It isn’t very often that someone brings something new to the tower defense genre. The basic formula for the genre is extremely simple, and messing with it too much serves as more of a detriment than a benefit. That is exactly the approach that Futuremark has taken with their latest release, Unstoppable Gorg. Simple, stylish, and polished from edge to edge, Unstoppable Gorg is an enjoyable adventure that alters the basic formula just enough to differentiate itself from the pack, and can keep you laughing along the way.
Right from the start, Unstoppable Gorg looks like a horribly produced, 1950‘s sci-fi movie; every aspect from the music to the menus to the various full-motion-video scenes is modeled in the same vane as those classic films. The technology appears dated and consists of black and white screens and vintage toggle switches and the dialog is as cheesy as it comes. The videos, in particular, are especially entertaining with their visible wires and “flying models" meant to represent epic space battles. All of it is laughable and entertaining, mainly because that is what it is supposed to be. It all goes hand in hand with the laughable story as well.
The Earth’s Goodwill Ambassador, and reigning Miss Universe Arielle, has been taken hostage during a diplomatic trip to the mysterious Planet X. The planet’s leader, King Gorg, has launched a full-scale attack to take over planet Earth. As Captain Adam, Arielle’s sweetheart, famous war hero and humanity’s best chance of stopping the impending Gorg invasion, you will lead a variety of satellites and ships into battle against the invading forces. The story is presented to you with horribly acted, black and white cut scenes which look even worse than the classic sci-fi movies that they are modeled off of; the funny thing is, that is a compliment as the entire experience is supposed to feel like that.
Although the game looks antiquated and low-budget, the actual gameplay is anything but. Unstoppable Gorg may be the most polished and refined tower defense game that I have ever played. When it comes to the core elements of the genre, Futuremark hasn’t tried to fix what wasn’t broken. Chances are that you already know how tower defense games work; you will be charged with protecting a stationary based from waves of oncoming enemies. That much hasn’t changed; what has changed is the amount of control that you have over your various towers.
In this game, towers are placed in orbital rings that surround your base / ship; once you earn enough money to purchase a new tower (satellite), you can choose from a variety of options and place them into orbit for your protection. The trick here as that you then have the ability to manipulate the orbital rings around your base; any and all towers placed on a ring can then be repositioned by rotating them around within the confines of their orbit. This allows you to reposition your troops as the enemies change their path(s) as well as track stronger enemies with your stronger weapons (they keep shooting as you move them).
This new strategy works well in the long run but does have a little bit of a hitch: tower placement is limited within the rings. You can’t just place a tower anywhere that you want; instead the game gives you specific places within each ring where towers can be built. This really works against the concept established with the rings; while you are given a newfound freedom (for the genre) in terms of rotating the rings, you are still severely limited in potential building locations. Then again, I do recognize that this is something that it meant to be worked around by maneuvering the rings. I just would have liked to see more freedom in initial tower placement than the game offers.
The movement of your rings is the key to gameplay in the game. Many of your enemies are incredibly strong and you won’t be able to take them down in a single pass near one of your satellites. Players need to master the art of maneuvering their satellites with the enemy waves in order to survive. It takes a little getting used to at first, but before long it will feel like second nature and you will find yourself questioning why you can’t move your towers around in other games in the genre.
All of the other genre-staples are here in terms of features: tower leveling, repairing towers and bases, as well as tower classes. There are a total of 18 towers / satellites for you to use and master, each of which has their own strengths and weaknesses in terms of their effectiveness against the various enemies. The game teaches you the ins and outs of both the towers and your enemies through the game’s unlockable encyclopedia. As you progress through the story mode, you will unlock entries in the in-game encyclopedia which tells you everything that you need to know about the characters, enemies, and tools at your disposal.
Another new feature is the premise of research medals. You will earn research medals as you complete stages in the story mode of the game. While leveling up your towers is an age-old concept, Unstoppable Gorg takes things in a slightly different direction. On top of leveling the individuals satellites, you can also improve the “research” behind their technology prior to each level, which alters their capabilities from the outset. The catch here is that research medals are not permanent and may be redistributed between levels. Perhaps leveling a standard cannon is effective on one stage but you find it better to spend those research medals on research and solar generators (generates money) on another stage; the choice is yours. This really allows players to vary their approach on different stages; you never have to worry about whether or not you have wasted one of your precious research medals because you can simply reassign it on the next level or subsequent tries.
Futuremark has also done a great job in offering you a plethora of content to explore within the game. In addition to the 21-level main story mode, there are 21 unlockable challenge levels and an endless arcade mode. The challenge levels are variations of the story levels, with added twists such as limited funds or alterations to your available equipment. The arcade features the staple tower defense gameplay where you simply want to last as long as possible and set the biggest score that you can. All three modes do a good job of keeping you busy for a while, with varied difficulty settings available to alter the experience. True fans of the genre will flock to the arcade mode though as it becomes a true test of your ability and the main reason for staying around after you have completed the other two modes.
Unstoppable Gorg is a ton of fun but be prepared: it gets hard very fast. There is a heavy emphasis on the concept of maneuvering your orbital rings to survive and the quicker that you grasp the concept, the better you will fare. Fail to adjust to the new way of playing tower defense and you are doomed to go down in flames faster than a Gorg saucer. After you master it though, it becomes something that you can’t do without (at least in this game). It is funny how such a small change to the basic tower defense gameplay, coupled with a great sense of humor (and high level of polish), can provide an experience above and beyond many of the competitors in the genre. Tower defense fans will thoroughly enjoy Unstoppable Gorg, and a lot of other gamers will too.