X-Morph: Defense bills itself as being a unique fusion of a top-down shooter and tower defense strategy game. It is the second Steam game by developer-publisher EXOR Studios following Zombie Driver. It enjoys a very positive review score from the Steam community. It is also available on PlayStation 4 and Xbox One.
Not Quite Unique
I want to point out that X-Morph isn’t as unique as the devs would like it to be. This is because games such as Excubitor and Close Order are readily available. However, it was because of my experience with the former that grabbed my interest in this game. However, I will readily admit to being a big fan of the tower defense genre. Furthermore, I do enjoy the occasional shooter so the genre-combo is right up my alley.
That other games exist in this genre isn’t a bad thing for X-Morph. Rather, it is a positive. Because of Excubitor, I know what I am looking for here. Consequently, it creates a measuring stick thus enabling me to appreciate EXOR staking their claim on the genre.
Ultimately, EXOR, sometimes it’s a good thing not to be unique!
X-Morph as a Tower Defense
In traditional tower defense fashion, the game plays out in waves. Before each wave begins you get to establish your towers. A good percentage of the game’s strategy occurs here. My recommendation is to take your time and assess the map before planting any towers. If you’re smart you will quickly ascertain the optimal methods in delaying your attackers.
There are seven types of towers you can build. They each have different strengths and weaknesses. Additionally, they are each designed to assist the player in destroying a different type of enemy unit. For example, plasma is rapid-fire but is weak and thus won’t destroy units with heavy armor. Another is slower but can fire over obstacles while there are three types designed to destroy the enemy’s air attack. A great feature is that you can link your towers. For example, you can create a laser fence which serves as a barrier between two towers. This forces the enemy to find non-optimal routes to your mothership and makes it easier to defend. Therefore, every selection is important as you have a finite amount of resources to build them. However, you can acquire additional resources throughout each battle and transform into ‘ghost mode’ to plant more.
The enemy humans also have a plethora of available unit types at their disposal. Much like your towers each has their own unique set of strengths and weaknesses. Additionally, each is designed to do different things. For example, some utilize jetpacks and weapons to destroy or go right through your obstacles. Others will take out your towers while there are those whose sole aim is to obliterate you. If they are successful you respawn next to your mothership core. However, the only fail state in the game is when your mothership/core has been destroyed.
X-Morph as a Shooter
Although the player strategizes throughout each wave the game primarily morphs into a shooter. The shooter component of the game is pretty straightforward and therefore not groundbreaking. Your job is to essentially fly across the map and protect your mothership. You will be on your toes at all times. Enemies come thick and fast. You will find yourself watching the map and moving to where you need to be. The only problem that I have with the shooter component is that it can feel too busy. I’ll touch more on this in the presentation component of the review.
At the completion of each wave, the game awards the player with a well-earned checkpoint. I am a fan of this as it awards your hard work and doesn’t make you replay the same content again and again.
Completing each mission awards you points to upgrade your technology. The game offers real game defining choices as you can upgrade your towers or your ship’s weaponry. Although I argue that this is nothing new to games it’s a great touch. Each upgrade makes a lot of sense dependent upon the player. If you’re a tower defense aficionado you’ll focus on upgrading towers. Conversely, if you come from a shooter background they may be your best bet.
Great Difficulty Settings
Difficulty settings are a source of debate for many games. A regular question is what the differences are and occasionally if there really is a difference at all. The difficulty settings in this game are outstanding. Before you begin to play you are given a detailed explanation of the different settings. The developers understood that they would generate fans of both shooters and tower defense. Therefore, they encouraged that and set their game up to meet the experience levels of all gamers. If you’re inexperienced in either level then the lower difficulty settings will teach you how to play. Additionally, players can change difficulty settings at any time. This enables you to pick the level of challenge you’re ready for without restarting.
Boss Battles Offer More Than A Challenge
Boss fights are a key component of the game. Fortunately, this is an area where X-Morph: Defense truly delivers. For example, the first boss fight is against the Tarantula, a gigantic spider-like mech. The first thing that the player sees upon its introduction Is it destroying a big city building. Because it can destroy a smaller building like child’s play strategy obviously comes into play. First, the player must destroy its legs. Each time you destroy a leg the tarantula takes a moment to re-center its energy on its remaining legs to continue moving. Once you destroy the legs, your next focus is on destroying the core to complete the mission.
The storytelling through the boss fights is outstanding. This is because it shows the gravity of the situation. The humans acknowledge that if they don’t destroy the alien invaders then humankind will come to an end. Therefore, taking some casualties – the tarantula taking out its own buildings – is an acceptable course of action.
Unfortunately, I must offer a warning to epileptics who are considering this game. I offer this warning because the game becomes very busy graphically. Although I don’t suffer from epilepsy, strobe lighting and flashing lights can still give me headaches. I found that the game becomes so busy throughout some waves that it began having an effect on me. The action comes at you thick and fast from all angles. There’s often not a many parts of the screen where there is no action. Consequently, your senses are truly invaded.
That said, I really enjoy the presentation of the game. The color palette has been well chosen. The voice overs of the humans do a good job in telling the story and providing a heads up about the action.
Despite the business of the screen the presentation is well done for a game of this type. It is everything that you would be expecting. Finally, I believe that the screenshots offer an accurate reflection of the game. However, I do recommend taking a look at gameplay video if visual health is an important issue for you.
Extrinsic Value from a Steam Standpoint
The game has 30 Steam achievements as well as a set of trading cards. Furthermore, the takes strong advantage of additional Steam features including leaderboard, cloud saves, The game also incorporates Steam Workshop. Although there are only four player-made maps, at time of writing, the potential is there for much more content to come.
X-Morph: Defense gets a huge thumbs up from Aussie Report. It successfully incorporates its mixture of shooter and tower defense. Outstanding boss battles and skill upgrades add a lot to the enjoyment of the overall game. That the game saves at such regular intervals makes it a perfect game for both short sessions and extended playthroughs.
The game is currently available at a 40% discount throughout the Steam winter sale.