Indie Review: Fieldrunners
Fieldrunners is the first game developed by Subatomic Studios and a game that promises plenty of tower defence entertainment. Does it make good on any of those promises? Keep reading to find out.
- Worth The Time?Most definitely
- Things LovedSmooth and vibrant visuals are appealing along with good sound effects. Straightforward gameplay means that Fieldrunners is easy to get into and just as easy to get addictied to. Maps offer great variety and each one requries a different strategy. Good variation in enemy types requires you to think crtiically about how you defend your base.
- Things HatedA limited number of towers makes the game too simplistic sometimes. The PC port suffers from resolution issues and in-game music is annoying (easily fixed).
- RecommendationFieldrunners is a fiendishly addictive experience that will appeal to fans and non-fans of tower defence games. The straightforward gameplay makes it easy to master the basics of the game and then it's simply up to you to master the strategy. Maps are vibrant and varied and even the towers are beautifully designed. There are endless hours of fun to be had in this game with plenty of maps and modes to choose from. At this price, it's a bargain.
- Name: Fieldrunners
- Genre: Tower Defence
- Players: 1
- Multiplayer: None
- Platforms: iOS, Android, PC, PSP, PS3
- Developer: Subatomic Studios
- Publisher: Subatomic Studios
- Price: $4.99
- Reviewed On: PC
There are games that surprise you and then there’s Fieldrunners. Not only did this game bowl me over with its charm and addictive nature but it even came complete with an illustrious history. I took Fieldrunners, on Adam’s suggestion, from the pile of indie games we had up for review and upon some cursory research found out that the game is in fact almost 4 years old. You see, this game first released on iOS back in October 2008 and then slowly found its way onto a number of other platforms before finally reaching PC where it is now available on Steam. So how does this 4-year old port stack-up?
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The first thing I noticed about Fieldrunners is that this was not the most thoughtful port to PC considering that the resolution was not adjusted to accommodate widescreen. This results in some very ugly blank space on either side and while it’s not a deal-breaker it certainly is a detraction. The next worst thing is the music which is some sort of vibey military theme that annoyed the hell out of me. It’s quickly fixed by turning off the music and turning up iTunes but it’s definitely worth noting. Besides those very inconsequential and minuscule issues, it’s very much onwards and upwards from there.
You jump straight into the action with minimal fuss and all you need to know is shown to you in one screen before you get going. There are 8 maps to choose from and each has its quirks and unique traits. Some have enemies coming in from multiple entry points, some have multiple bases for enemies to attack, some have obstacles and one even has your base positioned slap-bang in the middle of the map so you have to defend it from all sides. There’s plenty of variety not only in the basic structure and layout of each map, but also in the design or at least mostly. Some maps do look a bit similar but their layout is certainly different enough.
There are also a number of modes from Classic where you simply survive 100 waves of enemies to Time Trial, and even Sudden Death where you must avoid letting a single enemy into your base. Usually you can let a few enemies in without it being game over but become a whore and let too many in and the fat lady sings. There’s also an Endless mode where you simply survive as long as you possibly can and two modes which are like Classic in that you endure 100 rounds of enemies but each has a different combination of towers for you to defend with.
The towers themselves are somewhat limited when you look at it. There’s the cheap and fast yet weak Gatling gun, the goo tower which covers enemies in a sticky goo that slows them down, the missile launcher that eliminates enemies from a distance and the Tesla tower which zaps enemies with an unhealthy dose of lightning. Those are the four standard towers. The Extended mode adds a further two – Flame tower and Mortar tower. That’s it really. There are some substitutions such as Laser which replaces Tesla in the Skyfall map and Ice which replaces Goo in the Frostbite map.
That’s really all there is and sometimes you’ll feel that there really isn’t enough on offer as far a towers go. The standard four really doesn’t seem like enough when you’re going for 100 rounds. It never really becomes a major issue because you’ll always be busy upgrading towers that you’ve placed on the map or placing even more towers down. Each enemy you mow down earns you some cash and that cash can be used to purchase new towers or upgrade existing ones.
It’s understandable that the developer opted to rather limit the number of towers though because the key to this game’s success really is its simplicity. It certainly isn’t dumbed down by any measure but it is straightforward and the basics are easy to grasp so that you get into the game almost instantly, and know exactly what you’re doing from the get-go.
You’ll learn the basics very quickly and then your success is purely based on skill and strategy. Each map requires a different approach but the key really is in building a maze of towers to direct enemies and also to create choke points or bottlenecks where they easily be finished off. To get to level 50 on any map – which unlocks the next map – is a challenge on normal difficulty and to reach level 100 will push you to your limits. I could barely achieve it but that has nothing to do with the fact that I’m a strategic oaf, ruined by modern shooters and dumbed-down games.
To give you an example: on the first map, Grasslands, it took me a couple of attempts to figure out how to construct a maze that would work in slowing my enemies down while also bombarding them with enough fire to down Godzilla. Even then, it took me a few tries to move past my previous highest of level 77. It never got tedious or frustrating though. It was just that sort of addiction that gnaws at you and needs to be satiated. You feel compelled to carry on and a part of this is the simplistic nature of the game so that you never feel overwhelmed. Another element that keeps you hooked is the visual quality of the game and the overall style.
The enemies have a bit of TF2 about them but each model is designed with a fair amount of detail and even the maps are colourful and vibrant. The towers themselves are lovely pieces of design with great almost vintage details and smooth animations. The whole game runs smooth as a double cream waterfall even when you have twenty lumbering gunners on the map and all of your towers firing on them in a frenzied mess that makes war look exciting and colourful. That’s another thing that keeps you hooked, the frenzied action that ensues when a dozen or so enemies come riding in on motorcycles and all your towers are firing on them or when you have to upgrade/add a few a towers just to stave off the attack.
While we’re on the enemies, they certainly aren’t in short supply and unlike your typical military shooter, they come in many shapes and sizes. There are your typical foot soldiers, the heavy machine-gunners, droids, zeppelins, helicopters, tanks and more. Each map has some enemies that are unique to them although it’s mostly just a cosmetic with these unique enemies and as you survive more and more rounds, the enemies will become incrementally stronger.
Ultimately, Fieldrunners took me completely by surprise but it was the good kind like when the cashier at KFC gives you more change than you’re supposed to get. I could fault it for very little and what I did fault it for was very inconsequential and certainly nothing that detracted from the game in a big way. I’m not sure if hardcore tower defence fans (they must exist somewhere, possibly Asia) will like this simplified approach but I loved it and was hooked from the start. It’s an addictive, exceptionally entertaining and challenging gaming experience that you shouldn’t miss out on.