(Author’s note: A mea culpa is in order for significantly underquoting the number of gameplay hours you can expect in this one. The final paragraph has been edited to reflect a more realistic estimate).
Just about the only story you’ll find in Wild Defense (Out Now, $0.99 Sale) lies in the name. As best I can tell, hordes of feral beasts are swarming every log fort they can find, and it’s up to Paleolithic warriors to make their path to the front door as deadly as possible.
Wild Defense starts off on the wrong foot by not serving up an integrated tutorial. However, its gameplay sticks close enough to convention that Tower Defense fans will already feel like they know their way around the interface — others will want to review the static Help menu before setting out. Most battles start the player off with a certain amount of meat used for dispatching available troop classes, one soldier at a time. Tapping the soldier list at the right-hand side of the screen brings up a grid of possible placements on the field; another tap assigns the soldier to a square, at which point the unit will pummel away at compatible enemies that get within range. Slain enemies drop more meat for the player to work with, and henceforth his or her concern is to populate the field with a proper mix of soldiers faster than enemy waves can break through.
While it holds few surprises, Wild Defense has to be credited for delivering a basically solid genre experience. Troops vary widely in function and can be upgraded or removed from the field with a tap-and-hold menu; the usual selection of resource-consuming special attacks are on tap; and once the going gets good, level design has the player carefully considering troop placement. The most interesting levels are those that stray from the traditional genre formula. Every so often, Wild Defense treats the player to segments where the troop deployment list becomes a sort of roulette wheel, forcing the player to make do with randomly selected troop classes and spells at any given moment.
Best of all, Wild Defense sports a mid-level save feature that maintains the player’s progress up to the current wave. Being a temporary save, it is a little too easy to wipe, however — the player can jump back into the current battle if he or she skips out directly to the main menu, but going back to the world map screen forfeits progress. Still, the auto-save is retained if the player turns off the app altogether, and that’s the most important thing. Another convenience I was extremely thankful for is the usual fast forward button that doubles the pace at which battles play out, as the number of enemy waves grows quickly during the campaign.
Wild Defense lacks a pinch-zoom function but it doesn’t feel particularly missed because the game’s grid interface works splendidly as is. My only UI complaint is that the screen locks when a soldier type has been selected in the deployment menu, so the player can’t pan around when laying down soldiers.
The country feel of a twanging guitar track used in the opening levels feels a bit out of place, but Wild Defense has an eclectic and compelling soundtrack over all. It’s just too bad some of the battle themes loop so quickly. Visually speaking, Wild Defense is clean but unembellished. It’s great to see the work put into different character models for unit upgrades, but environments are noticeably tiled, the player’s fort has no visceral reaction to enemy attacks, and special attacks occur with as little visual fanfare as you could imagine. Wild Defense is no slouch on the content side, with 32 levels you’ll be hard pressed to finish anywhere under ten hours — thanks goes to reader Christopher Ricks for pointing out that my initial estimate of four to six took neither retries nor normal game speed into account.
iFanzine Verdict: A well built Tower Defense game, but a by-the-book formula prevents it from standing out. This is one that diehard Tower Defense fans awaiting their next traditional fix should check into.