Deathtrap Review – Tower Defense at its most Satisfying

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INTRODUCTION

  • Developer: NeocoreGames
  • Game: Deathtrap
  • Price: £14.99 on Steam (at time of review)

Deathtrap is a top-down Action RPG Tower Defence with a very real emphasis on the action. Despite being a tower defence, the game actively encourages you to make full use of your character. In fact, with the difficulty-setting cranked up to the max, you need to be able to master both tower and character combat to barely complete the later levels. There’s no need to repair your structures in Deathtrap, so your time can be spent purely eradicating every enemy in sight and ensuring they don’t reach the portal to the everyday world. If you’re looking for a game with awesome spell effects, gruesome pools of blood and over-the-top corpse explosions, then you’ve come to the right place. It’s overall a very satisfying experience, to say the least, and it’s definitely worth a playthrough if nothing but for that. With up to 4-player co-op mode and even a Player versus Player mode, there’s really no excuse not to enjoy all of the violence, anarchy and entertainment that can be found in Deathtrap.

GAMEPLAY

Loosely based off another of Neocore’s games, the Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing, Deathtrap has drawn inspiration from the gameplay and aesthetics of its predecessor. Like any tower defence, the aim of the game is simple: defend the portals to the overworld from the onslaught of oncoming demons. At your disposal is an arsenal of defensive structures, from spiked pits of doom to towers that rain meteors down on your foes, and it’s up to you to tactically place and upgrade these defences with the limited resources available. With three different classes to choose from, each with their own combat style, there’s sure to be a playstyle that suits you.

I was initially disappointed to find that where you can place structures is as predetermined as the paths that enemies run along. It makes taking advantage of choke points difficult and, at first, made the game feel very one-dimensional. However, as I progressed through the game, I found that this introduces a different kind of difficulty and encourages more strategic thinking. Often, levels will favour certain types of defences, meaning that you may have very limited access to your favourite traps. The reasoning behind these static traps is pretty sound too; these defences have fallen into disrepair since the last demon cycle, so you’re effectively repairing traps instead of constructing new ones. Either way, it is a mechanic that definitely shouldn’t put you off playing the game.

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As mentioned, the combat is undoubtedly satisfying. Even from the top-down perspective, there is much entertainment to be found by simply melting the ranks of your foes. Your hero is very powerful and capable of far more than any singular trap, and your power only grows as you level up. You have six ability slots, keybound to the left and right mouse buttons and 1-4 by default. You can swap abilities in and out of slots in between battles. I started the game with the Sorceress, and I had four spells to begin with. The first spell is a standard spam spell attack to generate mana for other spells, but the second is my personal favourite: a directional lightning attack, zapping all foes in its path—zapping them pretty hard as well, I might add. As I leveled up, I focused all of my hero skill points on enhancing this spell, and by level 20 I felt like Zeus as I incinerated entire waves of demons with a single blow. Unfortunately, I did encounter a few issues when trying to aim this directional spell at enemies at different heights, mainly when fighting up or down stairs or against flying units. I found I had to aim underneath where they were flying to actually hit them.

The game itself has a good difficulty progression; it starts off relatively gently, allowing you to get used to the controls and mechanics, before really challenging you in later levels. This includes increasing the amount of enemies to defeat and placing the neglected structures in more awkward places (One must really question the logic of these original architects of these ancient defences). Most levels have their own miniquest too, challenging you to avoid certain types of structures or to leave your defences to hunt down a neutral creature who’s just minding its own business when you come along and murder it. Miniquests are optional, of course, but the reward is extra treasure, and who turns down extra treasure?

The difficulty is probably the only thing the end game has got going for it, though. As much as I enjoy tower defence games, I found the game getting fairly repetitive after perhaps twenty hours of gameplay. I’m a completionist, so I like getting three stars on every level, but I can admit that if you’re not like me then you probably won’t stay entertained for as long as I did. If you can convince other people to join you in co-op mode, then no doubt there’s a lot of fun to be had there (I’ve still got very fond memories of playing 4-player co-op on Dungeon Defenders), but if you’re just sticking to the single player, then you can probably get a solid day of fun out of it and not much more.

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AUDIO AND GRAPHICS

I’m no connoisseur of graphics, but Deathtrap held up well on my GTX 770. Overall it’s a good-looking game, sufficient for its genre. The graphics doesn’t make any waves, no, but graphics has never really been much of a selling point for tower defences. Regardless, the graphics are good enough to provide an enjoyable experience without being too demanding on the hardware. The motion is fluid so that even with the graphics at max, I still managed a solid forty frames per second.

Despite the low system requirements, the spell effects still look awesome. A lot of effort has been put into finding the right balance, making sure they don’t go over the top so that it doesn’t feel gimmicky. The general aesthetic for the game is pretty cool as well. The defences are a mix of mechanical and magical designs, and it reminds me slightly of the steampunk genre. It definitely adds to the game’s coolness factor. However, not being able to customize your character’s appearance definitely detracts from that coolness factor. I can’t change the Sorceress’ hairstyle—man, I really don’t like that hairstyle.

Capture

The audio isn’t bad at all. There’s plenty of sound effects to accompany their respective visual effects, immersing you in the game. The music is quiet and chill when it needs to be, and also sufficiently epic when called for. I think my only complaint for the music is that there isn’t a lot of it. After a few hours you realize you’ve been listening to the same tracks for a while now. It’s not a major issue, but Neocore should certainly consider including more soundtracks when I find myself muting the music and finding something more interesting to listen to. It’s a shame because the music is actually pretty awesome.

CONCLUSION

For the price tag, Deathtrap is nothing to turn your nose up at. With satisfying and rewarding gameplay, creative game mechanics and a decent storyline, it’s definitely worth the investment, especially if you can grab it in a Steam sale or if you can recruit some friends to join you. The gameplay is innovative, and Deathtrap is worth a try just to experience that. I’m disappointed that Steam doesn’t offer this game in a four-pack like they do for other titles as I think this it would benefit from that. But since it’s only £14.99 on Steam, there’s no real reason not to give this game a go.

  • Audio
  • Controls
  • Design
  • Graphics
  • Value

Summary

- With one of the most satisfying top-down combat experiences going, this tower defense game will keep you entertained and won't blow a hole in your wallet.

- However, the end-game is a little lacking without some friends, so be sure to stock up on those before buying!

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