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In February this year, Neocore (the Van Helsing games) released a tower defense game, with action RPG elements.

I was initially skeptical, yet intrigued at how such a game would work and, more importantly, if it would be any good.

The story revolves around the idea that ‘the Ink’ (a realm beyond the veil of our world) is being breached by swarms of monsters attempting to go through portals that lead to the realm. It is the player’s job to rebuild the deserted strongholds, that once kept the monsters out, and fight to stop them getting to these portals.

The game is surprisingly not story-focused at all, instead Deathtrap looks more towards role playing games for inspiration.

Players have the choice of battling as either a Sorceress, Mercenary or Marksman and can customise their character – which is where the RPG elements come in.

Characters can not only pick up items in the battlefield and equip them, they can upgrade their stuff too. Characters initially start out with 2 powers – which is very comfortably controlled by the left and right mouse buttons – but can unlock more powers further into the game.

There are over 100 levels to achieve and more than 50 ranks per class and in addition to that there is loot to pick up a the end of each map, which players can equip from their inventory, or craft to suit a player’s preference, like most RPGs.

There is a tutorial from the get go for players new to the genre, which pops up and explains where everything is and how everything works. However, the tutorial is brief and only pops up once, so if you miss the bubble on how to build traps (like I did) your best option is Google. In addition to this, from the main screen, to your inventory, to the tutorial, the text in the game is almost impossible to read and despite there being a menu option to enlarge it, it is consistently tiny.

However, that does not take anything away from the gameplay, which is absolutely superb and demonstrates how well actions RPGs and tower defense games can mesh together. It is highly addictive after getting used to the simple controls and learning how best to strategise as each level gets harder.

Neocore has managed to simplify their gameplay mechanics to such a extent that everything is possible at just the click of a button. It is devilishly simple, but incredibly effective.

However, there is a flaw in the fact that traps can only be set in specific places. It is clear why Neocore made this decision but at times it can feel restrictive when you are only able to have traps in designated areas. Though it is useful being able to follow the monsters’ trajectory on the map (an ingenious idea) so players know the traps are always in useful places, it can be a little annoying not being able to set them wherever you fancy.

To add to the wonderful gameplay, the music is stunning. For the menu screens and trap building intervals, the music is epic and brash, like something out of a Game of Thrones episode. This all changes when a fight begins and the music becomes threatening and positively eerie at times. Neocore got it spot on with the music as it adds a great deal of atmosphere an otherwise seemingly unthreatening game.

The music also blends well with the aesthetics of the game, which are essentially steampunk mixed with fantasy. Despite not being an MMO, Deathtrap uses it’s aesthetics in a traditional MMO way in which there are elements of realism mixed with more colourful, simple designs – such as the characters themselves.

Neocore have made an excellent decision not to try and make the game hyper realistic and instead focusing on a great gameplay aspect that leaves players more satisfied. Having said that, the visuals are still fantastic in their own right.

Another area in which Deathtrap excels in is the Multiplayer option.

There are 2 options; a co-op option or a versus one. From what I have played the cooperative version is more rewarding for gameplay, but versus has it’s perks.

In co-op players can team up with up to 3 of their friends, however I do recommend playing with just 1 other person because there are twice as many monsters per player.

Your resources are split and instead of battling it out (like versus) players have to work together in order to form the most effective plan. It is a brilliant way to bond, make new friends and it really demonstrates how well those gameplay mechanics work while in sync with another player.

Overall, I found Deathtrap thoroughly engaging and unusual. Though it seems like an average tower defense game on the surface, the addition of the action RPG elements really set it apart from the average hack and slash game. The sheer amount of skills, powers, traps and towers allows for incredible levels of customisation and strategies that players can learnt to use to their advantage in each scenario.

The gameplay is challenging and rewarding, and has clearly been thought out to make it as simple as possible without taking anything away from the story or the overall enjoyment of the game.

Though it has its flaws, Deathtrap has really exceeded my expectations and definitely has the power to redefine the tower defense genre. The combat is smooth and the choices you are faced with keeps the game fresh and interesting and gives it great replay value.

Neocore have invented the perfect formula to improve both strategy and combat aspects for future tower defense games to take note from.


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