I had fun for the five hours it took to finish this little tower defense game. It’s challenging, uneven, somewhat unbalanced and not too frantic. Critters attack your towers directly and with few placement locations it plays almost like a puzzler.
Should you buy it?
I’m not a tower defense guy, discovering the genre late with the brilliant Defense Grid. Starting with the best was foolish. The bar it set has bounced me off lesser games since. So maybe it’s strange I enjoyed Brink of Extinction, there’s not that much to it but I did and recommend it if you’re a tower defense fan searching for a small hole to fill.
There are 15 campaign levels and 6 challenge maps. A single playthrough of the campaign was enough for me. I might have given the challenge maps more than a glance but they’re too slow to develop and have no scoring or leaderboards.
$12 is expensive for the length though. Wait for a sale if you care. I am slightly curious what the 34 hidden achievements are but not enough to actually find out.
The maps are small and handsome. There are few places to plant your towers and the numbers governing them are hidden leaving their ideal roles murky. In Defense Grid you adapt as each level progresses. Here choosing the wrong starting towers makes the level extremely difficult. Whether you enjoy the game depends on whether if you like trying out different permutations until you get it right.
Most of your funds are available when starting a level. You gain more as you kill but the bulk of your building will be done before the first insect skitters into view. Building new towers is expensive compared to upgrading existing ones. So even though the maps are small and there are few placement spots the best strategy is to max out a small number of key towers.
Insects head to the goal or attack your towers directly. There’s nice enemy variety which should force you to use most of the towers at your disposal but certain towers are unquestionably better than others. Once you figure out which the challenge level drops.
There’s some stuff to do other than building and upgrading towers as the waves progress. The special power-ups seem horrendously expensive but the controllable drone is handy and towers need repair. It’s relaxed but you can’t just stare, which is good without a fast forward button.
It was the scoring modes and game variations that kept me obsessed with both Defense Grids long after I finished the campaign. I wanted to top the leaderboards of my favorite levels in my favorite game modes. Brink of Extinction lacks such game extenders. You get an achievement for finishing a level without damage and that’s it.
I’m still not fully clear which towers are best for each enemy type. I like when TD games force me to use combined arms and I tried to play “properly”. On some levels that was the best approach, on others I could only advance by spamming as many fully upgraded acid towers as I could. I’m also not sure exactly what the upgrades do. They’re self explanatory enough but without knowing the exact numbers it’s hard to maximize efficiency purely through observation.
The lack of mazing and enemies attacking towers directly are design decisions I generally don’t like. They’re almost required here because of the small maps. To change would mean a bigger game and it is what it is. Having no story at all, even just a bit of text, seems lazy.
It’s pretty enough. Insects explode and smear, acid towers leave green trails as they shoot. The weapon effects could use more impact, both audio and visually but the music is quite excellent. Chill ambient techno with nothing pounding or irritating and a couple of noteworthy tracks.
The UI let’s you efficiently do what you have to. I never lost a level because I was wrestling with it or the pace. You can play at any resolution or in a window, the game chugging along stable and bug free even while you’re off writing review notes.
It does what it sets out to do, it’s fun, but there’s not a ton to it. If you like defending things with towers every once in awhile you’ll like this. Maybe you’ll think it’s too basic if you’re a pro but I found it challenging in spots and I like the serious art style (as serious as giant ants get) better than the usual cute themes. 70.