The Last Defender Doubles Up on Monetization on iOS

The Last DefenderIt’s no surprise that Chinese developer Dafei Mobile has its in-app purchases integration down pat with its iOS title The Last Defender.

Set at $1.99 for both the iPad and iPhone devices, this stationary shooter throws users into a simple and mindless clash between modern armies and a single guy with a lot of guns. With a variety of enemies requiring different types of weaponry, the game does a good job at coercing the user into buying ammunition. But the sluggish controls, dull play and 1990s-era visuals do not make it sticky enough for the game to work overall.

There isn’t much of a premise to Last Defender. Essentially, players control a single defensive position and switch through a variety of modern weaponry in order to take out swarms of enemy troops before health runs out. Ranging from basic machine guns to mortars and carpet bombing strikes, players must quickly switch between the most optimal arsenals for the situation.

StingerWith the aiming controlled by an extra-large, virtual directional pad and shooting done with just a tap, it’s pretty easy to get started. That said, the general movement feels a bit sluggish, and with enemies pouring in from, literally, every direction, the inability to adjust the control sensitivity becomes an issue in higher difficulties. In fact, in one particular mission, it began with dozens of tanks, helicopters, blimps, soldiers, and probably a kitchen sink too. Regardless, we were dead before even half of the enemy forces were defeated.

Now part of the issue here is a lack of upgrading on our part (though faster response times couldn’t hurt). Earning money from each kill, users are able to upgrade their health as well as purchase more ammunition.

This is actually one of the curious aspects of the game: Players start with every single weapon available, but they have to continually purchase the actual bullets, mortars, and missiles. Furthermore, with the tremendous number of enemies, these supplies run out very quickly. What is also curious is that the game never appears to gives the user a restock. Even across game modes (there is a Challenge Mode to be mentioned later), the same pool of ammunition is kept.

The purchase options don’t stop here either. Users can also buy the significantly more effective “enhanced” ammunition to deal with harder missions (which obviously costs much more money), as well as purchase air drops that will drop health packets and anti-missile countermeasures.

Incoming Missiles

After the player has finished the game’s Campaign mode, users are also given a means to unlock even more new play in the form of the Challenge Mode. From here, users can purchase special missions, of varying difficulty, in order to earn a little extra play. That said, even the lowest difficulty can be a little challenging (hence the mode name). To add more longevity, the game is also connected to a social game network called Wi Game, connecting users to a number of different leaderboards.

Of course, the key word in the last statement is “theoretical.” The biggest issue with Last Defender is that it’s just kind of boring. Not only do the visuals feel like those from the 1990s, but so does the play. All users do is spin in circles and shoot enemies before they shoot them, with the only real difference (aside from one’s choice of weapon) being their health and damage. The only change that really stood out at all were some air dropped tanks and such, but by then the game already felt dull. Moreover, weapon accuracy feels clumsy at times — missing enemies despite looking like a hit visually — and since the entire arsenal is open to the player right from the get go, there is no real sense of progression or accomplishment.

That's NewIt’s these elements that drastically hinder the game’s potential for in-app purchases because it‘s just not addictive enough. Since so much of the game relies on the in-game currency, not to mention the vast number of bullets players are going to consume, players can buy coins in values ranging from $0.99 to $9.99. It’s really a great way to coax users into purchasing in-app items without making them feel like they need to. That said, because the game never seems to dole out ammunition, there is a small risk that users consume all their ammo with no means of recouping it besides making a purchase.

In the end, The Last Defender is a mediocre game at best. It has a nicely-integrated, in-game monetization system on top of the initial purchase. Nevertheless, the dull game play and dated presentation grows old relatively quickly and no amount of leaderboards or extra levels can really make up for it.