I’ve always had a love/hate relationship with tower defense games. I like the idea of hovering over all of my defenses as they duke it out for me. It taps into that power fantasy that many games in the genre look to create. However, when it comes to not actually being able to commandeer some of those ships or playing the role outside of puppeteer, I often lose interest quickly. X-Morph: Defense mercifully finds a better way to victory with a unique fusion of shmup and tower defense gameplay.
War of the worlds
X-Morph: Defense really puts you in the driver’s seat and allows more freedom in military strategy. Games like the somewhat recent Toy Soldiers franchise are perfect examples of how this can be done in creative ways. However, the main difference between X-Morph and Toy Soldiers is that you pilot an enemy space ship in X-Morph instead of jumping into tanks and turrets to control them for yourself.
The story in X-Morph: Defense is something you might find in a B-grade sci-fi flick. Aliens are here to drain the earth of its resources, implanting spires in order to accelerate their technology and suck out its resources. The unfolding geodites start to consume the topography around them. Instead of playing the role of the human heroine, you instead command the alien fleet, having a ship as your mode of transportation.
During the game, you’ll travel the world over several geographic locations. You’ll scrap skyscrapers and pummel attack planes as the level of difficulty ramps up. However, there are a number of different strategies to utilize in order to ensure global domination for the alien race. This is important as your alien core gets deposited at the start of each level. Your goal throughout is to defend it from the onslaught of enemy waves.
Upgrades for the raids
There are a number of different upgrades you’ll see within X-Morph: Defense. Your ship itself has multiple different firing modes. Using the L and R shoulder buttons, you can cycle through the various types of ammunition. As new unlocks become available after a mission is complete, so do more powerful attacks and even some passive ones.
Outside of your ship’s offensive system, you’ll place towers throughout the map. Your entire goal is to defend the health of your alien core. When this is destroyed, the mission is over. Worry not though — even if you failed because of one small mishap, the save points are very forgiving, starting you back to the point right before the mission/wave started.
Versus your arsenal of weapons, the Earth’s defense force has its own set of technology that it will deploy. Giant mechanized spiders and military tanks sometimes come at relentless speeds. In order to halt these attacks, you earn materials that can be exchanged for defense towers. There are generally two types of towers: ground and air. Both of these have unlocks for additional tiers of strength, allowing you to position each tower and have it function with purpose.
Each one of the upgrades comes with a small tutorial video for how they perform. This is something that a lot of games omit, which is a shame. Your playtime is valuable for games in the genre. Spending it regretting those hard-earned resources on upgrades that you hate is one of the worst things you can do to a player. In the case of X-Morph, upgrades too can be reverted. Win-win.
Visuals are locked and loaded
The first thing that caught my eye with X-Morph: Defense was its visuals. I could see the shmup-style gameplay mashed up with tower defense/RTS elements flawlessly playing out. After having played it, I can say X-Morph: Defense is one of the most visually impressive games on the Nintendo Switch. Playing through the campaign, you’d be surprised at the destruction physics that, for the most part, are uninterrupted by the sheer number of enemies on screen. We are talking full-scale buildings toppling over while 15 helos attack your alien core. This is all happening while tanks are smashing through your towers as you spray and pray you’ll make it through the level without having to start over.
The only small gripes I have about the game are its sometimes cumbersome menus and navigation during a match. The menus aren’t always forgiving, having small texts and tabs. These relate to the in-action selections during the game as they are sometimes equally cumbersome to navigate. There’s nothing like being in the heat of battle and you can’t easily select a tower to move or upgrade. And once you finally select it, it’s not as fluid to change that tower’s ability or upgrade it with haste.
Furthermore, the voice acting can skirt lightly on the cringe, B-movie side of things. However, it’s pretty impressive for a smaller game like this to have complete voice acting for its characters.
It’s Morphin’ time!
There is a lot of challenge that lies ahead in X-Morph: Defense. Levels range in difficulty from easy to downright frustrating. But making tweaks to your game plan and coming back with a stubborn attitude will most times leave you triumphant in your battle. If you love shmups and tower defense games and are looking for a game to keep returning to, there’s a globe filled with humans that needs conquering. Be ready, though — world domination won’t just be handed to you.
A review code was provided by the publisher.