Review: Elemental War
I get a lot of Tower Defence games across my desk. It’s amazing how many variations on a simple genre you can have. Then again, it’s not a simple genre – Tower Defence combines strategy with resource management, or at least it should. With Elemental War you have to pitch the power of the elements against endless hordes of enemies. Is the gameplay more than elementary though?
Version Reviewed: 0.09
Even without drilling into the Application Manager to discover the 0.09 version number, you get an impression that Elemental War isn’t quite finished - the main menu has two out of four options greyed out - the “Library” and “Options” icons. The only options available are “Start” and “Credits”. Not wanting to be deterred, I tapped Start and forged on.
Main menu with greyed out options
Upon starting you are presented with a selection of five levels, and all but the first are locked. Each level has backgrounds to represent different environments. As required by the Tower Defence genre, there is of course a path along which your enemies must march. Each subsequent level has a longer and more complicated path for you to guard. However, the more the path winds back and forth, the more area a given tower can cover – as long as you put your strategic brain cells to work!
Across the top of the screen you have your resource points, your number of lives, and which wave of the current level you are fighting. To place a tower you just tap anywhere on the ground. You have a four-way selection of icons - one for each type of tower: Earth, Wind, Fire, and Water.
A tower will immediately set to work shaking, blowing, burning or flooding the first enemy within its range. You can sell towers or upgrade them. Selling incurs a penalty by not returning as much as you spent. Upgrading is limited as there’s only one upgrade level for each class of tower – this is the first time I’ve come across such a limitation in a Tower Defence game, but it does somewhat speed up gameplay though.
The tower classes have distinct characterisations and colours. The Fire and Earth classes would not look out of place in an episode of South Park – swiftly followed by the catchphrase “oh my god, you killed Kenny!”
At this point everything sounds quite reasonable: towers are easy to place, gameplay is relatively simple, and the artwork is clear yet basic. However, as any Tower Defence veteran would agree, there are a number of missing components.
There is no clear discrimination between each type of enemy - they’re all just wobbling blobs. Admittedly, they each have distinct colours, but there is no indication which type of weapons work best on which type of enemy. Given that the enemies come in red, blue, purple and brown – their colours do correspond to the elemental weapons. However, in actual practice there’s no sign – as you watch the enemies’ health bar deplete – as to which type of tower is being the most effective; nor is there a help page. Instead, you end up guessing your way through the game, trying to place weapons in equal proportions to hedge your bets. A more intriguing idea is that specific combinations of elements would work best against certain enemies, but again there’s no reliable way to determine this from watching the game.
Speaking of watching – that is all you do much of the time. As Tower Defence games go, Elemental War isn’t much of a challenge. I found myself being able to set up all the towers I needed within the first few waves of a level and set my phone down on the desk while I did other work, and I still survived each level. I was hoping that bigger challenges would come along – and there are some bigger monsters, noticeable by their flaying tentacles, which still die quickly. However, there are only five levels – all of them quite easy to beat.
All of this is not to say Elemental War is not without merit. I suspect this might be the first game by the developer, and in which case it’s a good start. Also, I would recommend Elemental War as a good introduction to the genre because it is so easy to play. However, for someone looking for a serious challenge, I suggest you look elsewhere.
David Gilson, 11th January 2012
Reviewed by David Gilson at