Worth iTrying
Man At Arms

By Dave McLean - February 18th, 2014

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Inert Soap’s Man At Arms owes an obvious debt to Kingdom Rush. It’s stylistically very similar, although the graphic design isn’t quite as “cartoon-pretty” (which is not a failing, but a deliberate design choice). Both games also share the same medieval/fantasy slant on the tower defence genre. But then, Kingdom Rush owes a debt to the Gemcraft series, and Gemcraft is probably indebted to a half dozen other games I’m not even aware of – and sure, every tower defense game is ultimately the spawn of an old Atari game called Rampart. We live in a world that’s well-stocked with tower defence games, so it would take a pretty amazing game to revolutionize the genre. Unfortunately, Man At Arms is not that game – but it does offer up enough novel twists to make for an interesting entry into the genre.

For that one person who has never played a tower defence game, here’s every version in twenty-one words: build fortifications to defend against relentless hoards; defenses slow or harm enemies; baddies get stronger; defenses become more bad-ass through upgrades. The main innovation that Man At Arms offers is that the defenses available to you each round are managed through a card deck (think Magic: The Gathering). You’re given a basic deck to start, but additional cards can be found when defeated enemies drop them. You also have the option of buying cards, or using a bit of alchemy to merge several unused cards to create one new one. From level to level, you can adjust your deck to make sure that you have the best resources to beat whatever combination of enemies crop up: add more archers to take down winged beasties or beef up your ground troops to slow down a juggernaut-sized boss.

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If you get far enough in the main quest, you get the option of purchasing an offensive deck (as opposed to a defensive one). This allows you to compete against other players online, and rather than just beating back the baddies you get to manage the attacking hordes. And also online, you’re not just limited to pre-set levels – you can create your own boards with a level builder. As I said, it’s hard to be original in a genre flooded with titles, but there’s really a lot here to keep you playing after you’ve blown through the offline story.

My only disappointment with this game is that there’s less story than I would like. I admit, this is a totally personal preference; but I love a lot of floral, dramatic narrative description in a game like this. “After seven days of battle, we stumbled home exhausted, victorious, our scabbards more full of orc blood than steel…” I’m a sucker for that crap, and while there’s a little of it here, I could have used way more. Otherwise? No complaints! If you have reached your absolute limit when it comes to tower defense, this game won’t change your mind. But if it’s still a genre that you’re keen on, this is worth checking out.

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