Twin-Stick Tower Defense
X-Morph: Defense separates itself from other games in the tower defense genre in two ways. First is the incorporation of twin-stick shooter gameplay. Second is that the player is playing as the invading aliens, the bad guys, trying to take over Earth. Combined with a solid presentation and lengthy campaign, X-Morph: Defense is a surprise action packed title that doesn’t allow the player to catch a breath.
Although it is labeled as a tower defense title, the moment-to-moment gameplay is more of a bullethell shooter. Instead of simply controlling a cursor to place towers, the player’s ship takes on a dual role. Using the ship’s shadow as the cursor in which to place towers in-between waves takes a backseat to the intense shoot out segments. Using twin-stick controls, the ship can be equipped with lasers, cannons, and bombs, all of which are used to stop the incoming tanks, ground troops, and ships in real time. Besides shooting incoming enemies like your turrets, the player can also pick up debris which is used as currency to produce upgrades or can turn invisible to avoid incoming fire and zip around the stage at high speed while losing the ability to attack.
Regarding the tower defense portion of gameplay, all the typical towers are here: cannons, long range bomb chuckers, flame throwers for close range attacks, and anti-air turrets. What X-Morph does differently, however, is incorporate the laser fence mechanic. When two towers are placed within close proximity, they can create a laser fence between them, forcing the incoming attackers to a different lane. This puts a thoughtful spin on strategy and players must not only think which tower will do the best job for this situation, but which towers to link together. This element is only enhanced by the fact that neighboring buildings, what is normally seen as non-interactive background elements, can topple over during the firefight, blocking lanes or causing damage. When this happens, the player must completely reroute the laser fields to adjust to the new developments. Luckily, there is no penalty or cost associated with selling, moving towers, or adjusting laser fields. Because of this, the game wants the player to experiment and have the freedom to adjust on the fly.
The player has as much time in-between waves as desired. This time is used to set up defensives to think about the flow of traffic. But just when the player thinks everything is locked down, the game’s environment opens in a completely new direction, forcing the player to manage more lanes and more firepower all at the same time. The unpredictability is what makes X-Morph so special as it throws new things at the play constantly. The twin-stick action is always relentless and the game opens a section of the map that doubles its size, introduces new enemies, then throws a massive boss at you. There is always something to shoot, manage, and collect. Always something to plan. Always something to consider. Action fans and strategy fans have a lot to go with here. There are also RPG elements in which the player can increase the abilities of the ship and towers.
Perhaps the gameplay would not be as addictive as it is if not for the higher quality production values. From impressive cityscapes to the massive amount of enemies that can occupy the screen at any given time, this is an impressive game. The story elements are told through character narration and I want to say I have heard all these voice actors before. In fact, I believe some of them played in Halo Wars, a game of similar style. With just over a dozen stages, there are hours of content available especially since each battle can easily take thirty minutes or longer. There is optional DLC available as well for an additional $10.
X-Morph: Defense is a thoughtful and well designed title that will please any fan of tower defense. Never a dull moment, the action remains constant and this is just as much a shooter than it is a strategy game. Honestly, I have not been this entertained by a tower defense title since the Defense Grid series. This is a downloadable title that should not be missed.
Also available on PC, Xbox One, and PS4.