The legions of Hell are bursting forth and beginning their assault on the mortal realm. With hope quickly dwindling, it is up to the Hell Warders to make the defence against a legion of unholy creatures that threaten the peace. That is the general plot of Hell Warders the tower defence action RPG hybrid. I suppose one could liken this meeting of genres as somewhat bizarre, but many bizarre combinations have yielded beautiful results. So should Hell Warders ascend to the third heavens? Or be banished to the dark depths of Hades?
First impressions count for a lot and I’ll be blunt in saying that my first impression of Hell Warders was poor. As soon as you step into your first mission and begin to repel the myriad of demons that burst forth you will notice that Hell Warders looks bad. The design choices are fine, enemies look grotesque, stages are dreary and fit the aesthetic well, but the actual visuals from a technical standpoint are poor. Some PS2 games do look better. Whilst visuals aren’t everything, I then began to notice that the FPS was fairly unstable. It never felt gamebreaking, but it certainly felt common.
Then there’s the combat. Half of the experience of Hell Warders is that you are on the field of battle. A good way to summarize the visuals and the combat would be to liken them to a bowl of porridge. As it is as visually appealing and exciting to interact with as a bowl porridge. The combat is somewhat lacklustre, not awful, but not good. You do have a good deal of influence on what is happening, but essentially all you do is spam basic attacks for 10 minutes and activate a special when you get a chance.
Simply put if the combat was the main bulk of the gameplay, I’d tell people to avoid the title like the plague. As in isolation the combat mechanics certainly have issues, but thankfully for Hell Warders this isn’t the whole package.
The other half of this hybrid is the tower defence mechanics and I must say I found them to be delightful. The premise is simple. There are 23 levels (and hard mode). Each level has a certain amount of waves. Each level has unique paths for enemies to follow and spawn from and they are attempting to destroy the “Nexus”. You must buy, position and upgrade units throughout the level to maintain your defence and ensure victory. It is the basic Tower Defence formula, but Hell Warders does an admirable job of bringing the formula to Switch.
The variety of units you can purchase is respectable and an added layer of strategy is added, by limiting the player to only be able to choose from 6 of 15 different units to be able to be purchased in the map. Do you opt for cheaper foot soldiers, but the more expensive crossbowmen? Or go for the cheaper archers and try hit the unit limit as fast as possible. It is a real fun system and you’ll find making after you fail a mission making a few different choices in unit placement and which types you buy can be the different between defeat and victory.
Legions of Hell
Then there’s the enemies that you will encounter. As I mentioned above, on a technical level? They look lacklustre, but I can respect the design choices being made. There’s an impressive amount of different enemies to encounter. All with their own attributes. Standard grunts, super fast “Hell Wheels”, magic wielding demons, slimes and many more. Adapting your purchases and placements to counter the weaknessess of your foes is integral and makes each unit feel like they have a use.
There are also bosses at the end of some levels and these are generally, ok. The truth is as I engaged with the first boss, it brought out more issues I had with the combat as a Hell Warder. Your character seems woefully inept in fighting the first boss. Dodging feels hard, damage is low and you essentially just get to run in, hit him a few times and die. I wasn’t expecting something like Dark Souls, but to engage bosses as the player just isn’t that fun.
Each level will rank you depending on how much damage your nexus took. You can receive a maxiumum of 5 beacons per a level and these stack up to unlock new units and more points to use to upgrade your character and units. There are 3 different types of Hell Warders to choose and all feel unique enough. Once you beat the game on normal you unlock hard mode and I must say that the game does offer a decent amount of challenge, before even reaching hard mode. So despite its lack of other modes, you will sink a good bit of time in Hell Warders.
Then finally the game offers 4 player co-op as with friends and online matchmaking. It is nice jumping into games with other players and it does seem to scale the difficulty depending on how many players are in the match. However again I noticed another issue with the character you control as I played online. You essentially feel like a bumper car online, when you knock into another payer you seem to bounce off of one another. It is a minor issue, but again another exampe of some of the rough edges found in Hell Warders.
System reviewed on: Nintendo Switch.
Disclaimer: A review code for Hell Warders was provided by the publisher.