Unique fusion of a top down shooter and tower defense strategy. You are the invader! Use destructive weapons or lead you enemies into a maze of towers. Strategize in the build mode by carefully selecting various types of alien towers or throw yourself right into the heat of the battle.
Recent Reviews:
Very Positive (16) - 93% of the 16 user reviews in the last 30 days are positive.
All Reviews:
Very Positive (696) - 92% of the 696 user reviews for this game are positive.
Release Date:
Aug 30, 2017

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December 17, 2018


Chinese Dragon Train Boss

Hello and welcome back to another episode of our series on boss fight design! The boss we showed you last time was relatively easy to implement and made it into the final release of X-Morph: Defense. The one we will be discussing today had no such luck. Made up of hundreds of little pieces, the task of making all the components work together turned out to be a little bit too much for us, given the time restrictions we eventually had to impose on ourselves. Let’s take a closer look at it - here’s the Chinese Dragon Train.

This is the untextured prototype from a very early stage of development. Notice the scale of the train compared to a regular tank.

Even the sheer size of it is quite daunting. This boss was supposed to be the final enemy of the China stage in X-Morph: Defense. The battlefield is located in the middle of a military base. It is not unusual for the army to carry their freight by using specialized trains, so we decided it would be fitting and more unique than another ultra-heavy tank or a gigantic aircraft. Comprised of four completely different carriages, the Chinese Dragon Train had a number of ways to make the players sweat.


The entire Chinese Dragon Train would fill up a large portion of the level and would be too large to fit on a single screen in-game.

As you might expect from EXOR Studios, the visual aspect of the boss design was rather over the top. The train with all its carriages spanned across almost half of the map. Since each part was specialized to carry out a different task, all of them had to vary significantly. That meant, of course, that our artists had to prepare 4 models to be later connected into one consistent entity. It was a tall order, especially given the fact that all the parts had completely different purposes.

The parts of the train were connected by dynamic joints, allowing it to slightly bend while making turns.

The Chinese Dragon Train is not just a vehicle packed with weapons. In fact, it is a military base on wheels, complete with an artillery cannon, a nuclear strike calling satellite dish and even an aircraft factory! A MIRV missile launcher rounds up the package nicely, giving the boss complete control over all the aspects of the battle taking place around it. There simply isn’t an aspect of the warfare the train couldn’t control.

The cannon carriage doubles up as an engine for the whole train. It is able to move forwards and backwards. It’s better not to ask about the power of its engines.


height - 43.5m
width - 39m
length - 56.5m
total number of weapons - 17

The heart of the Chinese Dragon Train is the engine. It is powerful enough to set all the other carriages in motion. It is crucial that this part stays operational for the whole machine to function properly, therefore it is constantly protected with an energy force field. Nothing goes in or out of this one. If everything else fails, however, the crew can man the onboard defense systems. The one that is immediately noticeable is the electromagnetic cannon, capable of long-range attacks. It seems like it would be the most dangerous weapon on this carriage, but it is the least of your worries.

Each carriage has its own hitbox map. The player has the ability to choose which elements they want to destroy.

Joining the fray are multiple cruise missile launchers. They are capable of firing a barrage at the alien core. The projectiles are quite slow, so they can be shot down by the player. Nevertheless, it is a daunting weapon. The carriage also defends itself by shooting at the alien fighter with its quad anti-air guns. Providing covering fire for the engine, their relentless fire is terrifying enough to drive even the most experienced pilots away. Rounding up the arms package are the grenade launchers and napalm cannons, both meant to dispose of anything the X-Morph might have put up on the ground.

The second carriage, holding the satellite dish. Nuclear strike detected.


height - 34.4m
width - 38,2m
length - 80m
total weapons - 19

The second carriage does not seem quite as dangerous as the first one, but don’t let the innocent looks fool you. The massive chassis covers up the satellite dish which the train crew uses to maintain comms with the space station capable of launching nuclear strikes on unsuspecting targets. It is the main weapon this carriage has against the X-Morph, but it comes with a significant drawback. The data transmission is quite long and can be interrupted, giving players a chance to counteract. In addition to calling a nuclear strike, the carriage is equipped with side lasers, capable of targeting the X-Morph core, like in a classic drive-by. Add AA guns to the mix and you have a force to be reckoned with.

The ballistic missile launcher car. The train’s cars would move on a quadruple set of train tracks due to the trains enormous size.


height - 32m
width - 43.2m
length - 80m
total weapons - 23

The third carriage on the Chinese Dragon Train is a MIRV ballistic missile launching pod. Its main weapon is only capable of long-range attacks, so we chose three points on the map they would be launched from. The train would stop and open up one of the six silos, preparing to launch one of the warheads at the alien core. The whole process is as cinematic as it can be, with smoke, sirens and red lights flashing as the rocket is prepared to start. Apart from adding dramatic flair, it was meant to be a moment for the player to strike, disabling the launch and protecting their assets.

Each weapon system is controlled separately. The number of AA guns on this beast was an absolute overkill.

The secondary anti-core weapon is swarm missiles fired from eight side launchers. They compensate their lack of sheer power with the numbers. This attack happens instantaneously, so the X-Morph must shoot down the missiles while they are traveling through the air. Apart from that, the carriage is protected by the usual - flak cannons, grenade launchers and miniguns against the alien fighter.

An airplane launch pad on wheels. What a time to be alive.


height - 31m
width - 43.5m
length - 80m
total weapons - 21

The last part of the train might yet be the craziest of the bunch. Aircraft carriers are some of the most terrifying naval vessels known to man, given their high range and firepower. No water units in X-Morph: Defense meant that if we wanted to have one, we would have to come up with a different idea for that. Therefore, we put an aircraft carrier on rails and made it a part of the Chinese Dragon. To make the whole thing even more obnoxious (in a good way) it serves not only as a launchpad for fighters but also as an aircraft factory! To cut the players some slack, the neverending air assault does not attack the core directly, its sole purpose is to attack the alien fighter.

The aircraft carrier is not defenseless without its birds. The plasma cannons on the sides fire relentlessly.

The other weapon the carriage is equipped with is side plasma cannons, shooting balls of plasma at the core that cannot be shot down. The only way to stop them is to interrupt the charging sequence, which might be a bit tricky given the swarms of planes flying around, like bees around the hive. The usual defensive package of AA guns, miniguns, and swarm missiles makes sure that the factory is well protected against all kinds of X-Morph attacks. This rounds up the whole offensive and defensive package of the Chinese Dragon.

The whole package. Notice the purple elements - humans and planes. They show the true scale of this monstrosity.


highest point - 43m
widest point - 43.5m
total length - 300m
total weapons - 80

In order to take the train down, the player would have to destroy all of the single carriages. Each carriage has its weak spots, such as capacitors, generators, and engines. The player may aim at the weapons in order to reduce their functionality, decrease the damage and increase the charging time. If you decide to go for the weak spots, though, you might be able to snipe the whole part of the train before it becomes a significant problem.


One of the limiting factors for designing such a machine is the fact it moves on rails only. It meant that the level would have to be designed specifically to address this need. We decided to place six train tracks on the level. The players cannot see what lies beyond the level boundaries in X-Morph: Defense. That, in turn, gave us a free hand to turn the train back, rotate it, and place it on a completely different track than it previously used. By simply teleporting the boss entity we avoided the necessity of creating a multi-kilometer rail network only to turn around the train of this size. This was supposed to show that the rail network was very complex and required the players to guard 12 points of entry in total.

A very early mockup of the level design. The whole environment is designed to accommodate the regular enemy waves as well as the boss fight.

The layout of the train tracks couldn’t be random. Had we simply put intersecting tracks on a flat surface, it wouldn’t have made the fight any more fun, just unnecessarily complex. Thus, instead of opting for a flat, desert-like environment, we went for a series of tunnels and overpasses. This element made it to the final game, as it introduces multiple ways the players can shape the enemy paths and take the level on.

Moreover, for a little dramatic flair, the train tracks would not be empty at the start of the level. To evoke the feeling of the humans being surprised by the attack, there would be regular trains all over the map. As with everything in our game, the player could destroy them. However, a more epic assumption was that the player left them alone and the Dragon Train would simply bash its way through all of the ‘regular’ trains. It came to rescue humanity after all; you’d better get out of its way!


A perspective view of the early prototype.

The boss introduction was to resemble action films of the late 80s/early 90s, with its over-the-top epicness and the general atmosphere. The train would arrive to the battlefield as the weapon of last resort, and you’d better get out of its way. It would destroy everything on its way, and if the player had blocked any tracks beforehand all the obstacles would be destroyed as well. Its initial point of entry was the tunnel track and it would begin the fight with a ballistic missile attack.

The entry and exit point schematics.

After all of the above, the train would start its routine of cruising along one of the tracks, launching an avalanche of attacks available from its current position, leave the map, choose a new entry point and do it all over again. The reason for limiting the number of available attacks on a track is twofold. First, you do not want to overwhelm the player. Second - the structure of the level, with all the height differences, overpasses, tunnels, would render some of the weapons useless in a couple of circumstances. You don’t want to shoot rockets at a wall, after all.

In order for this fight to be fair, we had to put some limits in place. First of all, as you already know, the train would follow 6 tracks with a total of 12 entry points. The attacks used by the train were determined by the point of entry it used. This way it was entirely possible to learn the attack sets by heart and how to counter them. In addition to predictable attack patterns, the intercepted radio comms would also give the player a hint of what’s to come. It would be up to the player, however, in what order they wanted to get rid of the carriages.

This mockup presents the overview of the level together with the train model to give the viewer a sense of scale.

The energy shield protecting the train engine disappeared only after all the other parts were destroyed. The wrecked carriages would still travel with the train, as the wheels and suspension system would not be destructible. Additionally, the train could move both forwards and backwards, thanks to the rocket engines mounted on the electromagnetic cannon carriage. All these elements were to result in a demanding, multi-layered boss fight. Sadly, the Chinese Dragon did not make it to the final release, but it is a design we’re quite proud of.


While daunting in scope, the boss was not as complicated as it was complex. The sheer number of elements would take at least 3 months of work and we could not justify it. All the carriages, their elements, destruction levels - we are talking about hundreds of models here. Therefore, it was not about the lack of skill or tech. Resigning from the implementation of the Chinese Dragon Train was a decision dictated by reason. All that remains of the boss in the game today are the huge tunnels and multiple tracks on the China map. Perhaps someday the design will find its way to one of our releases.

That is only one of our sick, over-the-top ideas that we never found the time and resources to finish. And since we are already on the topic of insane bosses, the next time we will try to tell you the story of another one - a boss fight comprised of two boss fights. We hope you have a pleasant time this holiday season and that you will have the chance to spend it together with your friends and family.

EXOR Studios

6 comments Read more

November 30, 2018

Nintendo Switch version is almost ready - and it's good news for everyone!

Hello everyone!

It’s been quite a while since we shared the last piece of information about the X-Morph: Defense port for Nintendo Switch. We have an excuse for that, and it’s a good one - the game is almost ready! We spent the last couple of weeks working really hard to make the gaming experience on the Switch as smooth as possible. It has been an exciting process and we have also learned a lot from it. What follows is quite a detailed description of what’s been going on (there’s also a TL;DR version, just scroll down).

We made sure to transfer the whole X-Morph: Defense experience to the Nintendo Switch.

At first, we did not plan to develop X-Morph: Defense for the Nintendo Switch. Even though many people have been asking for it we just kept saying no. We were aware that porting the game to the Nintendo Switch would prove to be a challenge. Packing so much content and keeping the quality consistently high on mobile hardware is no easy feat. All the requests from players have stayed in the back of our minds and we finally decided to give it a try. So, in a sense, you have made it happen.

During the campaign, you will see all the levels, weapons and enemies known from the other versions.

X-Morph: Defense is quite a demanding game even for the latest consoles. The amount of visual effects and physics calculations keeps all the processing cores saturated with work at 100% most of the time. Nintendo Switch is a significantly less powerful device due to its portable nature. It meant we had to optimize many elements while keeping the experience largely unchanged. Therefore, we set some goals for ourselves. Stable performance, no gameplay changes, the same level of destruction, in both docked and handheld modes.

The new towers are available with the base game at launch.

Stable performance was the first one. Our aim was to achieve 30 frames per second both in handheld and docked mode. After we got the game up and running we began performance profiling to find problematic parts of the game. Through trial and error, we arrived at a stable 30FPS in 720p in handheld mode, without the visuals taking a big hit. Sure, we had to cut some props here and there and reduce some particle effects, but the game looks and plays great in handheld mode.

Our team has pushed the Switch hardware to its limits, EXOR never gives up on explosions!

As for the docked mode, we tried 1080p at first. An important fact here is that in 1080p the device has to render over twice as many pixels as in 720p. Unfortunately, the Switch does not become twice as fast in docked mode and the performance wasn’t satisfactory. Cutting objects from the game was out of the question since we didn’t want the handheld version to suffer. Therefore, we decided to reduce the resolution to 900p. Unfortunately, that wasn’t enough, so we also reduced the size of the post-processing buffer responsible for HDR bloom. The difference in rendering quality is negligible, but it gave us an extra 2-millisecond boost in frame rendering time that allowed us to equalize the handheld and docked performance.

The gameplay is dynamic and responsive, as you have to constantly adapt to the types of enemies attacking your core.

The gameplay itself is exactly what you saw in other versions of X-Morph: Defense. The number of enemies has not been reduced, all the missions are the same and all the levels play out exactly as you would expect them to. We had to reduce the amount of debris left by the enemies, but we compensate for that with added score multipliers, counting both for the resource gathering and the final score. Some maps have undergone cosmetic changes to reduce the strain on the hardware, but these changes have no effect on the gameplay.

The destructible environment has always been one of the biggest advantages of the game. Keeping this feature and maintaining performance required some clever trickery.

The destructible environment was a big challenge. Buildings consisting of physical chunks require the device to render a huge amount of polygons and it was too much for Nintendo’s handheld. To combat that, we made custom, static versions of all physically simulated destructible objects in the game, which we swap for the dynamic versions once they are damaged. This saves up performance when it comes to the polygon count, but costs 90MB of system memory in our case. It is a lot. Nintendo Switch has a lot less memory on board than the PS4 or Xbox One. Just to get the game running we had to reduce memory usage by about 30%. Code optimization, texture size reduction, and sound compression got us there, but it was not a cakewalk. Memory fragmentation was one of the greatest issues, causing crashes and rendering the game unplayable. We fixed the stability by allocating static memory pools for the game components, such as sounds, particles, GUI, videos and save files. We eventually managed to stick to the limits.

Even though we had to cut down on some visual effects, the game still looks gorgeous.

The only gameplay feature we had to cut is the co-op mode. Our split-screen mode requires the device to render almost twice as many elements as in the single-player mode. It doesn’t mean that all calculations are done twice - the physics, AI, or pathfinding require only a single operation. Our experience from working with other platforms shows that split-screen requires about 30% more processing power. Such a number exists under the assumption that we have some spare CPU cores and we can use them to parallelize some calculations. We do not have this luxury on the Switch - we use 100% of resources at all times. It means we would have to cut down on some features and do a lot of extra work. This is why we decided to leave the split-screen out from the game for now. We do not rule it out in the future, but can’t promise anything at this point.

The red-hot rivers of lava on Iceland are one of the most eye-catching features in X-Morph: Defense.

We know that download sizes are a big concern in the Switch community. Through numerous optimizations, we have reduced the package size from over 4GB to just a little bit over 1.6GB. Among other things, we have used OGG Vorbis compression on our audio files and removed the 4K-ready textures, as they would never be utilized anyway. Moreover, this is the first release of the game on the Switch, meaning we do not need to keep older versions of the maps just to keep save files compatible. This way you will be able to have X-Morph: Defense installed alongside other games, without worrying about the free space on your device.

The boss fights remain as epic as ever.

X-Morph: Defense will be available together with all the updates that were previously released on other platforms. It means that you will be able to enjoy the survival mode, additional tower types and all the little changes that happened over the course of the game’s lifetime. All the pieces of premium DLC will be available for purchase day one. We also do not raise the cost of the game - it will be around the $20 price point, with currency-specific adjustments.

Tricking your enemies into taking a suboptimal route is very important. The control scheme remained unchanged, so you have perfect control over the battlefield.

Last, but not the least important is the release date. We wanted the game to be released before the end of 2018. The reality has verified our plans, but the delay is not that big. X-Morph: defense will become available on Nintendo eShop in very early 2019. We are also looking into releasing a physical edition of the game - we will share more info about this as soon as everything is 100% confirmed.

And finally - TL;DR:
  • Very early 2019.
  • The base game has all the free updates that were previously released on other platforms.
  • All DLC available for purchase at launch.
  • 720p/30FPS handheld, 900p/30FPS docked.
  • All gameplay features including fully destructible environments and building physics remain except split-screen co-op.
  • 1.6GB install size.
  • $20 price point with currency-specific adjustments (check Steam pricing for reference).
  • No gameplay changes.
  • Digital download from Nintendo eShop.
  • We’re looking into physical release options.

Developing the Nintendo Switch version has been a challenge, pointing out problems we did not know about and allowing us to optimize the game beyond what we imagined. All the optimizations will also find their way onto other platforms with future patches. This way our fans can enjoy improved performance on all devices. We hope you’ll have as much fun playing it as we had working on it.

Let us know if you have any further questions!
EXOR Studios

7 comments Read more


“X-Morph Defense is a fantastic meeting of 2 popular genres, and Exor Studios have made it work, and it works well”
9/10 – Adult Gaming Underground

84% – PC Guru - Printed Magazine

“X-Morph: Defense is a marvel of physics, visuals, and that incredibly fulfilling arcade feeling.”
8.5/10 – TechRaptor

Enhanced for the PC

  • Uncapped frame rate, works even in 144FPS
  • Support for panoramic resolutions 21:9 included
  • Custom Keyboard + Mouse Controls, created specifically for the PC. No artificial constraints.
  • Customizable controls
  • NVIDIA Game Ready Certified

About This Game

Unique fusion of a top down shooter and tower defense strategy. You are the X-Morph - an alien species that invades Earth to harvest its resources and terraform the surface. Strategize in the build mode by carefully selecting various types of alien towers or throw yourself right into heat of the battle. Build mazes for incoming enemies in an environment that provides exceptional planning freedom. Tear down buildings and collapse bridges to support your defense or to simply indulge in a spectacle of unprecedented destruction. Possess a range of unique alien weapons and use defense strategies like you've never seen before in this genre.

Your goal is to defend the X-Morph harvesters from waves of incoming human forces. Each enemy wave is preceded by a setup phase in which the player can check what types of enemies are going to be attacking him and to observe their paths. There is no time limit for this phase, so the player can carefully plan his defenses or choose to start fighting immediately and place towers when needed during the battle. One of the game's key features is the ability to build towers virtually anywhere on the map and to shape enemy paths by connecting towers with laser fences. The player can choose between building long mazes out of basic towers or placing more advanced towers which are more effective at different types of incoming enemies. Advanced tower types specialize in dealing with specific enemy types e.g. flame towers are great for destroying fast moving ground units, artillery towers are best at countering large groups of slow enemies, anti air laser is ideal for shooting down heavy bombers.

As the X-Morph fighter you can engage enemy units directly with a diverse arsenal of weapons. You can morph into four distinct forms which specialize in dealing with different kinds of threats. Each form has a basic attack and a special charged attack mode. The Plasma Fighter is the most universal form - good at destroying both air and ground units. The Dark Matter Bomber is great at decimating groups of ground units. It can also slow down time and release a dark matter bomb that can cut down buildings. The Shredder fighter is perfect for annihilating large numbers of human air units and clearing the sky. Finally the Laser Destroyer is best for smelting large single units. It can also charge up a gravitational anomaly that sucks in smaller enemy units. A large variety of weapons and enemies along with a dynamic, fully destructible environment provides a rich arcade shooter experience.

The game's environments are constructed with a lot of attention to detail and they are almost completely destructible. From small picket fences to huge skyscrapers. Any bridge or building in the game can be collapsed and it's destruction is dynamically simulated using realistic physics. The destruction is not only a visual effect as it can significantly influence the layout of the battlefield. The combination of dynamic environments, laser fences and real time calculated enemy paths creates unique gameplay scenarios.

Humans are desperate to defend their home world. They have created huge, building size, mechanical war machines to fight against each other, but now they will use them to destroy the X-Morph. Each boss fight is unique and heavily influences the gameplay environment. Entire cities will be destroyed.

X-Morph: Defence includes a split screen co-op mode. All missions have different gameplay scenarios designed specifically for co-op play. Enemies attack in larger numbers and from new directions making good cooperation essential to winning. In this mode the game can be played in many different ways, one player can focus on optimizing tower placement while the other shoots at enemies or they can both focus their firepower on the strongest attackers.

System Requirements

    • Requires a 64-bit processor and operating system
    • OS: Windows 7 64bit Service Pack 1
    • Processor: Processor: i3 2.6Ghz or AMD equivalent
    • Memory: 4 GB RAM
    • Graphics: GeForce GTX 460 or AMD equivalent
    • DirectX: Version 11
    • Storage: 4 GB available space
    • Sound Card: DirectX compatible sound card
    • Requires a 64-bit processor and operating system
    • OS: Windows 10
    • Processor: Processor: i5 2.6Ghz or AMD equivalent
    • Memory: 6 GB RAM
    • Graphics: GeForce GTX 960 or AMD equivalent
    • DirectX: Version 11
    • Storage: 4 GB available space
    • Sound Card: DirectX compatible sound card

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