At its best, Prime World: Defenders is a creative tower defense game that’s quite satisfying to play, but at its worst, its levels become a tedious affair that you need to replay over and over again to make progress.
There’s something undeniably appealing about the tower defense genre. Setting up towers, upgrading them, managing limited resources and facing what appears to be an incessant number of enemies can be both engrossing and thrilling. Prime World: Defenders possesses all those qualities, but it’s also marred by an unbalanced difficulty that translates into hours upon hours of grinding.
The premise is simple enough: in a post-apocalyptic world, a substance known as Prime allows people to gain magical properties and develop new technologies. In order to gain access to Prime, a group of treasure hunters need to withstand wave after wave of powerful monsters. Although Prime World: Defenders isn’t a story-driven game (the story is there to give you an excuse to fight waves of enemies,) the gameplay features some fresh ideas. On the surface, Prime World: Defenders looks and feels like a traditional tower defense game: you place towers on empty cells to defend your base from waves of invaders. Luckily, there’s more to the game than it meets the eye, since Prime World: Defenders combines the classic defense tower genre with collectible card mechanics and the result is something truly unique.
As usual, you have access to different types of towers, including wooden, slowing, poison, fire and electric towers, among many other defensive structures. But the novelty is that each type of tower, spell and trap you have is a different card in your collection. Furthermore, all of those cards can be upgraded to increase their effectiveness. Basically, there are two ways of improving cards: fusing and evolving. Each tower has a specific level and if you want to increase that level, you need to fuse them with other cards in your collection (preferably, those cards you don’t use.) On the other hand, evolution allows you to combine two identical cards to make a single more powerful card.
Apart from using towers to defeat enemies, you can also use spells. Spells are powerful cards that you use once, but before you can use them again, you need to wait until the spell recharges. Naturally, the most powerful spells take a lot of time to recharge, but they are well worth the wait and if you use them at the precise moment, they can turn the tide of the battle to your advantage.
Once you have a couple of towers and at least one spell, you are ready for battle. Regular battles are pretty straightforward, but boss encounters are a different story. In boss battles, not only do you need to stop several waves of regular enemies, but also a bigger, more powerful monster that’s usually more resistant to your attacks. If the gargantuan creature makes it all the way to your base, you fail the mission and you’re forced to retry the level all over again.
Interestingly, there are some variables that can affect the way in which battles play out. The different battlefields have structures known as anomalies, which are indicated by different colors. Anomalies are specific spots where you can place towers and if you do, the tower you place there will gain additional properties, such as better speed, range or attack capabilities. Similarly, you encounter totems, but instead of helping you, these magical constructions aid your enemies by healing them. Thankfully, if you place a tower near them, you can destroy the totem before it starts assisting incoming enemies.
When you complete a level, you get various rewards. Apart from cards, you also get money, experience, and stars. Money can be used for buying a single card, a packs of cards and chests. Experience allows you to level up. Finally, both money and stars are useful to buy new talents. Talents are general upgrades that benefit you in several ways: some talents increase the damage your towers make, others give you more money after fights and so on and so forth.
But one of the features that surprised me the most is the fact that achievements are pretty well-integrated into the game and completing them has effects in the main campaign. At the beginning of each level, you can unlock two achievements by doing something very specific. These challenges encourage you to finish a fight without upgrading towers, use a spell a specific number of times, avoid using a type of tower and finish with one life, to name but a few. Since unlocking these achievements has direct repercussions in the game (completing them usually gives you extra cash,) they represent an integral part of the experience, instead of just an emblem that gives you bragging rights.
But while the idea of collecting, forging and upgrading towers in the form of cards is novel, Prime World: Defenders isn’t without some serious issues. Although the different mechanics are well designed, the game is constantly encouraging you to grind to make progress. Eventually, you’ll get to a point where you can’t move on with the main campaign without undertaking side missions. As a result, you’ll find yourself playing hours upon hours of extra missions to get better towers, more money or a specific talent. I would have appreciated a lower difficulty level to avoid being stuck in the same mission for hours, but for some reason, someone thought that it would be a good idea to force players to undertake secondary missions to make progress.
In conclusion, Prime World: Defenders is a traditional tower defense game that incorporates some novel ideas in a unique way. Sadly, an unbalanced difficulty mars the experience. At its best, Prime World: Defenders is a creative tower defense game that’s pretty satisfying to play, but at its worst, its levels become a tedious affair that you need to replay over and over again to make progress. Ultimately, the unbalanced difficulty is a real shame, because Prime World: Defenders can be a really absorbing game.