The same developers that brought us Costume Quest, Stacking and Brutal Legend has placed a new real-time third person shooter tower defense title on XBLA. With an emphasis on co-op multiplayer, high action, customization, and subtle humor melts together into an enjoyable experience.
If you played Toy Soldiers, another XBLA title, you will have an idea of Trench’s unique style of gameplay. Instead of simply controlling a cursor that places turrets on the battlefield, the player takes control of a trench (aka, a mech) and fights incoming waves of enemies from a 3rd person perspective. To help with the constant flood of enemies, machine guns, cannons and other turrets can be dropped on the battlefield to help both offensively and defensively. This style of game play is not only fast paced, it also requires strategy.
Trenched is a very well balanced game. Each enemy you kill will drop scrap parts which essentially acts as currency. Once enough of these spare parts have been collected, they can be spent to deploy turrets. Shotgun turrets shoot slower but are more power than machine guns. Flak cannons can take out aerial units while sniper cannons can nail baddies from far away. Mortars can remove the armor of defended units while another type of turret slows the movement speed of enemies. Then there are defensive units like the healing bot which can repair your damaged trench or the magnet station that automatically collects scrap for you. Saving up your scrap and determining which turret to place where and when is a constant brain teaser that can really make or break a battle. Further, the player is also faced with the question of “should I drop a new turret down, or save up a little more scrap to level up this current turret.”
Taking the balancing act to another level, each part of the trench can be customized before each mission. The trench’s chassis will determine which cannons can be assigned to the trigger buttons as well as which turret loadouts you can bring along. With this said, some trenches might carry power weapons but can only use basic turrets, or vice versa. But this is where the multiplayer aspect best comes into play.
Up to four players can co-op through the entire campaign. Through the game’s unique ship deck hub world, online players can be recruited, trenches can be tweaked, and players can mindlessly salute other players with use of the Right Trigger. In my online experience, I paired up with three other randoms but our trench balancing was spot on. I brought a trench that was perked with the sniper and mortal turret options while the other players had a nice blend of healing and powerful cannon armaments. This mixture of weapons and abilities was a great way to play with the strengths of each player, similar to any co-op RPG. And speaking of RPGs, the game keeps track of your every kill and stat which is tallied at the end of each mission. Once you hit certain milestones, like kill X amount of enemies with this particular weapon, new weapons/ability/money will be rewarded. Besides being very well balanced, Trenched constantly rewards the player and always throws something new on the battlefield. Overall, it is quite the entertaining and rewarding experience.
Trenched does have a few nuisances, however, First, the game seems to have been designed more in the favor of multiplayer than a solo experience. While still enjoyable, playing through the campaign solo will often prove difficult, especially in the game’s later levels and boss fights. In short, it is good alone but much better when played together. Many of Trench’s Achievements are also awarded through co-op play, further emphasizing the co-op-ness.
Secondly, four player online was often quite laggy, especially when there are tons of enemies and explosions on screen simultaneously. In fact, one instance of the lag was so bad that I got booted back to the main menu screen. Hopefully a future patch will alleviate some of this pain.
The game’s graphics are nicely modeled and new enemies are constantly introduced to the player, but towards the end of the game you will wish the color pallet was a little more colorful. The dark browns and grays makes the electric purple enemies stand out from the environment, but the drab colors will start to take its toll once a couple hours has been spent controlling your trench. And sometimes enemies will just pop up behind you without any indication. A radar or on-screen indicator could have been helpful.
Unfortunately, I actually encountered quite a few bugs with this downloadable game. Achievements not unlocking when they should, my entire system froze up during the loading screen, the mission selection screen said I couldn’t choose a mission because a mission was already selected (huh?), and random other players were ghosting in and out of the ship deck hub screen. Although still playable, running into these errors is frustrating nonetheless. Like the lag, hopefully a future patch will fix things up.
Finally, the game has some pretty hard to read text. Even though this game was made for HD TVs, the text always appears small and the font’s narrowness makes it difficult to distinguish when one word ends and the next begins. I would hate to see what this looks like on a standard television.
Although Trench’s narrative takes a backseat to its action packed gameplay, it contains a high amount of presentation values thanks to voice overs, motion comic visuals and a humorous but yet stimulating story line. Presentation and gameplay blend together nicely and more than justifies the game’s price and small learning curve.
Trenched is not only a great multiplayer game, it can also be a great way to introduce players to the Tower Defense game genre. And whether playing for 10 minutes or 10 hours, Trenched will keep you addicted thanks to its thoughtful and well balanced gameplay and co-op structure. It is fun, addicting, action packed but yet strategic. And yes, a game you will want on your 360’s hard drive.
Similar To: Toy Soldiers
Also Try: Defensive Grid: The Awakening
Better Than: a WWI shovel
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