The tower defense genre hasn’t seen much innovation since its inception as a mini-game in Final Fantasy VII. Fieldrunners 2, Subatomic Studios’ latest foray into the genre, sticks to the tried and true, delivering an experience worthy of a spot in any hardcore gamer’s break time rotation.
For those new to the tower defense genre, the basic premise of Fieldrunners 2 is simple. Enemy runners (also bikers, tanks, and helicopter pilots) want to move from the left of the screen to the right. Towers are placed to slow, distract, and kill these runners. Killing runners provides money that can be used to either buy more towers or upgrade existing ones with more firepower. In that respect, the Subatomic development team succeeded.
With a wide variety of enemies, upgradeable towers, special weapons, and objectives, Fieldrunners 2 gives players plenty of reason to drop $2.99 to unlock unlimited play time (the free version allows three levels to be unlocked every 24 hours), two new worlds (for a total of four), the hardcore difficulty level, and some of the more impressive towers (such as the morph tower, which transforms runners into harmless farm animals). Team Fortress-esque cartoony graphics are well done and easy on the eyes. The intuitive controls, melodic soundtrack, and humorous load screen quotes round out this polished sequel to one of the most popular tower defense games in the history of the Android platform. The game takes everything we loved about the original and improves upon the formula.
The objective in each level varies, and there are three difficulty settings for each. Along with the original Fieldrunners open field gameplay where towers are placed to guide enemies to their impending doom, runners sometimes move along a fixed path. Towers are placed in strategic spots along this path to cause the most damage possible. The game includes a puzzle mode in which the objective is to lead the lemming path toward strategically placed energy walls to be disintegrated. There’s also a timed mode in which a certain amount of runners must be dispatched in a set amount of time and a survival mode where the goal is to last as long as possible against a never-ending barrage of enemies.
For all of its good points, the game has noticeable flaws. What makes classic console and web-based tower defense games like Pixeljunk Monsters and Bloons 5 hardcore is the ability to control how towers attack (also Bloons 5 has monkeys). Towers can be set to attack enemies based on strength, speed, proximity, or on a first come/first serve basis. Fieldrunners 2 lacks this important functionality. It can get frustrating when every tower is focused on a heavily armored “boss” tank allowing weak runners to bypass tower defenses. The game also lacks a cohesive character narrative. While this was acceptable in the early days of mobile gaming, there’s simply no excuse for overlooking storytelling in today’s generation of gaming.
Fans of the original will find a solid Tower Defense title, but Fieldrunners 2 lacks the depth in story and gameplay necessary to hold my attention longer than 30 minutes. It’s not the biggest waste of $3 I ever saw, but if you’re not a TD fan and already have Bejeweled Blitz or Tetris, you don’t need it.
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