By Jordan Hall(ApocaRUFF), OnRPG Journalist
I was recently invited to play with the developers of Stone Wardens, a new project from the guys at Burst Online Entertainment. The goal is to create a fun and unique Tower Defense game with a twist of action RPG added in. It will have the best of both genres – numerous towers to place and action combat with player progression in the form of levels and loot. So far only a demo with basic multiplayer has been created and the game is already a blast to play. The project is relying on a Kickstarter campaign for funding with a hefty goal of $225,000.
Burst Online Entertainment is made up of industry veterans who have worked on some amazing projects. David Bowman, the Creative Director, has worked on several of my all-time favorite MMOs – such as Horizons: Empires of Istaria (or Istaria: Chronicles of the Gifted, as it is known nowadays) and Asheron's Call. Others members of the team have worked on titles such as Wizard 101, Guild Wars, and Tabula Rasa. Combined, Burst has over 60 years of game development experience. It's safe to say you're in safe hands with these guys.
The choice of Kickstarter over traditional investor funding was made because Burst wanted to have a closer, unhindered connection with their players. With Kickstarter funding, the players can play a much bigger hand in what content gets into the game. You won’t have to worry about Stone Wardens being a micro-transaction pay-to-win game, either. The plan is to go with a buy-to-play (with a possibility of free-to-play, from what I've read) payment method that will offer DLCs for added content. What does this all mean? That Burst won’t have to cater to everyone in the hopes of pleasing investors, which means a more rich and enjoyable experience for those that want to play a challenging Tower Defense game.
The basic premise of the game is that of Tower Defense. You make strategies and build towers, choosing from a wide variety, in key locations to protect your “Portal.” For every enemy that gets to your portal, your portal loses points. The goal, of course, is to make sure as few enemies get through as possible. At the end of each match, a massive and powerful cyclops appears and in most cases, not stopping him will mean defeat.
Now, towers (or “Ancestral Guardians,” Guardians for short) are not your only method to defeat enemies. Each Warden (such as the Ninja or Mage Wardens that are available in the demo version) has its own set of unique abilities, as well as a basic attack, to use on enemies. Some of these cause damage, while others are more utility. Freezes, teleports, and speed buffs are some of the planned utility abilities. For me, this is exciting because, while I do enjoy some of the powerful damaging abilities, I enjoy that I can do something like plan ahead and freeze the cyclops in a nest of Guardians and watch as his health melts away while he is left helpless. This sort of stuff will add many more dimensions to the gameplay.
Burst plans to add in a lot of content to keep their players occupied, with regular updates and DLC for years after the initial release. The biggest source of entertainment and incentive to play will come from personal and character progression. You will want to play to develop your Warden with epic loot that will not only improve its stats, but also make it look cool in the process. Stats mentioned include not only the typical universal movement speed, attack speed, critical chance, etc... But stats that will be unique to certain types of Wardens and their abilities.
I mentioned personal progression. Not only will you want to develop your character, but you will also want to push yourself to the limit as well. With the ability to “Boost” a map into higher difficulties, you will provide yourself with a steady stream of challenges. And this won’t just be the standard, “Easy, normal, hard, and hell” difficulties. When I spoke to the devs, they mentioned that difficulty levels ranging in the hundreds are what they are aiming for. This, combined with leaderboards and the possibility of PVP MOBA-style game modes are really going to give you a run for your money.
It can be argued that the most important things in a game are the story, setting, and the graphics. Stone Wardens has a wonderfully original story to give what the players are doing meaning. The chibi, colorful art-style brings the world to life, too. Immediately after I started playing the demo, my mind was flooded with nostalgia from back in the day. Uniqueness like this in a game is something that is dying, and I'm glad that, thanks to platforms like Kickstarter, it can still exist.
Personally, I think the originality of the game really shines through with the Guardians. With eleven “general” Guardians, and one “unique” per Warden planned, you will have a large variety to choose from. Just from the Guardians available in the demo, I got a sense that each had its own story behind it. And the fact that you bring them to “life” by having your familiar give them “spirit”, which is harvested from wells spread out around the map and from fallen enemies, makes them even more interesting. I instantly fell in love with them and the concept behind them.
There's no doubt that the stars of the show are the Wardens themselves, though. I already mentioned a good deal about them, but there's a bit more left to talk about. Initially, there are a planned nine Warden classes. They include Mage, Elementalist, Wizard, Gatekeeper, Ninja, Stonesmith, Vesta, and Tinkerer. From what I was told, even more are planned for future content releases. With each class having its own unique strengths, weaknesses, abilities, and even Guardians, it's not hard to believe that strategy and practice will be important.
The last thing I want to mention before finishing up this article are the controls. The game, in its current demo (and I want to stress demo) state, offers your traditional point-and-click movement and attacking. It was mentioned that other methods of control may be experimented with later on in development, but this choice was made for multiple reasons. One of which was the cross-platform support that Stone Wardens will have, and this includes mobile devices with touch screens. The great thing about this cross-platform support is that it is all tied into the same back-end, and I can play with my friends on my smartphone while they are on their PC or Mac using a client or even their browsers. This is a feature that I am so happy to start seeing and I think it will help make this a fantastic gaming experience.
Burst Online Entertainment has done an incredible job so far with their demo of Stone Wardens. There is so much potential here and I keep getting more and more impressed. Be it from the seasoned industry veterans behind its development, or the uniqueness of the game and its art style. My only real worry was whether or not it would be one of those games that require constant micro-transactions to enjoy, and that was put to rest right away. This seems like a Kickstarter project definitely worth backing and I will be pledging here in a few days. If you're in need of a fun, cross-platform Tower Defense or Action RPG game like I am, I suggest you to back the game as well.