Defenders of Ekron | Header
Title Defenders of Ekron
Developer In Vitro Games
Publisher In Vitro Games
Release Date August 15, 2017
Genre Shoot’em up
Platform PS4, PC
Age Rating Teen
Official Website

A couple of weeks ago I submitted my first impressions on this shmup by In Vitro Games. Now having finally completed the game, I’m back with my full review. So let’s start by saying this, this game is hard. It never gets easy, and even at the very end it will crush you like paper. With that out of the way, let’s dive in!

Defenders of Ekron | Desert Stage

As mentioned in my Impressions piece, the game takes place in Ekron, an advanced world filled with technology and controlled by a unified government. In this world exists an energy called Oxus which flows through everything and it’s used to power the Anakim, a mix of ship and robot that is piloted by the elite pilots.

Eneas Daya is the protagonist and an Anakim Pilot. As part of his graduation his Isvará, a unique power that each Anakim has, was supposed to activate, but this didn’t happen. Now he must pilot an experimental machine while defending the citadel of Ekron from a group of terrorists that pretend to defeat the government and bring the world into chaos.

Something that I really appreciated in this game is its focus on story and world building. We have access to detailed information of each element of the game, its characters, concepts and the different places that the game takes place in. Most games in this genre focus only on the action but I enjoy blasting enemies with a purpose. Unfortunately the story itself is nothing to write home about. It’s a bit predictable, things happen as you expect them to and it follows the Hero’s Journey like many books and movies. It’s nice that the game has a story, just don’t expect it to blow your mind.

Defenders of Ekron | Volcano Stage

Moving to the gameplay this is a Shoot’em up in which we control our ship on a top-down view. The left analog controls the movement of our ship and the right analog controls our aim. With the triggers we change between a main fire and alternate fire. In addition to this with the face buttons we can swap between 4 different weapons with different uses. Personally I only used 2 of them throughout the game as part of my offensive arsenal, but the game forces you to use all the weapons eventually to solve some puzzles. Which is actually one of the best features of this game, not all scenarios are the same.

Most shmups consist of shooting everything in the stage (that’s where the name comes from), reach the boss at the end of the stage, beat it and go to the next one. And while this is something that exist in Defenders of Ekron, there are also stages where you have to navigate through a maze, or solve puzzles. To give you an example, using magnets to move a ball to its destination. There are enemies on those stages yes, but they are not the main focus. And having this variety really makes this game stand out of the rest.

In addition to the story scenarios, there are some simulations in which we are locked out of some of our abilities and forced to solve certain scenarios under specific rules. These work like bonuses and have 3 different objectives. Completing them under a certain time, taking no damage, or using only 4 shots are some examples. And by completing them we get Oxus which is the currency used in the game to upgrade our ship.

Defenders of Ekron | Above the City

My main problem with the game is the use of Oxus, because while we can use it to upgrade our ship, it’s also used to heal during combat. So depending on your ability you can go through a whole stage, just to spend all your hard-earned Oxus to heal while fighting the boss at the end. And this happens a lot because when the game saves, it saves how much life you have left. So if you ended a section with just a small portion of your life total and die, when you retry it you’ll return with that same amount, almost forcing you to spend Oxus to heal right from the start to stand a chance.

And while I’m not a fan of these design choices, the rest of the gameplay works exactly as you would. Battles are hard and you’ll have to retry them a couple of times before you get them, but once you do it’s very satisfying. Your ship responds great to the controller, and while at the beginning it’s a bit slow, you can upgrade its speed to be able to dodge enemy bullets more easily.

Moving to the graphics of the game I don’t have anything to complain about. The game uses 2D drawn graphics for all its elements. The Anakims look great, particularly the boss designs are really good and some fill two thirds of the screen. The different stages are varied, with forest, deserts, snowy mountains and cities to name a few. And probably the most important element is that it’s easy to distinguish between the enemy fire and the rest of the game.

Defenders of Ekron | Simulator room talking to Caleb

The music is made entirely of hard rock with emphasis on electric guitar and drums. And while I have to admit that some songs sound similar, it helps set the mood of the game. Then again I’m a big fan of rock and metal so if your music preference is different, then you may not enjoy it as much as I did.

Overall I really liked this game. Combat is fun, the music is great, the story is basic but it gives purpose to everything that you do. But again I have to talk about the difficulty, because this game is hard. If I wasn’t reviewing it, I would have dropped it several times during the game. From the very beginning at the tutorial I died a couple of times. Then I got stuck against the second boss so I had to grind Oxus in order to upgrade my ship, and this trend continued throughout most of the game. Even the final boss with all the upgrades I had took me around 3 hours and probably more than 15 tries to get it down.

I know there is a segment of the gaming community that believes in the “git gud” and prefers hard games, and that’s fine. But still I leave this warning to those that maybe don’t have as much time to play videogames and have to choose wisely which games they can play. If you are a fan of the genre and are fine with dying a couple of times, then ignore me, you will have a blast!

Defenders of Ekron | Generator on the ruins of the city

Defenders of Ekron is available now at $15 and it took me 14 hours to complete the main story. This doesn’t count the training missions that I mentioned above and getting all the trophies, so depending on your approach to the game I can see it going over 20 hours for a completionist. Difficulty aside this is a really well made game and I can’t wait to see what else In Vitro Games will show us in the future.

Review Score

Review copy provided by the publisher. 

Henry Badilla
Jack of all Trades, Master of none. Henry's First videogames where simple NES games like Ice Climbers, Contra or Super Mario, but it was until he played Final Fantasy that he found out his true passion. Huge Fan of JRPGs(Final Fantasy, Valkyrie Profile), Music Games (Rock Band, Theatrhythm) and Board games (Magic The Gathering, Betrayal).