X-Morph: Defense has finally arrived on Xbox One following one hell of an impressive string of promotional content. Seriously, the devs must have released videos for this game at a frequency that would put Bandai Namco to shame. In any case, here we are. The story tells of an alien species that has long travelled the galaxy in search of a new habitat, a place that they can root down, farm resources, and generally suck the fecking life out of everything that exists on it. Enter Earth, a place that’s rife with everything they need, and they’re here to wipe us out. Want to know the interesting bit? We get to play as the invaders rather than the saviours for a change.
That’s right, this isn’t an alien invasion that you’ll be repelling, but one that you’ll be excelling, and it’s a refreshing change might I add. The goal for the X-Morph’s is simple. You’ll need to lay down harvester cores in strategic locations in order to overthrow the planet. These structures will transform the surface of the planet and as such, will drain all of the energy that it houses. It’s a pretty interesting story, but I wouldn’t go so far as to say that it’s something that will grip you until its conclusion, it’s just present, lingering in the background to string the chain of events together.
X-Morph: Defense is one part tower defense, and one part shooter. These two elements go surprisingly well together and certainly offer up some solid moments of play. Gameplay typically consists of two phases, being that you’ll be fortifying your defenses and upgrading towers, to then take to the skies in your ship and blast back the humans that have come to defend their turf. During the tower defense phase you’re not on a timer, which means you can carefully setup your defenses in anticipation for what lies ahead. You can check what enemy types will be coming for you (jets, tanks, humans, and so on) which aids you for the round ahead.
Once you’ve prepped and are ready to roll, you’ll assume the aforementioned X-Morph fighter. On top of this you can place towers during combat anywhere on the map, and you can do so in a range of different ways. If you utilise some forward thinking, you can manipulate the movement of the enemy by connecting each tower to one another via the use of laser-like fences, giving you the freedom to craft some truly intricate defenses. Alternatively you can craft more advanced and specifically structured towers, which will be more effective towards certain types on enemies. The feature isn’t overly complicated to get to grips with and it does sit inline well with the mechanics and functionality of the experience quite well.
When assuming the role of the X-Morph fighter, you’ll be engaging in some tense combat with a band of unique enemy forces. You’re able to enjoy different weaponry from the comfort of your ship, which ultimately dishes up four specific forms. These forms will work best against certain enemies. Plasma Fighter is neutral and is classed as the middle ground form. Dark Matter Bomber on the other hand is best suited for destroying ground troops, and comes with the neat ability to slow down time and set loose a bomb that will literally mow down buildings. Shredder is the polar opposite to Dark Matter Bomber, being that this fighter is better taking on air units. Whereas the Laser Destroyer is what I refer to as the Tank Class, due to the fact that it can land harsh blows on larger enemies. There’s plenty of firepower at your disposal, but I’ll admit, it was a bit tricky trying to work out what’s best for each scenario.
One problem I found with the game is that the difficulty curve is quite steep after the first few missions. It’s quite an easy experience to begin with and the game does well at giving you enough room to breathe whilst you learn the ropes, but it’s not long before the difficulty ramps up and you start to feel a little lost in the action. It’s also quite tedious trying to resource manage in the heat of the battle, but not so much that it’s impossible to achieve, it’s just distracting to a small degree. As you successfully complete a level, you’ll be awarded with the capability of upgrading your X-Morph fighter, bolstered further with the implementation of side activities. These are imperative if you want to stay on par with the human forces, something you’ll thank yourselves for when greeted with a boss fight, which I didn’t enjoy very much at all due to the sheer difficulty of them.
Split screen co-op is present, and the devs state that each map has been crafted with this feature in mind. Not only will enemies arrive by the bucket-load, but they’ll branch out more accordingly too. I have to say that this game is much better when playing with a friend, simply because you can fortify your defenses while your buddy contains the enemy with firepower, ridding the need to switch between gameplay phases. You can simply alternate and take it in turns, or team up to tackle the larger foes. The choice is up to you. What I found most impressive outside of the excellent visuals and details, is that nearly everything within a map can be destroyed, which in-turn affects how the rest of the mission will play out. It’s an excellent addition and undoubtedly something that makes X-Morph: Defense stand out.
X-Morph: Defense is a solid game that carefully blends together tower defense gameplay with shoot’em up mechanics. Although the story offers up an interesting premise, I was never completely immersed by it, it’s just there to serve as backdrop if anything. I was also let down by the sheer difficulty of the game just a few missions in, it’s quite a steep difficulty that doesn’t give you much to lean or rely on, the same can be said about the boss battles, which are frustrating beyond belief at times. With these issues to the side, X-Morph: Defense is a decent experience that houses brilliant visuals and design, on top of environmental destruction that’s more than satisfying to witness. The upgrade system is good enough to warrant a thumbs up and the length of the game sits well against the price, gifting you with roughly seven hours of play. It’s undeniably better when playing split-screen, but that’s a preference rather than a criticism. When all is said and done, X-Morph: Defense will please fans that enjoy either (or both) of the gameplay elements within, unfortunately however, the issues present pull the game just short of greatness.
This game was tested and reviewed on Xbox One. All of the opinions and insights here are subject to that version.