X-Morph: Defense by EXOR Studios is an excellent hybrid between a traditional tower defense title and a twin-stick shooter. Available for PC, Xbox One and PS4, we played with the console versions for the purpose of writing this review.
In X-Morph, you’re actually the aggressor – as an alien race bent on terraforming earth. Your task in every level is to keep your terraforming ships safe from the humans trying to take back their planet, and you have an arsenal of alien weaponry available to you in order to stop them. A lot of them are defense in nature, as you can build towers and create fences almost anywhere on the map. Large portions of the map can also be used against your attackers, as you can take down buildings and bridges to block their route towards you or force them to head towards places that you’ve loaded up with extra defenses.
True to the tower defense genre, enemies come at you in waves. A lot of the action described above is therefore done during the pre-wave planning phase, although you also have the option to pause the action later and make changes and/or repairs mid-game. You can even skip the building phase completely and head straight into the twin stick shooter phase, making building decisions as you go along and as they are needed. Different unit configurations work best against specific enemy types, and this goes for both sides of the conflict. The humans will attack on the ground and in the air, and they’ll bring both heavy and armored units. To counter this, you can set up specific defenses, and you can morph your own fighter into four different units as well – the pre-action phase will tell you what to expect.
During the early waves – as is the case in many tower defense titles – you often seem overpowered. The choices you make there affect your chances of success in the later waves though, as enemies become stronger and more numerous – requiring heavier defenses. I would often try to make sure I had more to spend on the later waves because of this, because running out of options to upgrade and repair is a quick way to failure no matter how good you are at the arcade shooter portion of the game.
The hybrid of tower defense and arcade shooter is presented as new, but it did remind me of Kasedo’s Excubitor – which we also enjoyed when we reviewed it. X-Morph: Defense has more of a tactical layer to the game though, which is especially fun when you start using the game’s destructible environments to your benefit. Changing the layout of the map by taking out a building or bridge and thus forcing the enemy to travel elsewhere can be used to great effect, especially if you already planned for this when you placed your turrets.
Besides the basic gameplay, which is a fun mix of genres but best enjoyed in shorter bursts because it’s a lengthy campaign where repetition does occur, there are also boss fights. Humans have produced giant mechanical monsters to try and take you down, and these ask for different tactics if you are to take them down. There is also a split screen cooperative mode available, which can be played in a number of ways. You can both act as though you’re playing single player – combining tower defense and shooting, or you can divide up the tasks between the two of you. The latter is great fun, as it keeps the action flowing and urges the builder to make real-time decisions as well.
X-Morph: Defense is a fun and well executed title with a solid mix of two different genres. The destructible environments and the associated physics look and play great as well, making this a quality title from a relatively small studio.