Stardock, the famed developer of both Galactic Civilizations III and Star Control: Origins, are hoping to make a splash in the tower defense genre with their new game, Siege of Centauri. Given the size and scope of their last few games, it is interesting to see the company enter a highly competitive portion of the industry, which has recently become more popular on mobile devices, with a $10 Steam game. We should not discount Stardock's video games too soon, however, as The Political Machine 2016 may just be one of the best video games, since, well, The Political Machine 2012.
Before we jump to a look at the game and a psychoanalysis of the goings-on in the minds of the developers, it's important to note that this article on Siege of Centauri is a preview of the early access version. Early access opens up to everyone on April 16. The full launch of the game is not expected until the end of summer 2019, so portions of the game are sure to change by the time the game is finalized.
Upon entering the game, you only have one possible option and that is to play the story mode. Though a survival mode appears to be coming in the future, it was unavailable at the time of writing. In story mode, the first colony of Earth, Proxima Centauri, is under attack by aliens and robots. As with any tower defense game, you are tasked with defending your main base and the occasional secondary base from the aliens. Despite the background story playing a large part in how the game looks and feels, the actual story you encounter in story mode is quite lacking. The player only gets a few lines of background information on what is happening before each level starts and the story does not develop much. In fact, in quite a few levels there is no story at all.
While the game is still just a preview, it does seem to suffer from severe balancing problems which will hopefully be addressed before the full launch. While I have not picked up a tower defense game in a while, my last one being iBomber Defense which was released in 2011, I do not think of myself as a terrible tower defense game player. I certainly had to question my skill level in this game though. On each level, while playing on normal difficulty, it was consistently taking me four to five attempts or more to get a through a single level. After getting annoyed by the number of times it was taking to get through each level, I decided to reduce the difficulty to the easiest mode available, which is supposed to decrease the hit points of the attacking robots by 30 percent. Even after moving to easy mode, it was still taking an excessive number of attempts to get through each level. The game definitely needs some retooling to make the attacking robots easier to handle. My record was twelve attempts to get through the fourth level.
It appears that some of the problems with completing levels come from the unlock time of certain defense towers. In each level, after scoring a certain number of points, you unlock new defense towers. Being able to unlock these defense towers is vital. Despite their necessity, by the time you unlock the tower, your base is often already overrun by bots and aliens and the situation is beyond salvageable.
Another problem interfering with gameplay is the existence of the secondary bases, such as metal refineries and fusion reactors. These secondary bases help generate metals and "radioactives" (an in-game currency) more quickly for tower purchases and additional defenses. Secondary bases are often the first to be attacked, but the game does not in any way display the health level of these bases or how much damage they are taking. So, often times, its difficult to know how to respond or whether it is even worth trying to save the base. Additionally, the health for your main base is hidden among a bunch of other statistics and is also difficult to find.
The game also falls short on the graphics side. It can be difficult to discern what's happening on the screen, especially when hundreds of tiny robots flood the screen at once. When there are many laser-based defense towers firing upon a single robot, it's impossible to tell what is going on at all. This problem is much more prevalent in the levels featuring dark maps. I will praise the brighter maps, including the desert and greenland maps, for being both beautiful and easy to see.
Despite the game's early shortcomings, it does have a few interesting improvements over other tower defense games. In most tower defense games, you often encounter a top-down 2D perspective where towers shoot enemies. One of the more interesting challenges that you will encounter is the terrain in each map. Siege of Centauri introduces a physics system that you must contend with as your turrets are not able to shoot through mountains or the ground. It would seem obvious that you cannot shoot a gun through a mountain, but it's something I haven't seen in other tower defense-based games. Additionally, as a player, you have the opportunity to get more hands-on in the game with orbitals. Other than purchasing and placing turrets using metals, you can also use the secondary currency, radioactives, to purchase orbitals. Orbitals allow you to drop small robots into the game to fight enemies, which you can then move around the map or direct to specific enemies. This introduces a small real-time strategy feature into the game without moving too far away from the tower defense idea.
All in all, in Siege of Centauri's current state, this entry into the tower defense genre is not revolutionary or ready for prime time. Hopefully, Stardock will capitalize on this period of early access to address its more obvious issues. While it tries to introduce a unique RTS feature and a new physics system, these two features alone do not set Siege of Centauri away from the pack. It's a fun game to kill time, but I would question whether this should be your top choice for a quick and fun tower defense game.
* The product in this article was sent to us by the developer/company.
I'm a political science and computer science student with a love of video games, software, web development, and politics. I aspire to be a jack of all trades...and a master of some. I have a deep love for simulation and strategy games. My two favorites are Victoria II and Two Point Hospital for the time being, though there are dozens more that I could love just as much.
Updated: March 2019View Profile