Well-done pixel art will always draw my attention, and it certainly did with Aegis Defenders. A hybrid action platformer and tower defense game, you take on the role of a team of excavators searching for a legendary weapon. I had the chance to play the game during both The MIX at E3 this year and recently at PAX West. It's now one of my most anticipated titles.
I could go on about the awesome art style, but I'll let that speak for itself; instead I want to briefly mention the neat history of the game. Aegis Defenders began its life as a student project by Creative Director Bryce Kho that, after a semester of development, was met with a lot of praise. So, in July 2014 Aegis Defenders began its Kickstarter, raising $145,000 of its $65,000 goal. Now, they have Humble Bundle as a publisher and are well on their way to release, which is still yet to be announced.
There are four characters to play, each with their own unique abilities that will be needed to get through a level. If you're playing alone, you can swap on the fly to get the character you need for a particular obstacle in your way to progress. If you've played something like Trine, it's a similar concept.
Each of the four characters has their own set of abilities and weapons you can upgrade and change over the course of the game as well. One of the characters uses melee weapons, mostly a one-handed hammer, and can build turrets. Upgrades can change the weapons, to something like a shovel, and the turrets as well, like increasing the number of shots.
Instead of going with the classic elemental weapon modifiers like fire and ice, Aegis Defenders uses a color system where weapons of the same color will do extra damage to enemies of that color. Weapons not of that color will do reduced damage. So that's another thing to consider when choosing upgrades. Do you go for the straight damage or do you want the utility of various colored weapons?
The game follows a similar rhythm of making your way to the end of a level where you then have to defend something from multiple waves of enemies. Each character has their own contributions to that defense. For example, Bart has his turrets as mentioned above he can build up using resources gathered throughout the level and in this last area. Clu, Bart's granddaughter and an archer type, can make traps and bombs. After each wave of enemies, resources will replenish to allow you to build up your defenses more.
While that sounds simple, Aegis Defenders can get pretty chaotic quickly. As you can see in the screenshot above, there are multiple levels to defend and after a couple of waves you could easily have 5 or 6 entry points to deal with, all sending enemies your way.
On top of that, the enemy variety is more complex than a simply color with the system mentioned above. Some enemies are just slow and lumbering, others are will fly and avoid obstacles, some will be covered in an armor of one color that needs to be destroyed to then get to the enemy itself which may be a different color, and some are just very aggressive charging towards you to force your attention.
Add a health bar to each individual defense you have and it can get pretty hectic. Bart's turrets, for example, can hold back enemies for a time but they will eventually destroy the turret unless you jump up there to repair it and help kill some enemies. The same goes for any defense you build up. It's a chaos of fun where you're constantly reprioritizing what you need to do so you can defend the area.
For those looking for some more metroidvania-esque elements, Aegis Defenders has you covered there with collectibles, some backtracking, and mini bosses scattered throughout its levels. There were quite a few to find, and I've only played the first two levels of the game.
I'm definitely looking forward to seeing more Aegis Defenders in the future as it looks like it will be great fun, particularly in co-op. If action platforming and some basic tower defense elements mashed together appeal to you, Aegis Defenders should be a no-brainer.
Aegis Defenders is looking at a late 2017 release date on PC, Mac, and PlayStation 4.