Hive Defender Review: A Labyrinth of Traps, Death, and Strategy
While browsing some upcoming indie games I stumbled across Hive Defender. I like checking out the developer’s websites before trying out a game just to get a little more detail on what to expect. The first thing I noticed on the website was the amount of detail it, descriptions of every plant and enemy were listed. While checking out the images and videos it seemed simple enough. One flat world that is completely on the screen, how could such a thing be so complicated?
Let me tell you, the first playthrough I got wrecked in minutes. Even after going through the simple tutorial I still had a lot to learn and I knew it. Between the seven different types of enemies, six world obstacles like plants and rocks, and controlling four separate herds of aliens there was a lot going on. This is not a mindless game to sit back and just chill on, you have to pay attention and know the surroundings. I love this style of game.
The developer describes the game as:
A fast-paced strategy-shooter that takes place in a procedurally-generated and fully-destructible labyrinth. Customize and control 4 alien swarms simultaneously, and defend your home from would-be human invaders! Play alone, or play online with a friend, and defend your hive together!Hive Defender
The labyrinth, or battlefield, is where all the action takes place. It is procedurally generated each time. One of the things that really makes this unique is that it can be completely destroyed. Theoretically you could destroy every single wall in this world and have one big open battlefield if you really wanted. But the main idea is that you can destroy very specific parts to make kill zones, trap enemies, and give the aliens an upper hand to help achieve victory.
This is where strategy really starts kicking in, and even after playing several times I still don’t feel like I have a great grasp on the best ways to set up a defense. But creating the perfect layout to defend is not the only good thing these walls are for. Whenever you knock out a wall you get a piece of “Biomass”, and these act as the resource needed to use perks.
If you are running low on resources you can resort to knocking out the map to regain those resources. The labyrinth pretty much runs how the game will play out. Each corner of this rectangular map houses one of the alien’s homes. The goal of the game is to defend these four homes. If the soldiers get to it and start shooting, it will eventually be destroyed.
There are seven different enemies in this game that pose a threat to the aliens living here.
- Soldiers: Will kill anything that moves
- Strikers: Runs fast and equipped with lazer bazookas
- Cyborgs: Would rather kill an alien nest then ensure their own survival
- Reinforcers: Dogs with laser beams equipped to their chest
- Robo-Dogs: Will do anything to save humans and kill aliens
- Fire Spitters: Will ignite every alien they see on fire
- Wardens: Only enemy equipped with shields, highly dangoures
These are all separated by the color of their armor. Once you can get that down and know the difference you’ll have a better chance to react to what’s coming. See the purple guys coming down off the landing pod? You’ll know you need to trap them and get behind them to break the shields. Each of these enemies will react differently to combat. Some will move in quick and come out swinging, others retreat until they have a full squad behind them, etc.
The world itself also has many hazards that can pose a threat to everyone.
The above references are just a few of the crazy plants that can interact with the world. On top of deadly plants, there is also a large variety of decorative plants. You’ll be able to tell a difference between the deadly and decorative ones as the decorative plants usually stay off to the side to avoid being in the way. But it can still make you second guess what the plant you are about to walk over may do.
Having plants that can burn, freeze, or infect you and your enemies makes everything a bit more complicated. But it all adds to this complex universe to make the game complete.
The game idea is pretty simple; defend the four swarm homes from the invading humans. You will see each one is a different color and has its own position in a map corner. You can only control one swarm at a time by switching between them using the number keys 1-4. Depending on how the humans are lining up to invade it can sometimes be beneficial to have a couple swarms playing defense in the same area together. Don’t get too far away though or the humans will take advantage of this open space and annihilate a swarms home.
You can choose the difficulty of the game and by doing so how many points you will get at the end. These points are used to purchase perk upgrades. By winning the game you will get these points, lose and you get nothing. The harder the difficulty the more points are earned after a successful win. The lower-difficulty enemies will not come in big groups or be as hard, whereas the higher difficulty will have many more mobs and tougher ones like the Warden, making it a true challenge.
The hardest part for me was figuring out which swarm I needed to control and which one I was currently controlling. Trying to switch from swarm one to swarm three I was getting things mixed up and in response sending the wrong swarm on defense. This is just something that will take a few minutes to figure out and then it becomes easier.
With the labyrinth changing so much I didn’t feel like the games were ever the same. It allowed for a new strategy every game. Pretty fun getting to experiment with how to control each group and how to route the invaders around the map.
Overall, I think this game actually does offer some great strategy plays. When you are able to form the complicated labyrinth into a death trap for the unsuspecting invaders it feels wonderful and gives a sense of accomplishment. You have to always have the next move planned out in your head so you are able to execute it before being executed.
The game does feel smooth. The animation and movement were flawless. Even with it being in a beta test I never once experienced any lag or glitched characters. The concept and development are spot on, it seems the developer knows this as well and is now fine-tuning the perks and adding additional unlockables and swarm features. Seeing this already have such a strong presence and identity as a game means this could really take off in my opinion. Between being able to play this solo or with friends is also a beautiful feature and will allow much more playtime when you are able to get a full party in here working together.
I did feel like the easiest difficulty setting I was allowed to play was still a bit of a challenge. Possibly we will see an even lower difficulty introduced for those looking to get a feel for it. Even on the lowest difficulty with one point I still lost many times. While this isn’t necessarily a bad thing as it is a strategy game, I say this to encourage others to give it a few tries if you are struggling at first. Once you figure out what you need to do it starts to make sense.
If you want something to pick up that is going to make you think a bit, this is a fun strategy game that will do that. I enjoyed the solo aspect of it and would look forward to playing multiplayer once it officially releases and I can grab a group of friends to come join. I sure hope to be seeing more from this game and developer in the future.
Check out the game on Steam and the developer’s website where you can find tips on how to play.