Well here’s a thing … the last thing I thought I’d be doing today was delving into a game from the Tower Defence genre. I mean, I’m not officially. I’m currently playing through an RPG that uses rogue-lite and Tower Defence mechanics. So, this is a game that’s straddling a bunch of different genres and you can add the board game genre to that list on account of the way this game is set up. I haven’t seen Tower Defence mechanics used properly outside the traditional sphere of trying to stop a line of nasties killing your thing in ages. This means that we’re adding something into the mix that’s making for quite an interesting time of things. The game I’m babbling on about is Defend the Rook. I’ve been indulging in the PS4 version of this title and I think I’m just about ready to tell you whether you should too.
In Defend the Rook you take on the role of The Magister. From what we can gather you’re sort of a wizard for hire and in this game, it’s the Queen of the Golden Kingdom who has procured your services. The kingdom is under attack by an Orc horde that’s being commanded by a demon. You have been tasked with turning the tide of green skins and to do this you’ll be using your box of game pieces. These pieces are magical and when placed on the Magister‘s game board will take to the field in the form of heroes, towers, and traps. Not just any heroes may I add, but the spirits of the three most powerful heroes in history. As The Magister places and guides these living weapons they form a real-time defense against the enemy. The most important structure on the battlefield is The Rook. This is the floating castle of The Magister and where he plans his attacks from. For obvious reasons, The Rook needs to be protected at all costs. You’ll swiftly find out that the impending Orc threat isn’t the only one that is bearing down on the kingdom. In fact, you’ll need to defeat five commanders and their armies over multiple rounds if you are to be victorious. There’s something suspect about the queen too. I’m, getting the impression that our benefactor isn’t all that she first appears.
What makes Defend the Rook unlike any other Tower Defence game that I’ve played is that there isn’t a shed ton of micromanaging to be done. This isn’t a game of placing and upgrading towers to clear ever-growing waves of enemies; in fact, you’ll only ever use about 8 pieces. Defend the Rook is a game of forethought and tactics and what you do with those pieces with respect to the long game. You aren’t thinking about how to deal with the next wave here, this is about how to bolster yourself for the entire game, when the enemies you face will be varied in both their skills and their approach.
Your pieces are comprised of heroes, namely a warrior, rogue, and sorceress, three towers that strike at different ranges, and two traps/utility pieces. Everything is upgradable using various resources you’ll find in the game. Beating bosses over multiple runs will earn you gemstones. These allow you to unlock new heroes, tower types, etc as you go. Something I like is that these swap into your loadout. This is great because you’ll only ever have a set number of pieces to play with per run. This stops a lot of the “too much happening at once,” feeling you get from a lot of tower defense games. The upgrades for your pieces happen between levels, (after you kill a boss,) this means that you’re always thinking about the long game. When you add your heroes and their own abilities to this and skill trees which are leveled through XP you start seeing each run as a cohesive building exercise. This is so much better than randomly throwing upgrades at towers and hoping for the best. Lastly, you’ll have an array of spells that either buff your own units or blast the bad guys in a fashion we all know and love. You get three spells a run and only so many uses of these so you have to think tactically as you go.
The other thing that makes Defend the Rook different from a lot of other games in the Tower Defence genre is the way the core mechanics work. I’m not actually happy about calling this a tower defense title, (even though I keep doing that,) because mechanically it isn’t in the strictest sense, it uses a lot of the elements that make this genre great though. There isn’t a path or multiple paths here that enemies of varying power will move along in an attempt to get to an end goal. You aren’t concentrating on where you want to choke out the enemy and create bottlenecks and kill zones like you would in a lot of these games. In Defend the Rook, enemies appear on the field of battle at random points around the edge of the screen and then attack in a much more tactics-style format. You’re still fighting waves of enemies but battles feel a lot more strategic and far less frantic. This is a turn-based game so you have a lot more time to think and plan and this is to be commended.
I’m having a ridiculous amount of fun with Defend the Rook. This is the sort of game that you’ll want to keep going back to as there are loads of things to unlock. Completing the game won’t be easy but won’t diminish the amount of fun you’re having either. Winning is only going to make the game harder as new difficulty modifiers are introduced into the mix to keep things fresh and interesting. This means that there’s a ton of replayability here. One piece of advice I’d give is that you shouldn’t be afraid to surrender. There are some games where you know that when you start losing you’re not going to be able to pull back from that easily. Rather than waste your time I’d suggest bowing out gracefully and starting with a fresh run and a clean sheet with respect to how you level your characters and towers. This will actually save you time in the long run and because this game doesn’t feel repetitive it’s no harm no foul. All in all, Defend the Rook is a game that I think would appeal to fans of lots of different genres. If you like a good tactical RPG this is a really worthy addition to your collection.
Look and feel - 8/10
Gameplay - 8/10
Challenge - 9/10
Replayability - 9/10
Story - 7/10
Defend the Rook is an excellent RPG for those of you that love tactical gameplay. The way this tactical adventure employs Tower Defence mechanics and mixes them with some rogue-lite flair makes for a finished article that’s really fun and replayable. I would strongly recommend fans of the strategy genre give this title a whirl. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.
Hailing from Southport England, Alex started his gaming career in the late 80s on a Commodore 64. Since that time he's either owned or played on virtually every console released. Alex happens to...