I like the occasional tower defense game. While it’s not my best genre, there is plenty of fun to be had and strategy to employ. You survive wave after wave of enemies and between waves you gain a set amount of resources that you can then either use to upgrade your towers, build new ones, or save and attempt to survive the next wave to collect even more resources and build or upgrade to even better towers. However, what if instead of auto-collecting resources between rounds you had to go out and collect them yourself? What if you didn’t have a lot of upgrade options because your resources were limited a bit more than the typical tower defense game? Finally, what if almost everything you do in the game was controlled by a touch screen and stylus? You get Dillon’s Rolling Western: The Last Ranger for the 3DS.
The Last Ranger is a sequel to the original Dillon’s Rolling Western released in February 2012. It’s been a year since Dillon and his sidekick Russ (no seriously, that’s the sidekicks name, I didn’t name him after myself I swear) saved the frontier from a group of monsters called Grocks who liked to feed on the livestock of the nearby villages. However, Dillon and Russ couldn’t get used to the peace and quiet so they set off for adventure. They soon come across the village of Beginsville and learn that the Grocks are once again coming out at night to feed on the Scrogs. It’s now up to Dillon and Russ to protect Beginsville as well as the rest of the frontier once again.
To get something out of the way, I haven’t played the original Dillon’s Rolling Western, but I’ll touch on that briefly at the end. Each village starts with you rolling around (yes, rolling) the area to scrounge up resources, such as gems to build defense gates for the village, ore to trade for money, and scruffles to feed the Scrogs so they multiply (I swear I’m not making any of this up). What good does all of this do? If that’s all you did, seemingly nothing yet. Once the sky turns red though, you’d better know what you’re doing with all of those resources, because the Grocks are about to attack.
You can pick up scruffles while just rolling around (they look like big white bulbs) and can go into mines to get ore and gems. While you donate the scruffles as mentioned earlier to multiply the scrogs, the gems and ore can be sold for money. However, a couple types of ore can also be used to build defense gates for the village to help protect against Grock attacks. You’ll also come across watch towers and gun towers. The watch towers help to locate Grocks on the map and if they take down a watch tower, that part of the map kind of goes dark and you can’t see any approaching Grocks in that area. Gun towers on the other hand are a bit more useful. After building one which takes money to do (some are already built), you can then equip one of three weapons to it: a shotgun, gatling gun, or cannon. I tend to go for the gatling gun as I typically have more luck with them fending off grock attacks. I can almost guarantee that the gun towers is where most of the your money will be spent.
Now I mentioned that the sky turns red after a while. Once this happens, you have about a minute to finish up anything you have to do. This includes building, repairing, and equipping towers, mining…mines, and getting gems, ore, and scruffles back to the village. About a minute later, the village gates close and the grocks begin to appear. There are several dens on the map where they can come out of, so it’s not like they go POOF and there they are. From there they’ll make their way towards the village, occasionally attacking towers they come across. Between you and any towers you have equipped, you have to take down all of the grocks before they feast on all of the scrogs in the village. If you run into a grock you’ll begin a battle scene with some smaller grocks. Taking them out will take out the larger one on the map. However, should a grock reach the village gates and there are no defenses in place, you have a few moments to get to them and take them out. Otherwise they’ll feast on the scrogs and each grock tends to take out about five scrogs or so. If you did build defensive gates, the gate will deteriorate a bit, but they will take out the gate.
So after taking out all of the grocks, the battle ends, you get your reward, and you hit the saloon. Ready for the next town? I hope not, because you have to do this TWO MORE TIMES. Yes, each village will get attacked by the grocks for three days. While in the saloon between days you can buy items, hire mercenaries to help you out, save your game, and check out some missions. The missions typically range from finding gems to performing certain actions in battle. While you can get rewarded for missions you complete, you will actually get penalized for accepting a mission and not completing it after the third day.
While the game can be fun, it does have its good and bad moments. For starters, the entire game is controlled by the touch screen…well, almost. While you use either the D-Pad or face buttons to steer Dillon, every other action is done on the touch screen, kind of like Kid Icarus: Uprising. If your hands hurt while playing that game and you didn’t have the stand that came with it, they’ll probably hurt here as well. Also, as stated at the start of the review, most tower defense games I’ve played give you a decent amount of resources at the start of each round, but it wasn’t that bad if you went a round without spending any of them. Here, the resources you get are quite limited as you can only mine each mine once a day and there are typically only three or four mines per map. You have to basically accept the fact that you’ll only have one or two towers active at any one time unless you get really good and quick at wiping out grocks, which will earn you more of a reward. Plus, the number of grocks increase each round and it’s easy to get overwhelmed because of another thing that annoys me: while you’re in a battle with one grock, the rest keep moving. Yes, you can lose scrogs (and essentially get a game over) because you’re in another battle. Oh you can run from battles, but what’s the point because when you go to tackle a grock that’s in front of the village, the one you were just fighting will get there soon enough anyway.
One thing the game did that I do like is the ability to hire a mercenary in various towns. In one town (which, by the way, was a side town and not part of the main story) I had the ability to spend some money to hire a mercenary to help me out. While the cost was pretty steep (3000 if I recall), it was well worth it. You can have the mercenary gather ore, scruffles, or money for you while you go about your normal routine. You do have to find him to get what he collected though, but he also helps out when the grocks attack. If he’s near a grock, he’ll fight them for you while you might be entangled with another group of grocks. Just be wary of his health though because if it hits zero, he’s out for the day. Once you’re completely done with a town, the mercenary will join you and can help in other towns.
Dillon’s Rolling Western: The Last Ranger isn’t a bad game by any means, but it’s not a great game either. Using the touch screen for everything gets tedious at times (I could only play a round or so before I had to take a break or else my wrist would cramp up). Also, while I haven’t played the original Dillon’s Rolling Western, reviews I’ve read where the reviewer did play the original stated it was pretty much more of the same, except for being able to hire the occasional mercenary and you have to occasionally defend a train from grock attacks so the train can deliver supplies to the village. I actually found a three minute video on the eShop that talks about how the original game works. The Last Ranger is pretty much the exact same thing. Same look, same play style, even the same music. If you played the original game and liked it, you’ll like The Last Ranger as it’s pretty much more of the same. Otherwise, $10.99 might be a bit much to spend on this one, especially since I can’t play it for more than a round or two without my wrist hurting.