REVIEW

REVIEW

You probably haven’t heard of Pelfast. Until last week, neither had I. With a development team consisting of just three members, a website showing little more information than the team’s aspirations described in a single paragraph, and very little media attention, upstart development studio Pelfast is indeed obscure. Despite this obscurity and potential lack of experience, Pelfast’s first release, Comet Crash, has proven that the studio is indeed competent, and a force to be reckoned with.

Comet Crash’s release on the PSN makes it the third tower defense to grace the network after PixelJunk Monsters and Savage Moon. Tower defense games are nothing new; they’ve existed for years as popular custom maps for games like StarCraft and WarCraft III. Desktop Tower Defense and Bloons are among the most popular flash games online. Typically, in a tower defense, players are given the task of defending their base from wave after wave of relentless enemy attacks, building up a more robust collection of towers as time progresses. In these games, the player acts as the protector of the land, preventing as much damage as possible but never quite stopping it at the source.

This is where Pelfast goes and breaks all the rules. In Comet Crash, you play both protector and liberator. By sending swarms of troops, you are able to destroy the enemy’s base, and end the attacks once and for all. Though satisfying, taking out the enemy’s evil glowing dome of a base is no easy task. In the campaign mode, your enemy comes prepared with his own defensive force, and is usually ready to send his own stream of troops your way in a matter of moments. You will only survive if you can quickly and successfully juggle resource collection, defensive placements, and offensive troop deployments.

Players directly control a ship that hovers just above all the action. By using this ship, you can place towers, make upgrades, and gather recourses. Resource collection is simple: just gather the floating rocks that occasionally fly by and shoot them down to release the precious Thorium inside. Player ships are equipped with a tractor beam that can gather the rocks and bring them back with great ease. Over time, the ship‘s collection radius can be upgraded by gathering blue pick-ups that occasionally come out of destroyed rocks.

Resource collection can be a battle by itself.

Resource collection can be a battle by itself.

The defensive aspect is similar to most tower defenses. You have access to several different kinds of towers, ranging from laser cannons to electric pulsars made for shredding any ground force. Unlike PixelJunk Monsters, towers are not placed in pre-determined locations, but can be placed anywhere there isn’t a boulder blocking the way as long as there’s always a path for units to pass through. As such, building complex maze-like defenses is possible and encouraged. Building structures has almost no build-time, and maze construction can be rather quick If you’re happy with the maze design you have, you can upgrade the towers for maximum damage efficiency.

Attacking units are generally sent in swarms. Early on, these swarms may consist of 30-40 tightly packed scouts or tanks, but later in the game the swarm’s size may escalate to several hundred or even a thousand troops, all creating one long snake-like beast. The attacks may come from land or air, with light drones and heavy carriers full of troops ready to fly over your entire maze at a moment’s notice. Defending from all the tactics the AI throws at you is a hectic task requiring speed and wit.

Keeping yourself alive is, of course, the ultimate priority, but taking down your evil enemy is the overall goal of every level. This is where all the fun beings. Let’s say that you decide you’ve had enough of the defending and you want to send your own snaking horde of troops toward the red base. To get things started, you’ll need to build a Basic Ops or Special Ops building. Once one of these is down, troops will automatically begin production, and finished units will be sent to your base to await attack commands. That’s all you have to worry about. This kind of simplicity is what really makes Comet Crash unique in terms of real time strategy games, and makes it work so well on the PS3.

Basic Ops creates the standard units that will most likely be the bulk of your swarm of attackers, production is cheap and quick. The Basic Ops can be upgraded three times, with each upgrade granting access to a more advanced attacking unit. The Special Ops, upon building, gives you access to four special attackers. Among these special units is the Theif, which can steal enemy units as they pass by, and carriers, which load up with troops and fly above all the action, straight to the enemy base. If shot down, the carriers drop their load of troops, allowing them to run to the enemy base’s core.

Carriers loaded with troops: very threatening.

Carriers loaded with troops: very threatening.

The campaign mode consists of just under thirty levels, and acts as sort of an extended tutorial. You start off with the most basic attackers and weakest towers, and as you defeat stronger enemies you gain access to more advanced technology. As you progress through the levels, the enemies become stronger and more relentless, gameplay gets hectic and you may even have to repeat the latter levels a few times until you can finally nail down the best strategy. This ramped up difficulty leads to supremely satisfying victories when your last unit slams into the enemy’s core and causes an explosive chain reaction through all his emplacements. The last level culminates into a complete test of skill, as you are expected to hold off insane hordes of up to a thousand units at a time, while making an attack force able to break through the toughest defense you’ve ever encountered. Fortunately, if you’re ever having too much difficulty with a level, you can easily check for a hint in the pause menu. Although basic, the hints are sometimes all you need to start your ultimate strategy.

The part of the game that really makes it shine and stand apart from all the other tower defenses (and I’ve played a lot of tower defenses) is the multiplayer aspect. The campaign mode can be played with up to three players co-operatively, and battle mode lets four players go at it in whatever team or free-for-all configuration they desire. My roommate and I had a great time playing through the campaign together; I focused on defenses and he made the attackers. Even if the campaign mode didn’t exist, the battle mode alone would be enough to warrant a purchase.

For months, no game has been able to take my apartment by storm like Super Smash Bros. Brawl. That all changed when we started playing Comet Crash. The battle mode embodies an unparalleled faceoff of wits and timing, and only the best mastermind will be able to win the game best described as rock/paper/scissors on crack. New strategies are always being discovered, and the only surefire strategy is innovation. Tower placements are only limited by physical barriers (boulders) and the requirement to always keep a path open, as such, towers can be used offensively to break down an opponent’s defenses. Another interesting aspect of battle mode is resource collection; anybody can collect thorium rocks from anywhere on the map, this often leads to hilarious games of tug-of-war over the precious resource as little actual progress is actually made.

Multiplayer battles are intense battles of wit and timing.

Multiplayer battles are intense battles of wit and timing.

There are twelve battle maps available with varying size, layout, and thorium quantities. Upon contacting Pelfast about possible future maps and units, they told me that they it was definitely they wanted to do and had plenty of ideas floating around. They even mentioned the possibility of a map editor, which would increase replayability dramatically. Whether this content would cost anything was not mentioned, we’ll just have to wait and see.

The graphics are clean and crisp, but nothing to really brag about. The focus of this game is obviously on gameplay and the ability to render thousands of charging troops at once. The graphics may not be as pretty as PixelJunk Monsters, or as three-dimensional as Savage Moon, but that doesn’t bother me at all.

Unfortunately, the only online aspect of the game is the campaign’s online scoreboard. This indirect competition is based on level completion times, with penalties made for letting enemies through your defenses. Unless you have interested friends and enough controllers, the singleplayer mode will be all the game really has to offer to you. The singleplayer mode and unique (but not destructively difficult) trophies will keep you entertained for several hours, and if you wish to get a five star perfect rating on every level, you’ll definitely have over fifteen hours of solid gameplay in front of you.

Closing Comments:

Ultimately, the choice to spend the ten bucks on this game is yours to make, but if you want a solid RTS with a great multiplayer experience for your PS3, this is the one to go for. Despite the game’s obvious presentation shortcomings, there’s something to be said about a studio of three people that can take an existing genre, revolutionize it, and perfect it all at the same time. All that really matters with this game is its how it plays, which is wonderfully. Considering that the game is only $10, there’s little question in my mind that this game is well worth it. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to play more Comet Crash.

The Rundown:

Platform: PS3 (via PSN)
Developer: Pelfast
Publisher: Pelfast
Genre: Real-Time Strategy / Tower Defense
Offline Multiplayer: 4-player battle, 3-player co-op
Online Multiplayer: Leaderboards
ESRB Rating: E for Mild Fantasy Violence
Official Website: Developer / Console

Presentation: 9

Everything is perfectly clear and straightforward. Not everything’s pretty, but it all works how it should.

Graphics: 7

While Comet Crash is presented in 1080p, it’s still not much more beautiful than Starcraft. Still, graphics for this game matter as much as graphics for a game of chess: not very much. The clear presentation makes it always possible to tell what’s going on, which is what matters most.

Sound: 7

Everything sounds cool and futuristic, like it should; however, with a very limited music selection, the repetitive music and building sounds become pretty bland. They don’t get to the point of being annoying, but like the graphics, they’re nothing to brag about. At least you can switch to any music you’d like through the XMB if you get bored of the stock music!

Gameplay: 10

I played the hell out of this game, I got all the trophies, I wrote a 1500 word review for it, and all I want to do is PLAY MORE OF IT! That’s got to mean something.

Lasting Appeal: 8.5

If you have friends around to play with you, change this rating to a 9.5, with the only limiting factor being the amount of unique maps. If you don’t have friends to play with you, change this number to a 7.5, the lack of online play limits you to the campaign mode, which is only entertaining for so long.

OVERALL: 9 / A

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