- Multiple ships with different weapons
- You’re the bad guy
- Pretty ‘splosions
X-Morph Defense (XMD) is a shoot ’em up with tower defense mechanics. It begins with an alien invasion that will stop at nothing to harness the energy on Earth. Unlike 99.99% of video games - you’re the bad guy! I’m a huge fan of top-down shooters and a casual fan of tower defense games. What I found in XMD is a really fun game to pick up and take on the go via the Nintendo Switch. Note it’s been available on PS4, PC and Xbox One since 2017.
Every good top-down shooter needs tight controls. It’s critical for pilots to be able to weave through incoming bullets, switch weapons quickly, and with a high degree of likelihood - hit what they’re aiming at. XMD brings this to the table while also adding a tower defense mechanic that you build upon between waves of enemies. I typically like to get into the action, so this was a lesson in patience - even though it’s pretty easy. By completing missions with varying success, you’re rewarded with upgrade points and new tech choices between missions. This adds more depth to the building mechanic and the difficulty ramps up with the expectation you’re taking advantage of that depth.
There are multiple modes to choose from in XMD. I’m partial to the survival mode, which sends waves of enemies at you until you fail. I did start with the campaign, which has a narrative and a slower pace to introducing upgrades and such. If you’re a veteran of this genre, you’ll probably have more fun in survival mode. But that’s not meant to discount the campaign.
Regardless of the mode you choose to play, you’ll have to get good at managing the map. From wave to wave the maps do not change. But the attack paterns and enemy types do. As you continue to lay your defense towers down, you’ll want to pay attention to the intel you get before your next wave. It may inform a new route, which can make your existing towers less effective. During battle you’ll find it sometimes chaotic. Your ship doesn’t move especially fast so you’ll want to keep an eye on your minimap for enemies - as they relate to your defenses. Meaning you may have heavy defenses and low volume of enemies on one side of the map, while you’re off fighting a larger horde where you have weaker defenses. I found this stratetgy to often work better than simply going for an even defensive approach. Also, pay attention to the audible queues. You get to listent to the radio chatter of your enemies. Sometimes they reveal helfpul information. And sometimes it’s just noise.
No single player video game should exist without boss battles. Ok, I said it. The boss battles in XFD are really fun. The first boss in the campaign mode, for example, had multiple targets on a very large mech, called the Turrantula. The enemy radio leaked helpful information about how to best take it down before it reached your core and lit you up. Really well done!
What Needs Improvement
One of the challenges with the genre is being able to tell a gripping story. That’s hard to do. Perhaps its because you’re typing blowing up thousands of enemies, or, as the player, you’re captaining a ship the size of a penny on your screen. Regardless of what it is, XFD is not immune to this challenge. Playing as the bad guy is an unusual twist - granted. But I still wasn’t invested in the story.
Who is this For?
For those who want to test their dexterity and enjoy the thrill of excellent controls in a top-down shooter adventure!