Ahead of the release of Prime World, the upcoming social MOBA from Nival, comes Prime World Defenders. The game, like the MOBA, transcends genres and is more than meets the eye at first. A blend of card based game and tower defense, I played the game this week in its closed beta form and got a taste of the action for myself. Defenders shows some similarities with the wave of free-to-play card based games that have emerged lately, but it is a single player title.
First of all, Prime World: Defenders is card based. That means the towers, magic spells, abilities, and paths open to you have a randomized element to them. If you’re not really a fan of collectible card games, then you may not like this one. The card mechanics are so integrated into the tower defense game as a whole, that you’ll be spending a lot of time with your decks, figuring out which cards will help combat the enemies on each level (you can preview them on the level screen), as well as creating new and better cards. The game features something called the Forge, which lets you create new cards in two ways. One is called Fuse, and lets you use elements to bind cards into something new. Evolution is a way of leveling cards up, matching two of the same cards to create an even more powerful version up to a predetermined level. You’ll be evolving your basic wooden tower in the tutorial, doubling its damage. The same tower may be upgraded via evolution up to level five.
This is just the beginning, and you’ll find yourself creating, upgrading, swapping, and otherwise obtaining new cards throughout the game. You’ll also be able to replay levels in order to get new cards, mine for silver, and complete achievements. Playing the game will net you two forms of currency: silver, which is obtained from completing levels and achievements, and stars, which you get from completing levels. Do better on each level and you’ll get more stars. Pass by the skin of your teeth, and you may get just one.
Those two currencies are used in a shop that veterans of free-to-play games will find awfully familiar. It’s a bit of a strange integration here, and it makes one wonder if the game will go free to play at some point in the future. Anyhow, you can buy certain items with stars and others with silver. The items for stars would be the sort of premium items, while silver would be regular. You’ll be able to buy cards at random, treasure chests, boosters, and artifacts. All of the items obtained from the store are random, so you never know what you will get any time. This adds a bit of a luck element. There is also an RPG style leveling system, through which you choose your talents, bringing you bonuses as you sink points and silver into your chosen field.
Outside of the cards, gameplay is probably about what you’d expect from a tower defense game. The universe features a special resource called Prime, which I expect will come up in the MOBA too. As a fantasy game, you’ll find the usual assortment of enemies like goblins, trolls, harpies, and kobolds. Expect levels to challenge you with hordes and hordes of enemies to combat with your towers, traps, and magic spells. Remember the Forge? The cards that you upgrade in the Forge will also be upgradeable in the field during a level. So if you have a level two wooden tower, after some enemies have already passed, and if you have enough Prime, you will be able to upgrade the tower right there on the level. Suddenly, your tower is doing double damage.
Each level does provide challenges to replay once you have obtained better cards and more skill. If you’re already great at the game, you’ll still be able to use your imagination to complete them in new ways. Because of the card system, there’s actually a lot of flexibility and fun involved, though sometimes it can be a little frustrating. However, that’s part of the challenge of figuring out just what strategies you’ll use.
I’m generally not a big fan of card based games, if I’m being honest here, but I'm kind of liking this system so far. It’s not the most innovative tower defense game, but in a genre with this similar basic idea, the execution seems to generally win out. I’m looking forward to getting more into Prime World Defenders to see if this continues to hold up.