First off, I do actually like the game. I really do. It is quite pleasing aesthetically, and has a great system in place that lets you play the game how you want.
Problem is, how you want to play the game might not be very successful.
It is of this gamer's opinion that a tower defense game should not be a puzzle game. There should not be a narrow band of builds that will actually grant victory among an immense number of combinations that could be played. With 15 different towers and 17 skills, picking just four of each can be difficult, yes, but it affords the player the ability to define how they want to go about defending their cores, and that's not even counting the perk points, which add another layer of depth and customization. This system by itself is fantastic, but the execution that makes use of it is rather poor.
There is progression; not everything is available from the start. This progression, however, cuts off quite fast. Everything is unlocked at the point of hitting level 12, but the levels keep going, rather pointlessly. Perk points are gained differently, at a rate of 1 per completed map, and when you feel like you're not powerful enough to get past a particular map, there's a problem.
Now, I can understand a TD needing some strategy; if one doesn't make you think about what you're doing, then it's probably not very good. SSTD, though, feels like it asks too much of strategy, putting the player on a very fine line between perfection and failure. I was doing fine with this game through the first few levels. I made a blunder here and there, and learned from what were clear mistakes (setting all Violators to attack the highest HP targets was a bad idea, for the record). There were some tougher levels that took me a couple attempts to figure out, but it felt okay. The challenge was fair. Then along came Works.
Works is the map that I feel enforces an unfair level of difficulty and shows that the game really wants you to use a very specific setup to get through it. I have taken numerous attempts at it with different builds and have yet to even see the boss wave. I have beat my head against it long enough that I don't really care to continue. Maybe it's a fluke, maybe the rest aren't so bad after it, but I'm not going to put myself through the torture of trying to figure out the exact combination of towers and skills it takes to get through this map that seems to have too much of everything.
Sure, I could just use the magic of Youtube and look for a setup that gets through it so I could continue, but that's not how I play; I would get no sense of accomplishment and may as well have used Cheat Engine to bypass the level in terms of enjoyment. When a game completely shuts down a player's ability to progress, without giving them an opportunity to either adequately learn what they're doing wrong or power up to overcome the challenge, then there is a significant problem that needs to be addressed.
The game doesn't need to be easy; it just needs to cater to more than an elite 1% of builds. Don't tell the gamers how to play their game.
Posted: February 12th, 2014