By Jaime Skelton (MissyS), Senior Editor
They say you should save the best for last, and while I can’t say I have a definite favorite from my time at PAX South, one of the most exciting meetings I had was an impromptu scheduling with Codex Worlds at the Infinium Strike booth. Infinium Strike was a game I’d passed by a few times as I walked the floor, mentally filing it under “space shooter.” But on Saturday afternoon, I pulled myself to a halt as I heard the representative at the booth describe the game as a tower defense. The next morning, I was excitedly chatting with Dexter Chow, CEO and Creative Director of Codex Worlds, about this distinct sci-fi title.
With a show floor full of space shooters, including the titanic Dreadnought and Elite: Dangerous, it was too easy to overlook Infinium Strike. At quick glance, the game looks more like Battlestar Galactica than Defense Grid. A starry sky is lit up with warp portals, battleships, and gunfire. There’s no 2D overhead map in your face pointing at each incoming enemy unit, no clearly visible lanes. While at its core the game is tower defense, it cannot be described easily using standard genre conventions.
So instead, let’s start with the basic command view and game flow. As a player, you are in command of the Freedom Strike, a massive battlecarrier. While you will never steer or fire directly from your ship, you will manage its entire arsenal of guns and other defenses. The ship is divided into four quadrants, which act as the lanes. Each quadrant has its own defenses, formed primarily of turrets. You must build turrets on each quadrant of the ship to deal with incoming threats, along with using upgrades and battleship deployment strategically to take out the oncoming Wrog, humanity’s enemy.
Enemies arrive through warp portals, and each enemy is countered by a different type of turret and battleship. There are three essential ranges: close range, mid range, and long range/boss. Warp portals are color coded to give you a clue as to which enemies are incoming on your lower HUD. It’s your job to make sure that you have the right turrets on each quadrant to deal with the threats. Destroying enemies nets you Infinium, a liquid metal which is used as a resource to build and upgrade your turrets. The battlecarrier itself can also be upgraded using Infinium. Upgrading the carrier increases its shields, base health, and the number of available turret placements on each quadrant. You also gain additional resources which can be used to deploy battleships as an additional, temporary boost to take out swarms of enemies.
At first, this seems like a pretty relaxed, if not multi-dimensional, approach to tower defense. What you begin to realize, however, is that your HUD only alerts you to incoming portals, not how many enemies will come through those portals. Your upper ship display indicates which quadrants are under attack or damaged, but to really assess the threat and respond, you must be constantly changing between quadrants. By the time I picked up on this in my first play through, one of my quadrants was being destroyed by three simultaneous waves of enemies. At full heat, you’ll be managing four separate lanes against three types of enemies while using up to eight turrets (each with a different type advantage) and deploying multiple types of ships (also with type advantages), all in real time.
It’s the most exciting tower defense I’ve played since Sanctum.
After playing the demo, I began talking more in-depth about the game design with Dexter Chow, who enlightened me on all sorts of additional aspects I hadn’t glimpsed while frantically racing to defend my battlecarrier. For instance, in my play through, I managed the entire ship from a basic command view, a sort of 2D view where the cannons are lined up neatly in a row in front of you as you look at each quadrant. Infinium Strike has a free roaming camera, however, letting you view your entire ship and its attackers in a 3D view, and more importantly, you can manage your defenses from any view you’re in rather than having to swap back and forth between cameras. There’s even an overhead camera with radar that you can manage from if you prefer a more traditional tower-defense approach.
Dexter explained that his vision for the game came primarily from the cardboard staleness of the tower defense genre. While some developers put down their competition to sound bigger, let’s be fair – he’s telling the truth. Tower defense, as a whole, has been “been there done that” for years. Infinium Strike, however, is gorgeous, intense, and robust. It plays more like an arcade space shooter than a tower defense game, and requires some quick thinking and planning to master.
Infinium Strike will launch with a full campaign story mode with multiple difficulty levels to master in a three-star ranking system. Each difficulty level not only increases the power and number of enemies, but also disables an additional turret. Players can also compete in the leaderboards of an endless arcade mode. Already Greenlit on Steam, you can expect to find Infinium Strike across PC, Mac, and Linux later this year.