The marrying of tower defense and free-to-play is nothing new. It’s been propping up smartphone app stores since the early days with titles like Bloons and the all-powerful Plants vs. Zombies. Developers have cracked the code to make these games incredibly addicting over time, to the point that when most people see any tower defense game, they probably think, “Yeah, I’ll give that a try”.
I definitely fall into that category, so when I had the opportunity to take a look at Monster Tiles TD, I jumped at the chance. Does it continue the tradition of tower defense games you can’t put down? Or is it more generic than fun? Let’s find out in this review of the Steam version of Monster Tiles TD.
Making the Monsters
Monster Tiles TD is developed and published by Swell Games LLC, a Thailand-based indie studio that seems to be making its fortune on differently-themed tower defense games. They have a total of six games published, all of which are tower defense games available on Apple, Android, and PC.
I was a little curious when I saw that prior to playing Monster Tiles, but my worries were washed away pretty quickly. Monster Tiles appears to be their latest title, and it definitely benefits from the experience they have gained from past projects.
Straight to the Action
Monster Tiles TD doesn’t waste any of your time. Having downloaded the Steam version for PC, I was expecting a start screen, some menus, or any other of the trappings you might expect from a PC game. However, you’re dropped right into the game after boot, and a short but concise tutorial gets you on your way.
I would have appreciated a more traditional presentation considering I played the PC version, but it’s very clear that Swell Games LLC develops its games for mobile platforms first, and then ports those over to PC. With that in mind, I’m not too bothered about how Monster Tiles gets you started, especially since it’s such a fun experience.
There is a settings menu you can reach eventually, and it does appear to have been copy/pasted over to a new platform (there are various options that are recommended in order to “preserve battery life”), but it didn’t bother me here as much as it has in other games I’ve experienced this in.
Fight Back with Monsters
So here’s how Monster Tiles TD works. You have the tower you need to defend as well as a lane that leads to it with specially marked zones where you can install defenses. These defenses come in the form of several different types of monsters. You’ll spend most of the early game with creatures like bees, mutated mushrooms, and snakes doing your heavy lifting, but there are also werewolves, phantoms, goblins, and more that you can recruit with enough gold and energy. There are 35 total monster defenses you can use spread out over 7 categories that range from “common” to “divine”, so there’s plenty of variety to work with which I really liked.
I found that my trusty bee and “bird of prey” were more than capable of getting me through many of the opening waves, especially since you can upgrade them to make them more capable defenders. Every ten levels, they also get a cool Pokemon-like evolution that makes them look bigger and beefier, which I thought was very fun.
Now what makes Monster Tiles TD interesting, is that you actually end up building the path to your tower all by yourself! The “Tiles” part of the title refers to the environment tile you are rewarded with upon the completion of each wave. The piece you get will have a randomized portion of path for you to include, and it can only be attached to portions of your path that are currently open, which also serve as entry points for enemy ships to drop off minions.
You start off with one entrance point, but careless tile placement quickly got me into some hot water. I was placing tiles at random just so I could move on to the next wave, but that resulted in me having 6 entry points, which meant 6 enemy ships and a ton of bad guys to handle. Too many, as it turned out. They were able to overpower my defenses and take down my tower pretty quickly.
That moment made me sit back and smile. For what is essentially a mobile game ported to PC, Monster Tiles TD is very well-designed, and even has a layer of strategy significant enough that it resulted in the demise of a well-seasoned tower defense player. Well done, Swell Games LLC. You got me.
Monster Tiles TD encourages you to upgrade not only your trusty monster defenders, but also various aspects of your gameplay. As you clear waves and tackle levels, you gain a few different currencies. Gold, energy, gems, the usual stuff you would expect from a mobile game.
However, if you feel the need to upgrade your features at a faster rate, Monster Tiles TD graciously offers you the option to purchase packs of these currencies via microtransactions.
Yes, I know, it’s a free-to-play game. And a damn good one at that. Maybe I’m too old to fully accept microtransactions as a thing that’s fine and good to have in any game, but they always bother me when they rear their head.
That being said, I played Monster Tiles TD for several hours and never felt like the currency payout for victories was stifled at any point. I also never felt like paying into the game would have improved my experience in any way. So microtransactions are there for those who might want them, but the game is designed well enough that they aren’t absolutely necessary. This isn’t Diablo Immortal, thank god.
Tower Defense Lives On
Monster Tiles TD is a game that’s easy to recommend to free-to-play game lovers, tower defense fans, or anyone looking for something fun to play. The good thing here is that it’s also available on your smartphone (which is probably the ideal place to play it), but the PC version I played was pretty good as well.