I was rather unsure what to make of Defenders of Time in the hours I spent with it. A polished, big-budget tower defense game for PC sounded too good to be true for a genre regarded as the stuff of rip-offs and time wasters, so it was to my surprise how long I found myself glued to it despite its sights and sounds slowly fading from my memory. In practice, Defenders of Time is no more and no less the same game as advertised – a bigger, prettier mobile addiction on my laptop and nothing but.
That time is of the essence would accurately describe the game’s haphazard pacing. Taking place in an alternative universe where the fabric of time is held together by Time Beacons, you’re charged with defending them from a group of aliens called the Chimeras who are bent on their destruction. The game’s tutorials offer a tedious explanation of the game’s mechanics, but they eventually force you to strategize in a very fast-paced environment, something that proved increasingly difficult as I struggled with the sheer number of enemy AI. Downloading the 1.1 patch to slow this some is advisable as are bathroom breaks beforehand in the absence of a pause button.
That’s not to say that Defenders of Time is cheerless by any means. The game’s joyous sci-fi trappings echo sentiments of the Jetsons or Disney’s Tomorrowland, though the repetitive UFO music could benefit from a few more tracks. Gunners sport a lustrous chrome finish and the Chimeras look like something out of a 50’s B-movie, but it’s a shame that their designs are wholly decorative.
“Paths” are used to highlight the movement of each individual enemy wave, showing which route they’re embarking on to make their way to you. At the start of each game, you’re shown the standard path enemies will take to reach your Time Beacon. Different units typically have different paths you can shape with your defense layout by having towers block them, redirecting their march like a row of ants. It adds a fair amount of strategy to the game, tasking players with defending themselves as much as micromanaging probabilities. Admittedly, all the changing paths, colors, and upgrades are a bit confusing at first, but once you get used to them, the game really opens up.
Upgrading your towers involves a unique strategizing of your defense with upgrades that allow you to slow down enemies, detect stealth units, and more. There’ll be slow, fast, tough, and flying enemies, so the longer you last, the more difficult it gets. Gunners get more powerful with enough money, some will freeze enemies and some will constantly fire off attacks even when something isn’t in range. In these ways, Defenders of Time may not break the mold when it comes down to core gameplay, but it keeps pace with your attention span well enough.
To its credit, Defenders of Time boasts the technical detail of its $20 price-tag. Its graphical integrity’s on par with 2008-2009 PS3 graphics and the mouse WASD key combination gives its camera good mobility over the map. Glitches involving the Delta Centauri and Edo Village levels are particularly frustrating, slowing the mouse and camera down to a crunch as well as their tower placement. Navigation in these levels is extremely difficult, and by extension so is victory.
What Defenders of Time does best it does with friends in its multiplayer mode. While its gameplay remains the same in the sense that you build defensive structures to defend from the hordes, doing so alongside peers lends a quaint social dynamic to the game. Players belong to a team led by a commander who heads up the duty of upgrading towers and effectively trolling enemy bases and aiding allies at their leisure – which is to say it’s a delightfully chaotic mess to see and play. It’s only a shame that few people on the planet seem to be playing. Matchmaking can take anywhere from fifteen minutes to an hour at any given time – definitely not a speedy connection for what’s arguably the game’s primary appeal.
Defenders of Time is a perpetually fleeting experience full of momentary triumphs and short on a scope worthy of the platform. Casual strategy fans will find it enjoyable, albeit more so with one another, and it’s got enough grounded ideas to keep things engaging in short bursts. With loads more levels, it can only continue to grow, but for now, there’s nothing remotely unique enough about Defenders of Time to merit a recommendation on any day but a Steam sale.