Do you need more tower defense in your life, preferably mixed with action RPG elements? Anti Gravity Game Studios might have the game for you then, with Hell Warders. The just-launched game mashes up traditional wave-based tower defense with real-time action RPG hack-n-slashing, and you get all of it at a wallet-friendly price.
Won’t Break the Bank
One thing to keep in mind is that Hell Warders is $14.99. It may not look, sound, or handle well, but launching at a bargain price is likely to grant Anti Gravity Game Studios a pass or two from gamers, as their wallets aren’t taking such a hit to invest in this title. That being said, the indie-budget nature of Hell Warders is evident with even a passing glance at the game. Even the way the camera is moved by the right analog stick is a bit ungraceful, as it moves too quickly and has no sense of acceleration. The overall presentation, from the menus and animations to the character details (or lack thereof), look decidedly last-gen.
In Hell Warders, the player is put in charge of defending a Nexus. This is a sort of beacon with some magical purpose. At the start of each level, players are given as much time as they need to spawn defense units, starting with the lowly Pike Soldier and progressing to behemoths like the Guardian of Zul. Each unit costs a certain amount of points, and a limited number of units may be placed on a level. These units may be upgraded, for a price. Any units that manage to survive a wave are completely healed in between waves, as is the player character. In between waves, players are given a few minutes to place new units or upgrade existing ones. Alternatively, units may be spawned as a wave is progressing, however these units do take a while to appear, whereas upgrading already-placed units is instantaneous.
Yes, the player does battle in the field, as is the case with a lot of tower defense games these days. There are only three player classes to choose from, with special abilities that can be used every so often. As levels get completed, beacons can be earned through conditions which are never explained. Each beacon acts as a skill point, another mechanic Hell Warders fails to explain. These points can be spent to upgrade stats of either the player character or defense units. If all five beacons are earned in a level, a special artifact unlocks that grants such boosts as extra player health or better stats for a particular type of defense unit. It seemed like the better defended a Nexus was by the end of a level, the more beacons were collected.
The Unity Engine powers Hell Warders, which at least allows the game to run smoothly. The assets that Anti Gravity Game Studios is pushing down the pipeline aren’t very high-resolution, nor is HDR taken advantage of. Generally speaking, even the stock PS4 won’t break a sweat rendering this game. This does mean the frame rate stays consistently high, even as dozens of enemies and defense units do battle. Levels also load in just a handful of seconds. Looks aren’t everything, but Hell Warders could’ve benefited from higher-resolution assets across the board.
Audio is also par for the course in Hell Warders. There are hack-n-slash grunts and shrieks from enemies, as well as various sound effects while in menus. The short campaign is fully voiced, though much of the voice acting is lackluster. There is a nice sound effect that plays as each wave of enemies begins, but overall the audio design is basic, from an RPG standpoint.
Short and Sweet
As this is a lower-budget title, there are only around 20 levels. Each of them will take the average player 15-20 minutes to complete, replays notwithstanding. There is also a hard mode, which unlocks upon completion of the campaign on normal mode. Online co-op for up to four players is available, though the mode was a ghost town as of this review. It will probably always be difficult to find random players to hop into battle with for some time, though hosting a session with friends is an option.
Hell Warders has a decent game hidden under its rough exterior. No doubt, the low-budget presentation will turn some off, and the generic character designs and animations won’t help much, either. There’s challenge by obfuscation, whether intentional or not—few game mechanics are explained very well, as trial-by-fire appears to be the best way to learn the nuances of Hell Warders. Fans of tower defense will find a short game to quickly play through, master, and then probably move on from to something else. Still, tower defense games aren’t completely commonplace on consoles, and the asking price of $14.99 at launch makes Hell Warders a decent find for fans of the genre.
Hell Warders review code provided by the publisher. Version 1.00 reviewed on a PlayStation 4 Pro. For more information on scoring, please read our Review Policy.