Man at Arms TD, An In-Depth Review

8.6 TCG RATING
Gameplay: 9/10
Sounds: 8/10
Graphics: 8/10

Great integration of deckbuilding mechanics. | Charming and cute graphics.

Lack of a speed-up button makes some battles feel rather longer than necessary.

iOS

$4.99 for iPad edition. | $1.99 for iPhone pocket edition. | In-app purchases available for both.

December 13,2013

English

Man at Arms TD is a Tower Defense game that incorporates the strategic depth offered with deckbuilding and card management elements. Instead of changing how the core Tower Defense gameplay works, Man at Arms TD has added the card element as a complementary mechanic that doesn’t feel at all out of place.

The cartoon-style graphics and well-placed sound effects give the game an impish charm that makes you want to continue playing for many hours at a time. This is Tower Defense, but not as we know it!

Is this $4.99 title a worthy investment or a waste of money? Read on to find out…

Obliterate

Placing your towers in strategic locations is what this game is all about. However, unlike other Tower Defense games you need to build your deck of towers first!

GAMEPLAY

Many Tower Defense (TD) titles that use card mechanics often do so at the expense of the core TD engine. Man at Arms TD has managed to include this sub-feature without sacrificing the true nature of TD. However, while Man at Arms TD doesn’t do too much to redefine the TD genre, it does shake it up a little by creating something enjoyable.

The standard line-up of towers is present in the game, such as ground and air attacking towers. The difference with this game is that in order to be able to build a specific tower its card will need to be in your deck. Towers can also be leveled up as you earn money from defeating waves of enemies, however, the relevant tower upgrade cards also need to be in your deck for this to happen.

In addition to your towers, you have access to hired hands and special abilities that are on cooldown timers. These can be used throughout the battle and whilst most missions never feel overly lengthy I would have liked a way to fast-forward the action. It can take a minute or so between waves and although this respite is welcome, it can elongate the game a little too frequently – especially if you’ve got an excellent deck of towers. (That felt weird to say!)

The number of differing towers is enough to add a decent amount of variety to the game. Placement on the map is defined by allotted empty plots of land. You’ll often be able to find the best placement of your melee and ranged units as you get more accustomed to the enemy types.

Slay-the-bacon

Pay attention to the bar at the top. You can plan ahead with tower placement when you know what’s coming. Any unknown enemies are shown as a question mark.

The game has a helpful enemy progression bar located at the top of the screen. Known enemies are shown and any new enemies are shown as a question mark. This makes planning for the known much easier at the start of a round. If you know that the majority of your enemies are heavy ground units then you’re going to need many catapults and some ground units nearby in order to keep them in place for maximum ranged damage.

The game does have a minor story in the background, but it’s of little significance. The enemies are always controlled by a more omnipresent force that you do not see and this force will sometimes play a random card of its own to grant extra attack, defense, or other debilitating effects that make the game a little harder that round. It’s hard to plan for these events so you’ll just have to take them in your stride.

During the course of the battle, random cards can be collected in addition to treasure chests that contain Gems (premium in-game currency). The cards earned are usually of a standard quality but do come in extremely handy during the early part of the game as you try and build a collection. The in-game purchases are extremely fair with very little need to ‘pay to win.’

Man at Arms TD is a quirky and fun experience. There are some stressful moments where it feels as though the enemy is overwhelming you due to sheer numbers. You can mitigate this by simply retreating from the mission and restarting it after a tweak or two to your deck. It does feel as though you’re cheating slightly when you do this, though, as there is no downside from doing so.

Mikes-Magic-Mansion

Combine duplicate cards at Mike’s Magic Mansion. The results are rather random and there are no guarantees of obtaining a better card than what you put in.

MODES AND FEATURES

Man at Arms TD‘s primary game mode focuses on a decently long campaign mode. You can also purchase an expansion pack that adds new cards and additional levels to the campaign for a reasonable price via an in-app purchase.

The multiplayer mode is limited to playing with people who have the same game and are on your Game Center friends list. This strong limitation has a severe impact on the accessibility of the game for many casual online players. If, like me, you keep this friends list quite minimal, you’ll have a very difficult time finding an online match. So keep that in mind.

The redeeming feature of this issue is that you’ll want to make a friend to simply test it out. Instead of using your main Defensive Deck you use an Offensive Deck consisting of the creatures you battle against in the main campaign. How strong this deck is depends entirely on the number of Offensive Deck cards you’ve collected. Once you play this way it becomes a completely different game all of a sudden!

Improved-cards

Each booster contains three cards. Some of the boosters will contain only a specific card type.

The in-game shop will allow for the purchase of three specific card types at a time using Gems. The other additional usage of Gems is to increase your allotted deck space. This is the only limitation imposed on the deck other than the building cost during the battle. You’ll want to increase this size quite considerably as the need for more powerful cards arises very quickly.

Mike’s Magic Mansion is by far my favorite feature of the game. Here you can combine duplicate cards to create new, and sometimes, more powerful versions of that card. If you use the same cards in the available slots you will get an upgraded version of the cards placed.

If using multiple different cards then the result can be quite random. Anything from reducing deck costs and improved strength of the towers is among the results you can garner. However, not all combinations are beneficial – be careful and only combine what you can spare.

Creating-the-Defensive-Deck

In order to build the best possible Defensive Deck, you will need to increase your deck capacity. All cards have a deck placement cost and powerful cards cost quite a lot to place in a deck.

DECKBUILDING AND STRATEGY

Tower Defense games are all about strategy and when you add in the complexity of deckbuilding to the mix you get an incredibly strategic game. Man at Arms TD excels in this area with an easy to use deckbuilder. The cards are easily accessed through the individual card types and are organized by level and deck cost. The only problem is that when your collection grows the screen is a little unresponsive to scrolling through many cards at once and it is easy to miss a card or two from the end of the list.

Much of the in-battle strategies are forged from the deckbuilding process. You get a rough preview of what the encounter will entail and can modify your deck accordingly. Some levels don’t need any air combat towers for example, so you can omit these and have more of the higher damage catapults to slay the enemies in a much more efficient manner.

On the battlefield, your tower placement is crucial if you’re going to get a perfect score for the level. Think of it as a puzzle and what the best outcomes could be. I often found that placing barracks in close proximity to a catapult unit would hold up ground units long enough to take more long range damage from the catapults.

Arrow towers will also fire on ground units when there are no air units to attack. You’ll want these close to barracks for the same reason as the catapults. Other towers exist to inflict massive damage to units, such as the mage tower, but these are very expensive to build and subsequently upgrade. Mines can help with funds if you want to take a more magical approach, though.

Spoils-of-victory

Man at Arms TD is generous with in-game rewards. Cards and Gems are easy to acquire with each mission you pass. The more crowns you earn, the better the rewards.

FINAL THOUGHTS

It’s fair to say that while Man at Arms TD doesn’t change the Tower Defense genre, it does bring something new and refreshing to the table. The cute graphics and well-implemented deckbuilding element make the game far more strategic than your basic run of the mill TD game. I had a lot of fun playing with this one and I think you will too if you like either TD games or card games.

Long standing fans of TD games will see this as a welcome addition to their collection while card game fans will also find something here to enjoy. The lack of a speed-up button and pinch-to-zoom are oversights that should have been present, but do nothing to discourage the overall enjoyment of the game.

There are many excellent Tower Defense games available today – Man at Arms TD will proudly sit among them. You should check it out.

For more screenshots, click here.

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Zac Phoenix
Author: Zac Phoenix View all posts by

Zac Phoenix graduated with First Class Honors in Philosophy, Religion and Ethics and has been playing strategy card games since childhood. He has a keen interest in the underlying mechanics and player interactions of trading card games, as well as tabletop game design in the digital space. He also designs card games in his spare time.

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