Aegis Defenders Review – Coop Exclusive Fun?
Platforms: PC (reviewed), Nintendo Switch, PS4
Developer: GUTS Department
Publisher: Humble Bundle
Release: 8th February 2018
Getting a jump´n run right proofs difficult for many indies and even bigger developers, from the horrible Bubsy to the recent but sometimes flawed Iconoclasts. So, what if it´s also mixed with tower defense elements? Well, that question may be answered by Aegis Defenders, which is even published by Humble Bundle.
In terms of story though, GUTS department wasn´t nearly as ambitious as in its gameplay promises. Delivering a tale about a group of Ruinhunters trying to survive by searching for relics and all kinds of worthful stuff. Beginning with the typical everyday life of a young hunter and her grandfather, to the overspanning mystery behind the Aegis weapon, seemingly able to solve all their problems.
Mostly drawing its appeal from the charmful writing, rather than a very interesting story. The really likeable character cast, especially some of the ones met midway through, surprisingly caught my interested despite their flat personalities, simply due to the well working script. Since it´s possible to select own answers here and there, most of those conversations can even be personalized, granting little bonus points for fitting choices. Combined with guest appearances like Shovel Knight there are some really great moments and lines in here, able to deliver surprises, joy or sadness at some points. Otherwise, following their journey through the fascinating but never too serious nor consistently establishes world isn´t by any means new or something worth sticking to.
Aegis Defenders’ heart is undoubtedly the weird mix between 2D jump´n run and tower defense. Both primarily designed for local co-op action, singleplayers need to have a long stamina bar. Picture one of those occasional sequences where either an AI or human partner has to unlock doors for you and vice versa, now stretch it to a whole game. Really, nearly all riddles consist of activating a lever for the partner on the other half of the map. For a duo a fun little cooperative challenge but playing it alone doesn´t only double the playtime because you need to play both ways but also takes out the typical coop fun. As a result, the repetitive nature of its design gets quickly obvious, making a frustrating, tiring experience.
Especially since none of the jump´n run elements aren´t very unique. Every character has his own abilities, one can attack with his wrench and build turrets, another is melee but faster, for example. In theory, a neat way to vary the experience, sadly, by focusing on building individual level structures for each of them every time, the actual core mechanics can´t impress. Everything jump´n run like just feels so underwhelmingly average, that the only real appeal lies in the pretty fun combat and challenging puzzles towards the end. Yet, Aegis Defenders first half of gameplay is merely more than a decent base to provide some coop fun.
In contrast, the tower defense phases are one of the best executions I´ve seen so far. Often divided into one character able to build turrets and one responsible to help with strong direct attacks, GUTS Department avoided nearly any downtime. Building defenses, in particular, is very unique, as there´s mainly only a handful of constructible objects, that need to be combined. If two turrets are placed on the same spot, for example, they merge into an upgraded version or even a completely new one when two different are combined. It takes some time to get used to but finding out about all the combinations is super fun. The addition of a combat character also keeps the action flowing, instead of having to wait for the defenses to kill all enemies. Overall, I prefer these sections far more than any jump´n run one. Only the inconsistent difficulty, ranging from easy to almost unbeatable at times can be a bummer (I´m looking at you level 3-3).
Graphically, I´m always a huge fan of pixel art combined with high resolution, hand-drawn character portraits and Aegis Defenders excels at both. Offering a mix of simplistic but detailed art during gameplay sections, with some very neat lightning plays and unique art style. Given, the soundtrack isn´t outstanding, at least I never noticed it too much, and the characters tend to merge with the background in some areas. Overall though, it´s a really good looking game!
Aegis Defenders isn´t a great game, too flawed are the jump´n run sections and annoying design decisions for single players. Yet, I´m sure coop players will find an entertaining little mix of genres here, infused with charming dialogues, as nearly all flaws are eliminated once more players join the mix.
[A Review Code was provided by Humble Bundle]