Feb 072012

The Unstoppable Gorg is a type of video game very rarely seen. It’s a game which knows exactly what it wants to be from the get go and gets everything right. It manages to nail everything required to be the best example of its genre but takes a new spin on old designs through a mixture of style and mechanics.

Or to put it in layman’s terms – this is the Half-Life of tower defense games.

The story is nothing particularly ground-breaking but really it doesn’t need to be. Storytelling has never been a particularly core element of tower defense games anyway. Aliens and robots attack humanity, either seeing them as a blight upon the solar system, wanting to eat their brains or for religious reasons. What really elevates the game is in its presentation – featuring new developments a genius mix of 1940s wartime news reports and 1930s science fiction film serials. Through a combination of stock footage montages, cheesy live action performances, over the top villains, wire-worked flying saucers which would make Ed Wood proud, and B-50s retro designs, the game manages the impossible. It somehow manages to out-Flash Gordon, Mike Hodge’s Flash Gordon.

Each cut scene only lasts a minute or two but they’re like the live action cut scenes in the Command and Conquer games. Even if the game was bland, generic and broken, you’d probably find yourself playing it to see what you would get next. Thankfully though the gameplay itself is excellent.

One of the big problems which comes up with a lot of tower defense games is that they can be predictable. Enemies tend to follow the same pattern and you can just place a huge kill-everything laser at the source of the enemies, at which point you’re left waiting for the level to finish with nothing to do. Unstoppable Gorg gets around this by having a much more fluid turret system and a very different way in which enemies approach you.

Turrets are put in various placed on orbital rings surrounding the planet/ship/station you are protection in select positions. You then move these rings around to bring the turrets into range of enemies and blow them away, adapting to new situations as enemies try to head along new paths to your base. This means you’ll be constantly playing an active role as you’re spinning defenses around to shoot down flying saucers as they come at you from all direction and taking an active role. This already puts it miles ahead of a lot of online tower defense games but what further helps is that the enemies shoot back. You’re constantly watching as they open fire on just about any turret they pass by, and on the higher difficulties you’re constantly having to repair and replace guns. And you have a big variety of guns to repair and replace.

When you start off in the game only armed with light machine guns and power generators, you later end up with things such as plasma generators, laser cannons, nuclear weapons and black hole bombs. This is admittedly as much a strength as it is a weakness. While the multitude of different turrets and variety does create a sense of escalation in the campaign and suits most play-styles, you’re probably going to end up using only the same four or five types once you’ve unlocked them. Pretty much anything which the lower level turrets can do can be done ten times better by the later ones, so they’re really just obsolete. There’s also a good chance you’ll never end up using the support turrets except against very specific enemies – the rarely useful radar stations being one example.

Aside from having to unlock them to begin with, what helps to offset the desire to just ignore a lot of the weaker weapons is the challenge modes. These are rehashes of levels you’ve beaten in the campaign but have been altered to be far more challenging. This can either be preventing you from being able to move the turrets, not allowing for the use of generators and making you rely upon very limited resources, or just leveling up every enemy to something much harder to kill.

And if that’s not to your tastes there’s also arcade mode, which is seeing how long you last against endless swarms of enemies. How said endless swarms of enemies look to you varies from person to person.

The graphics for the units are last generation, looking like something out of Jak 2, and while fitting for the retro ship-on-wires theme it’s hard not to notice how much better the backgrounds are in comparison to them. It’s like with Gratuitous Space Battles, there’s a very clear difference in terms of quality between the units and the backgrounds their set against which isn’t helped by the option to zoom in on specific ones. It’s not a flaw which ruins the experience of playing the game, but it is irritatingly noticeable.

Another irritation is unfortunately the soundtrack, which is limited to say the least. There are only a handful of themes within the game which, while well composed, lack any real variety but that’s probably due to the clichéd formulaic nature of its campaign and overall style. It does have a very nice victory fanfare though.

Despite the few minor flaws outlined above, at £6.95 you’re going to be getting your money’s worth with this one. The levels are interesting, the tactics you have to use against enemies continually change, even after you complete the campaign you’re still going to have plenty to play through and there is a nice variety of weapons to use and enemies to kill them with.

It is definitely the best game of its genre to date and if you’re a fan of any tower defense games this one is highly recommended.

You can purchase Unstoppable Gorg at GamersGate.com


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