The golden age of science fiction swept across the world in the 1950s. Many of the sci-fi franchises we know and love today have their roots based in ’50s science fiction. From an era of clunky robots and laser pistols that look more like water pistols by today’s standards, science fiction has come a long way since it first teleported its way into pop culture.
Celebrating the best of these genre-specific tropes is Fortified, a new tower defense game from Clapfoot.
In Fortified, the aliens have landed (well, they’re about to) and it falls on the shoulders of the player and up to three of their friends to defend Earth from these foreign invaders. Each player can select one of four different characters, each of which have their own unique abilities. I selected to play as the Rocket Scientist who can nimbly fly over the tops of the alien invaders and pelt them with a barrage of gunfire.
As a tower defense game, players must defend a specified location from waves of increasingly tougher enemies. The enemies take the form of robotic aliens that looked like they were ripped right off of the cover of a 1950s sci-fi comic book. Small, spider-like robots scurry around the larger, humanoid robots stomping down the street while flying saucers whirl overhead. Every level is a full-fledged alien assault.
Luckily, players have a variety of defenses they can employ to tilt the odds against the swarms of mechanic monstrosities. By strategically placing rocket launchers, tesla traps, armed soldiers, and more, players can take out the waves of aliens before they get to the objective. The narrow streets of the levels lend well to clustering the defenses at strategic choke-points, so players will have to carefully plan where they position each form of defense, as they’re working with limited resources and can only place so much.
After the defenses are all positioned, the aliens arrive and the frenzy begins. Equipped with two different firearms players are free to run around the map and shoot down the incoming aliens. While taking care to avoid any lasers that the aliens fire back at them, players can charge up their special ability by racking up kills. Kill enough aliens and the special ability is ready to be utilized for a limited duration.
At the end of each level players receive experience points based on their performance. With enough experience points players can level up and unlock additional defenses and weaponry to use.
The standout feature of Fortified is the aesthetics the game employs. Everything in the game just felt right, it felt like it was taken right out of a pulp science fiction hit. The “pew-pew” of laser fire, the corny catchphrases the characters shout out, the levels themselves, it all comes together to create a cohesive 1950s sci-fi experience, and that’s not something I’ve had the pleasure of experiencing in a video game in quite some time.
Level design in Fortified is also a main attraction. Each area felt distinct and unique, it wasn’t just the same building rearranged around different streets. Some levels had me defending a back alleyways, another had me holding off invaders in front of a movie theater. Each level was fresh and exciting to run around in. One of my favorite moments in Fortified was primarily due to the game’s great level design. Due to the way one light was positioned, as the aliens approached I saw their massive shadows marching on the far building, making them appear even larger than they already were. The effect reminded me of old horror movies where the monster is “behind the camera” and all that we see is its massive shadow looming over the victim.
Little touches like that really made Fortified shine.
My only issue with the game is an issue I simply have with games of the genre; I get frustrated when I finally get to the last wave, only to lose and have to replay through all the easier waves. It is even more of a downer if you happen to be playing the game on your own. When I was playing with a friend, having to start all over again was annoying but we could joke around about it and the experience was far less frustrating. So if you can, I suggest you bring a friend (or three) into Fortified.
After all, Earth needs all the heroes it can get.
- Great level design
- Nails the sights and sounds of ’50s sci-fi
- Having to repeat entire levels is tedious
Review copies were provided to IGM by the developer. Fortified is available now on Steam and Xbox One.