Battle Defenders Brings Social Tower Defense to Facebook

It seems that ever since there were online games, there have been tower defense titles. It’s understandable, really, as there is a gratification found in their simplicity and the carnage that is unleashed as lemming-like enemies march, single-file, through a gauntlet of defensive structures. And so, simple little Facebook app, with about 72,000 monthly active users, that put a slightly new spin on the genre recently came to our attention; an app dubbed Battle Defenders from Japanese developer Dango.

Players compete with one another in fairly standard tower defense rule set: Enemies move from Flag A to Flag B and the defender sets up defensives that automatically attack them as they pass by. As expected, different defenses have different damage, health, and range, so it becomes a strategic challenge to decide which defenses to build where in order to prevent too many enemies from reaching your flag and defeating you.

In the case of Battle Defenders, these defenses are actually human villagers, and the goal is to fend off attacking orcs; driving them back to wherever orcs come from. What is different about this app, however, is that “driving them back” consists of more than just standing around as they do their single-file attack pattern. Each battle consists of two parts: The already explained Defense, and Offense.

While on the offense, players first place X amount of units on their flag(s), then the units march along a set path to the enemy. Now, early on in the game, this isn’t exactly strategic — only one flag to set units on — but as players play more often, and in turn, earn more experience and gold, new maps open up with more and more flags to defend and attack.

As one could surmise, each map is gated by the both the amount of gold the player has and their level. While experience is earned regardless of skirmish outcomes, gold is spent and earned primarily through betting. You see, each battle is actually a challenge towards another Facebook user (who plays, anyway). Before each battle, you make a wager and the winner takes that amount out of the loser’s wallet.

Evidently, this is rather important, because while each battle can earn you some coin, they also cost a fair amount too. War is expensive, after all. Each unit costs X amount of money to place, with more powerful ones, obviously, costing more.

Does this mean the person with the most cash on hand will win? Actually, no. There is an interesting mechanic called “Rage” in Battle Defenders. Units lost during offense, killed during defense (yes, they will take damage to the random units trailing toward your flag), or health lost from your flag (when enemies reach it) will increase a player’s Rage. As this stat increases, then, and only then, will new and more powerful units unlock for purchase during the present battle.

Not only does this create a creative balancing mechanic against those with deep pockets, but also adds a bit of depth to strategy – as well as risk – goading players into deciding just what they can sacrifice to build a winning battle plan.

Socially, Battle Defenders has a decent idea, but this leads some major complaints. There feels to be complete disconnect between the people involved in the battle. It’s not actually the player that is challenged that fights back, but the computer’s orcs. Granted, synchronous play on Facebook has never been very huge, but at least in other asynchronous battle systems, some portion of that user’s army, or stats, or items, or something, played a part in determining the outcome. This does not seem to be the case for this application, and if it is, it isn’t exactly noticeable.