Defend the Fortress is an interesting take on the DtS genre. Rather than the tailored gameplay and settings common in most entries, the author has seen fit to place the player in a familiar position, harnessing the base mechanics of AoE2 random map gameplay with some unique twists. The player must defend him/herself from multiple opponents who build and function like the default AI but have broad tech trees and receive additional preplaced and spawned assets. Victory is achieved by destroying the monuments in the various corners of the map, and as time goes on the removal of obstacles will make the player’s position increasingly vulnerable. For the most part, the gameplay is smooth, although the exceedingly large map (480x480) and the cramped nature of some parts make things rather awkward. Overall, it feels generally like a random map, but with some added detail and creative twists.
The pacing of the scenario is quite good, although it does feel variable by each playthrough. The AI players, initially slow to build up, will leave the player in peace but gradually pose a larger threat over time, particularly as the main enemy player’s triggered spawns increase. The large population and map size lead to considerable problems in managing each front and dealing with each opponent, as the masses of enemy troops become problematic to face and they arrive with powerful weapons through countless avenues. The overall feeling is decent, yet unpolished, and middle of the pack for the contest.
This was the entry’s strongest point. The author trod relatively new ground in the endeavor to transform the standard RM gameplay into a DtS experience, and some aspects of the map design exhibited considerable creativity. Most impressive were the various secrets to be discovered, although the implementation felt rather clunky, at times confusing, and generally tangential to the primary gameplay rather than complementary to it.
Map Design: 1
This is a less strong point of the entry. Aesthetically, the entry feels like a random map with some extra resources, and although there are pockets of decent detail to be found, generally the predominant factor is large swaths of undetailed terrain. The map does play decently well, although it feels quite constraining, and the author clearly has a good deal of creativity and skill--one might surmise that the massive map size made it difficult for this to be applied with consistent excellence. Nevertheless, it was functional and intriguing to explore and battle over.
This was the aspect in which the entry was most lacking. The player is thrust into a RM-like situation with little-to-no context (or conclusion afterwards); a price of submitting merely a scenario file. Furthermore, ingame instructions were rather lacking or nonexistent, although to his credit the author did provide some playing tips that would be useful to inexperienced players. Nevertheless, the lack of any support of narrative depth detracted from the atmosphere of the entry and greatly decreased the investment level that a player might have in the course of events.
A valiant effort by an up and coming designer, Defend the Fortress has its flaws but shows that its author has considerable potential. Keep working!