Prime World: Defenders is an upcoming PC title that is a tower defense game, trading card game and RPG all at once. While these three genres may seem like an unlikely mixture, developer/publisher Nival combines them in a way that delivers deep, challenging, and unique gameplay. I had a chance to spend a few hours playing a preview before the game’s official Steam release for PC and Mac on May 21st, and I really liked what I saw.
Prime World: Defenders falls into a category that I like to affectionately call “Triple-I” — indie games with top-notch production quality. The visuals are reminiscent of the Torchlight series, providing rich and detailed graphics without overly taxing the CPU. Art is paramount in a card game, and its clear the artists put a great deal of care into the wide range of cards available to players. The game features an original musical score that is varied and rarely repetitive, adding depth to the surprisingly immersive experience. The game’s story is driven by graphic-novel style cutscenes with beautiful art and great voice acting.
Tower Defense Elements
Tower defense fans will find themselves right at home with Prime World: Defenders. The tower-defense portion of the game is very well done, and it could easily stand on its own as a pure tower defense title. All of the familiar towers and mechanics are there — basic one-shot towers, slowing towers, air-defense towers, area-of-effect towers, poison towers, and many more. One mechanic in Prime World: Defenders that I personally haven’t seen before is the ability to block different nodes in the enemies’ path, forcing them to take longer alternate routes to their goal. The pacing of rounds is well designed, and players have the ability to change enemies’ speed on the fly for faster playthroughs. Controls are tight and intuitive, from placing and upgrading towers to reviewing strategic information at a moment’s notice.
Trading Card Game Elements
The card-game elements of Prime World: Defenders take the game to a deeper level of complexity, drawing players in through many hours of building and powering up their decks. Each tower that a player can use in battle is tied to a card, and each card can be upgraded through the familiar fusion and evolution systems of the TCG genre. Players eventually amass a large collection of cards, and they have to choose a small handful to play in each tower-defense scenario, adding strategic elements. The card game portion of Prime World: Defenders does not come into play heavily in the main tower-defense portion of the game, but it provides a meta-game outside of the battle rounds, and directly influences what happens during tower-defense scenarios.
The RPG influence is probably the least pronounced, but is a key factor in what makes this game worth playing. Behind the strategy and action gameplay, Nival has woven a compelling adventure story worthy of any RPG, and bases the story on well developed lore that adds immersion to the otherwise arcade-style tower-defense genre. In addition to upgrading cards, players also gain levels through experience points, which unlock new global player upgrades. The game progression takes a nod from the RPG genre, as well. Players advance through a main quest line, following their progress on a world map. At each major intersection in the story, players are presented with a difficult mission or boss battle. Surrounding the boss battle are a limitless number of randomly generated side quests (offered three at a time) that allow players to gain experience and upgrade their decks before taking on the more challenging quest.