Crystal Defenders is a tower defense game that will get under your skin. It combines the basic elements of a tower defense game with cute characters and a simplicity that draws you right in. It seems so simple: just kill the enemies before they get to the end of the path. But the game deceives players with its simplicity, suckering them into the game and dominating their attention until they complete every wave in all three of the game’s worlds. The fun part comes in picking the correct soldier, mage and other useful fighters and placing them strategically around the map to inflict the most damage.
The game has 3 different worlds. Although they have the same basic structure, each adds a new level of excitement and new options. Each world has two distinct battlefield maps, and each map features basic and advanced versions for a total of 4 maps per world. Enemies start at the beginning of a map and will continue on until they reach the end or meet with a deadly fate from you and your troops. Each map has a path that shows you where the enemy will pass through. Some have multiple paths that add to the challenge. I often found myself trying to will an enemy to take the long route so I would have time enough to kill it. (Just let me kill you!!)
Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to get through 30 waves of enemies on these maps. Sounds doable, right? The trick is to do it without depleting your crystals. (You knew there had to be a catch, right?) The crystals are your lifeline—you start out with 20 of them, but if you lose them all, it’s game over, and you must retry the level from the beginning. Various things will consume your crystals, like letting enemies escape or summoning help other than the troops you purchase (more on that later).
The game controls are fairly simple. The D-pad lets you choose the placement of your troops, and the X button sets the troop in place. Moving the cursor over your troops will pull up basic data on them, while leaving the cursor on any place on the map will pull up basic data on enemy units. The Triangle button pauses the game and pulls up a menu. The right trigger (R2) lets you fast-forward the battle, causing enemies to move faster. If you don’t have your army set up right, I would avoid fast-forwarding. It’s not really worth it to save 30 seconds if you lose any troops.
To win in Crystal Defenders, you need to place your troops in strategic places on each map to maximize the damage dealt to each enemy. How do you obtain these troops, you ask? You collect money by killing enemies, then spend it on more troops. The placement and leveling up of each troop are the keys to winning any map in Crystal Defenders. When you place your troop on the map, the game will show you their area of attack, the speed at which they attack and the damage they’ll deal to the enemy.
Fortunately, the various enemies never attack, so you don’t need to worry about keeping your troops alive. The goal here is to kill the enemies before they reach the end of the map and go hippity-hopping off into the far-off forest or desert to live a happy-go-lucky life. Each enemy allowed to pass will consume 1 to 3 crystals.
Enemies will sometimes have no resistances, and any type of troop will be able to damage them with physical or magical attacks. Other times, they will make things more difficult by being immune to magic or physical damage. A quick glance at the enemy’s stats at the start of a round will tell you all you need to know, and you can then adjust your troops accordingly.
When a new wave starts, you will see the enemy you need to kill, as well as the amount of hit points it has and any attributes it may possess. Some enemies will be walking on the ground, while others will be flying. You need to check the enemy out and decide which type of troop will best be suited to destroy it. For example, if you have a flying enemy but no troops that can hit anything in the air, things will not end well for you. Place a troop that can hit flying enemies—problem solved.
World 1 offers you four maps: Bisga Greenlands, Orchise Snowfields and the advanced versions of both. The advanced maps will place barriers in your way that will add to the challenge, as your troops will not have the attack range that you are used to from the easier maps. You will need to pay even more attention to your troop placement, since they will not be able to hit the same area they could on the basic maps.
For this world, the troops available to you are Soldiers, Black Mages, Archers, White Monks, Time Mages and Thieves. Each troop plays a different role in combat. A Soldier offers the most attack power against enemies on the ground, while the Black Mage inflicts magical damage. A Thief does not attack, but increases the money you receive from each enemy death. This is especially important, considering it costs 200 G to buy the highest level for each troop. I would suggest placing as many Thieves as you can in order to build up your army.
You can also summon espers if you’re in a bind. In World 1, your summons are Phoenix and Ramuh. Phoenix will double your party’s attack power and attack range for one round, while Ramuh will damage enemies and lower their speed for one round. Both have their place, but use them sparingly, as summoning either will cost you five precious crystals. Think before you act!
World 2 opens up a few more options for you. You still have access to the troops you had on World 1, but in addition to those, you can also choose Berserkers and Dragoons. In addition to the extra troops, you can also now use different-colored Power Crystals (not to be confused with your lifeline crystals). A Red Power Crystal will increase the attack power of nearby units, a Blue Power Crystal will increase their attack range, and a Yellow Power Crystal will increase the speed at which your troops will attack. When you place a Power Crystal, you will see its range and be able to tell which of your troops will benefit from it.
For this world, your summons are Ifrit, who damages all enemies in the area, and Carbuncle, who nullifies the resistance of all enemies in the area. As in World 1, summoning them will cost you 5 crystals.
World 3 gives you the Flintlock and the Tinker, both of whom will come in handy. Tinkers will stop the enemy for a period of time, allowing you to get in a few extra hits on them. Flintlocks are similar to Dragoons in that they can deal massive amounts of damage at a slow rate. The difference is that Flintlocks deal magical damage instead of physical damage.
For this world, you can summon a herd of chocobos, which deal damage to all enemies, and Unicorn, who doubles your party’s attack power and speed for the round. These, of course, will cost you crystals to summon (2 for the chocobos, 5 for Unicorn) and should be used sparingly.
The look of Crystal Defenders is very pleasant. While this is not a graphics powerhouse, everything is done very well for its style. The maps provide a good view of the path as well as the enemy and your troops. While they are basic and do not have a ton of detail, they aren’t totally dull and lifeless, either. The enemies are all done in a simple style, but each enemy has its own distinct look. Your troops also have their own individual styles that set them apart from one another. For example, the Thief is dressed in green, while the Black Mage wears blue plus a yellow hat.
There is a groovy soundtrack to keep your interest as you play, as well as nifty background noises. When using a Thief, you will hear a “ka-ching!” sort of sound that signifies when you earn extra money from killing an enemy. I love hearing this sound, as it means I am racking up more money to upgrade my troops and thoroughly beat the enemy. The thwack of a sword can be heard as your soldiers hack down their fearsome foes, as well as the sting of magic as your Black Mage inflicts pain.
Surviving 30 waves of enemies with at least one crystal remaining sounds oh so simple, but little did I know that when I picked up Crystal Defenders, it would become such an obsession and easily one of my favorite games. I own the game on my PSP and PS3 and certainly do not regret the purchase. I have invested countless hours into this game, and I still have a level or two that I need to survive all 30 rounds on. I may be close, folks, with 29 waves survived, but that simply will not do! I must survive them all! If you are in the market for a fun game with a great price that will almost certainly keep you entertained for hours and hours, Crystal Defenders is the game for you.
Review copy supplied by author.
Author reviewed the PlayStation 3 version.