Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Immortal Defense: The Review

"I love you grandpa."

I finished playing Immortal Defense a few days ago, and the night that I finished it I was tired, and elated and I think my mind expanded even only a little bit. THIS is what I want to be able to do with videogames. And in time, maybe I could do more.

Immortal Defense is basically a Tower Defense game. You have a goal which must be defended against a procession of increasingly tough enemies for a set amount of time in every level (called pathspace). You do this by placing 'points' around the level that have different effects. Some just do direct damage to the enemies, others reduce the defence of the enemies and yet others slow them down.

So far so normal. What elevates this beyond the average tower defense game are its visual and aural presentation and its story.

The visuals are highly abstract and are accentuated by very boisterous and highly stylised procedural special effects that end up obscuring the action quite a bit. It can be a bit confusing sometimes, but it also adds to the general ambience of the game. You can almost look at it as a sort of battle induced ecstasy, with your instincts guiding you on your 'path' of destruction.

The sound effects, while nothing necessarily amazing, are very good and quite appropriate to the game's aesthetic. Special mention must go to the music however which is absolutely stellar. From the opening song by Helen Humes, to the custom soundtrack most of which was composed by the designer's father, Walter Eres with some of the songs made by a friend of his called Long Dao. It really gives the feeling of vastness, alienation and just plain weirdness that I think is key to the overall unearthly feel of the game. The entire soundtrack is available free for download here. The sound design doesn't just stop with the gameplay though, even the menu has some very nice incidental sounds that keeps you absorbed in its world from the minute you switch it on.

All this of course would make a pretty solid if quirky game if it were not for the writing and how the story is tied in completely with the gameplay mechanics. The 'points' are aspects of the player's will with names like courage, pride and love. The story constantly challenges the player's perceptions, and I really wish I could say more without spoiling it, but suffice to say, it is very good and it ends very well too. Whenever people talk about narrative in videogames, this should be mentioned alongside Planescape: Torment and Shadow of the Colossus as an example of a peek into the future of videogames as art in their own right.

The overall package is definitely worth the asking price. With the demo you get to fully explore two chapters of the game, and this alone should give you a very good idea of how the game plays, so you should definitely get the demo (sorry mac fans, no version for you guys.)

The gameplay is nothing new, but it is executed in a very fresh way. It has a killer story, very nice music and pretty graphics. What more could one ask for?

Oh, and here's a video in case you were wondering what all the pretty lights actually do -

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