact that they cannot be skipped. You can fast forward (complete with a bizarre, VHS “scan line” look and sped up voice acting), but it is especially annoying if you are having to repeat the same mission or checkpoint multiple times. I know how to upgrade a tower! Stop forcing me to sit through 30 seconds of irritation to try the level again!
That said, there’s a lot to like here. It’s an inexpensive and well-made diversion, even if much of it has been done before. With a few other regular players to join up with (or compete with on the leaderboards), you could get a lot of mileage out of X-Morph: Defense.
Verdict: While it certainly is not perfect, X-Morph: Defense is a solid combination of top down shooter and tower defense. It does not do anything particularly original or groundbreaking, but it does do what it sets out to do very well. There are a few nagging issues that can be frustrating, but it is a good way to spend some time, especially in the cooperative mode.
- Gameplay and details are done well
- Good multiplayer
- Looks surprisingly good
- Very generic/unoriginal
- Difficulty is inconsistent
- Several minor annoyances/frustrations