Isle of Arrows knows how to keep you from feeling comfortable in a tower defense game
How do you keep people from feeling comfortable in a tower defense game? I think you know what I mean: by the time you’re thrust into a game, your defenses are well established, and anything that tries to get through that, your slaughterhouse, is smashed to a pulp. At this point, you’re effectively indifferent, admiring what you’ve built, and all the game can do is magnify enemies and try to brute force its way. What if there was another way?
Isle of Arrows has an idea: a second base. Just when you start to slouch and get comfortable, it introduces another base, and it’s like starting all over again but at the same time you’re dealing with something else. Only now do you have a pool of resources to distribute across both bases. More importantly, both bases share the same global health pool. If enemies enter your heart in either, you’ll take damage, and since you only have about 10 hearts and one life, that’s important.
In other words, the danger is doubled, and if you ignore one basis for the other, and let a bad situation fester, you could indeed quickly find yourself in a precarious situation.
But Isle of Arrows does not stop there with the ideas: it also plays a lot with space. You know how, in a typical tower defense game, the space you’re defending is usually defined and defined? Well here it is not. By blazing new paths, you can extend the trail enemies have to take, increasing the distance and time it takes them to reach your heart. You can also lay paths around defenses to get the most out of them. It is however not as easy as it seems.
Everything is ruled by cards – Isle of Arrows is, in part, a card game. Each turn you draw a card, and it can be a section of path or a building, and provided you can fit it into your tiled space, you can play it. If you can’t or don’t want to, you can end your turn there and start the next wave – it’s turn-based in that regard – or spend some of your limited coins to play the next card in your pack.
Soon, however, the playing space will run out, which is bad, because the enemies will always get bigger and tougher, and unless you’ve increased their walking distance and the amount of defenses you have , you die.
So your options are to expand your island – hence the “island” part of the name – or destroy buildings and build new ones, or build bridges. And again, this is all done with cards, and cards have some tactical drawbacks. I won’t go into too much detail for fear of getting bogged down but as much to say: the detail is there. Don’t let the ultra-clean and streamlined look fool you, there’s a real challenge here.
I’m less of a fan of the mobile-style layout. It’s hard to control on PC, as if it’s not suitable there, although it’s only available on PC at the moment and not on mobile, where it will launch in early October. That minor gripe aside, though, I like it.