Playing tower defense can be a good distraction if you are out and about and need to kill a few minutes.  After thirty years of tower defense games, some good and some bad, we have a good idea of what features a great tower defense game should have.

1. Visual Design.  The aesthetic of the game is really important.  You are going to be looking at the same level for a while, so it’s good to have some eye candy and some consistent visual themes.  Games like Plants vs. Zombies really seem to nail this one.

2.Balance.  There shouldn’t be one tower that just totally rocks compared to all the rest.  There should, ideally, be combinations of towers that work effectively together and multiple ways to strategize to defeat certain enemies.  There shouldn’t be one setup that is undefeatable in every situation.

3.Path Blocking.  There should, again ideally, be a way to block certain paths or create new ones to force the enemy into taking a roundabout route to the end.

4. Endless Play.  Having an endless play mode means more replayability. For some people, having a survival mode where they get to see just how many rounds they can last is the real thrill.  With no real end goal or set endpoint, this can be a real joy if the mechanics of your game are really fun to play.

tower defense features

5.Fast Retry Option.  Having the ability with the click of a button to reset the entire level can be a major thing for some players.  Maybe even MOST players.  When they can see that things aren’t going to go their way and the ‘writing is on the wall’, most people will immediately search for a do-over button.  Every tower defense game should have one.  Don’t make people WAIT for themselves to lose- that’s no fun.

6.Unlockables.  One  of the best things in a TD game that can happen is to get some nifty unlockables early in the game.  I’m not saying spill the whole bucket at once, but make sure that we get some new toys to play with in the first few levels. No one likes TD games that only have the ‘gun’ style turret for the first five levels.  That’s not interesting.

7.Say When.  The best thing you can do for meticulous players is to allow them enough time to place their turrets and then be able to hit ‘go’ when they are ready for the first wave to arrive.  This one might be a little bit more optional than our other ‘wish list’ items for TD games, but it can certainly help certain types of people feel comfortable playing the game.

8.Upgrades.  Upgrades in a TD game should be expensive. Very expensive.  But, you should get a lot of ‘bang for your buck’.  Upgraded turrets or heroes should be exponentially more powerful, faster, or have much wider range of effect.

9.Wave counts.  Tell the person playing that there are ‘x’ number of waves this round.  This helps them prepare and plan.  It’s the type of thing someone who likes tower defense games wants to see!

10.Level Upgrades.  Let the player level up or give them upgrades or unlockable items based on their performance in a level.

11.Difficulty.  The difficulty in the begginning shouldn’t be too hard.  However, as the game progresses the game MUST get harder, and for real TD fans out there that last til the end of your game they should get MUCH harder.

12.Fast Forward.  The MOST important thing in a TD game, even MORE important than everything else on this list- is the fast forward button.  EVERY tower defense game that doesn’t have a speed up time option gets wasted in the comment or review section by people who don’t want to sit there for hours to see how the level plays out.  JUST ADD ONE!

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