I’ve always enjoyed a good tower-defense title, but those that have really stood out are the few that merge other genres, Sanctum 2 gave a FPS direction, Toy soldiers with in-turret controls and now X-Morph Defense add’s twin-stick SHMUP to the fray.
Emergency services rush to the scene as an alien craft known as a ‘core’ lands in a South African town, the alien’s release an aircraft known as the X-morph and you take control of this ship, shooting away the nearby helicopter, the police flee as a call goes out for the army to assist. Initially there’s just a few trucks, but soon enough you’ll be protecting the core from tanks, jet planes and giant mechanical spiders.
The first level (South Africa) plays out as as a tutorial but there’s still enough of a challenge as you’re gradually introduced to increasing strength defenses, your core needs time to grow and harvest energy so you’ll have to protect it. Initially flying around and shooting enemies will do the job but soon enough you’ll be given resources to create towers to defend against more substantial numbers.
Progressing forward you’ll visit 14 countries including Great Britain, Russia and China. It’s nice to see a variation of locales across the globe and while enemy units don’t change much except for the more powerful variants introduced as you progress, there’s a nice authentic vibe to the surrounding area from the sandy pyramids of Egypt to the busy city’s of Japan.
X-Morph is mostly very well paced and balanced, sometimes you can merge paths to keep all the enemies attacking from a single direction, whereas even with multiple points, your craft is mobile enough to cover every angle without feeling overpowered, changing to ghost mode (Y) move to the strategical side where you can lay down various towers dependent on the arsenal you’ve unlocked. Tower placement is important when you start linking towers with an electric fence to force units along certain paths and utilising this technique can more than quadruple the paths some units will have to take, Thankfully you won’t be selling off towers every time insertion points move because you can move towers without penalty.
Using RT when in ghost mode picks up scraps from downed enemies which is the currency used for creating more towers, progressing through the levels will earn you Technologies and Upgrades to buy stronger arms such as the impressive dark-matter bomb which is capable of destroying bridges and flattening buildings to help divert your assailants.
Graphically X-Morph is certainly one of the better looking tower-defense games I’ve ever played, there’s an impressive level of detail to the surrounding area, enemy units are mostly easy to spot due to distinctive (yet still discreet) markings, and while the weapon effects are sometimes a little simple, it keeps the screen tidy allowing you to concentrate on avoiding incoming fire rather than trying to spot it. Occasionally it’s sometimes a little awkward to decipher exactly which turret is raining down fire on your opponents, which can be an annoyance later in the game when you’re moving around turrets but trying to keep air defense in one area, but these issues where few and far between.
Audio compliments the aesthetics with a soundtrack you’d expect to hear in a disaster movie, while there’s no doubt things could look and sound a little better in places, there’s still been some great work put into X-Morph which is a level we don’t often see for this genre. There’s plenty of voice acting both from the human forces and the alien commander and while it’s not going to win any oscars it’s still more than adequate.
There are a few question marks over the longevity with 14 levels, most are going to take you about 20 minutes to work through but don’t be surprised if you’re forced to retry a couple, there’s the potential of X-Morph only lasting you 4-5 hours, however you can thankfully retread your footsteps to battle for leaderboard position and there’s local co-op play which works incredibly well, but I would have liked to see a little more base content. Thankfully at around the £15 mark, X-morph still represents fairly good value, but you may find yourself replaying missions to fulfil more than an evening.
It’s worth noting that the European Assault DLC is also on it’s way which will add 3 new locations to attack. Holland, Finland and France sound like interesting locations, especially the promise of a final showdown at the Eiffel tower.
It’s expected that the DLC will come in at around the £5 mark, which brings the total for both the main game and DLC to £20, but with 17 levels in total, that still doesn’t represent the greatest value for money when titles like Halo Wars 2 are available free on Microsoft’s Game Pass.