There’s something special about a game that includes a place to hang out with your friends between quests or missions. Some of the most fun I’ve had in World of Warcraft has been in Orgrimmar, where the most random and hysterical things can come up. A big part of making that successful is having an interesting setting that players want to spend time in.
And who wouldn’t want to spend time on a World War 2 era aircraft carrier customizing the cannons on their gigantic walking tank?
That’s exactly what Trenched, Double Fine’s new tower defense/shooter hybrid, allows you to do.
In typical style, Double Fine has created a hilarious and interesting world. Blasting enemies (known as Tubes) made out of televisions in a humongous mech is just as ridiculous as it sounds, but it all makes sense in a world where your marine lights his cigar by firing a pistol in celebration of victory.
Achieving that victory comes by defending your base from waves of those Tube creatures as they spew out of Conduits and follow designated paths intent on destruction. Defense can take the form of emplacements, the typical towers that are placed and upgraded in a tower defense game, or the weaponry already equipped on your mobile trench.
Three options are offered for the chassis of your mech. Naturally this choice has a huge impact on your playstyle. The Assault chassis brings the big guns to bear – artillery cannons, grenade launchers, etc. Meanwhile, the Engineering chassis can only equip small weapons like machine guns or shotguns, but it’s able to carry more powerful turrets and can call them in for much cheaper.
Various enemy types force players to mix up their equipment. Snipe Tuners will stay at range and blast your mobile trench, Jacobs make all nearby Tubes immune to damage, and Knobs come in swarms to destroy precious emplacements. Flying enemies can’t be touched by mines and mortar turrets, yet heavy weaponry like that is the only way to crack the armor of the powerful Breaker Tubes.
All these aspects means some serious planning can be required when launching into a mission. Playing through with three other friends, I often found that we’d take a specialty and almost developed our own classes. Frantic moments where an ally is calling for air support on the left, another voice cries out to snipe the Jacob on the right, and an injured player is asking if there’s a repair turret down were the results of a quick pace that you don’t see in tower defense games.
Then there’s loot, following WoW’s traditional green < blue < purple color scheme. Defeated Tubes drop loot boxes containing weapons, legs, marine hats, paint jobs, and emplacements. Sniper rifles that pierce enemies, towers that drop mines to shock and stun victims, and artillery cannons that drop miniature bombs from the shell mean that almost as much time is spent selecting your loadout and drooling over new gear as fighting Tubes.
Perhaps inevitably, the game felt a lot more like a traditional tower defense game when running solo. Being unable to cover all lanes alone meant a heavier reliance on emplacements and running to get scrap myself. With friends, it was a shooting gallery where our turrets merely supplemented our weapons.
All too soon, it was over. We’d reached level 10, shared some laughs, saved the world, sharded purps… and were begging for DLC.