[Review] Duke Of Defense – Nintendo Switch

Written by Lloyd Coombes
  • Developer: In-House
  • Publisher: Hitcents
  • Release Date: 20/06/2019
  • Price: $14.99/£11.99
  • Review code provided by: Hitcents

A Genre Shakeup With A Sense Of Grandeur

With the Switch eShop being jammed full of exciting indies, it can be difficult for a title in an established genre like Tower Defense to stand out. Thankfully, unusual mechanics, a gorgeous visual style and a fun soundtrack help Duke of Defense hold its ground in a crowded space.

For the uninitiated, Tower Defence titles task players with preventing enemies from getting from one side of the screen to the other by placing all manner of weapons and emplacements along their path. In terms of presentation, many blend into a homogenous pastiche of winding roads, shuffling hordes, and generic weaponry.

Duke of Defense sidesteps this well-worn path with a sumptuous pixel-art style, complete with chiptune soundtrack that adds incredible charm to proceedings. Particularly on the Switch’s handheld mode, the pastel colours look great on the display and the chaos never feels too much for the diminutive console to handle. Enemies look great, albeit lacking in much variety, but the types encountered are clear thanks to the sharp aesthetic.

Playing as the titular Duke, the game’s story is tongue-in-cheek, revelling in its own genericness. You’ll battle evil to save the world, and while that sounds like a quote from any number of titles, the way in which the minimal plot elements are revealed and explained is a lot funnier than many of the more po-faced stories in gaming today. The entire thing is shot through with silly, whimsical dialogue and irreverence that feels tonally perfect with the game’s pixel style and lighthearted song choices.

Swinging Swords With Style and Building Towers With Power

The Duke is more nimble than you may expect, and while he is capable of building towers at impressive speeds, he’s just as handy with a sword. It’s no Dark Souls, but being able to attack foes directly adds an immediacy to combat, as well as an element of risk and reward – do you rush the hordes of Goblins in an effort to earn more currency to reinforce your defenses? Or do you hang back and pick off the stragglers? These tactical considerations ensure a match feels like it’s in constant motion – a surprisingly kinetic experience in a genre built on holding a predetermined line. All of the Duke’s skills can be upgraded, too, allowing for experimentation with new strategies and tower types.

All of this is amplified in boss battles that challenge players to use every trick they’ve learned. You’ll hack and slash Wizards, use a dodge roll to avoid their attacks, and work to construct towers around them with the currency you gain from dealing damage. These battles never feel particularly difficult, but they’re always a fun diversion from the standard “kill x number of enemies” levels.

Unfortunately, Duke Of Defense is a short title, clocking in at four hours or so. It’s a shame, but a testament to how enjoyable the title is that one of the very few criticisms one can level at it is that it isn’t longer. Thankfully, this is mitigated somewhat by the option to play co-op with split joy-cons. Rumble functionality helps it feel impressively tactile, too. 

Conclusion

Even if you’re not a fan of traditional Tower Defense titles, Duke of Defense is worth swinging your sword at. It’s fun combat loop, watercolour palette and retro art style make it a blast in single and multiplayer.

Pros

– Gorgeous

– Combat helps keep things fresh

– Killer soundtrack

– Funny, endearing campaign

Cons

– Too short

– Lack of enemy variety

Verdict

A breath of fresh air in a stale genre.

4/5

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