Deathtrap is this month’s free game on Xbox Live’s Games with Gold promotion! Which would be fine if I hadn’t bought it on Stream a couple of months prior. Annoying, but at least I bought it in the Steam sale for next to no money. Anyway, this is supposedly set in the same universe as the Van Helsing games. Which I have not played, so don’t expect me to explain any of the plot (what there is of it) beyond a perfunctory nod to monsters in chaos gates or somesuch.
Tower defence games are everywhere. On PC, consoles, phones. You could probably play one on a potato if you were inclined to (I’m not). Whilst there are some good ones, not many of them really do much different save for the towers doing damage in slightly odd ways. A few have tried to shake up the formula by allowing you to control a hero character who can fight alongside the towers. Deathtrap is one of these. You create a character using one of three classes which fall into the standard archetypes of warrior, rogue and mage before marching off to build traps and fight monsters! Hurrah!
The story appears to be that we are soldiers sent to defend the portals to the real world from demons coming through chaos gates. Or something along those lines. The plot is fairly meaningless in this game really. The gameplay breaks down to building traps and killing monsters. Killing monsters earns essence which is spent on building and upgrading traps in preset locations to kill more monsters as they travel along their paths to the exit. If they reach the exit, you lose one or more of your 20 lives. If you’ve ever played a tower defence game, you know exactly what to expect. Your character has a weapon and abilities to fend off monsters and power up your towers. If you die, you will also lose a life before reappearing a moment later to continue the battle.
Completing levels earns you points to add buffs to your traps and character abilities. You don’t earn a huge number of points here, so it pays to specialise in a style that suits you. You can always use gold to respec if needed. As well as points to spend, you will also collect items and weapons at the end of each level which your hero can equip. Weapons, armour, rings and the usual array of equipment you’d expect in most RPGs can be found (or purchased between levels).
And that’s about it. There isn’t really anything that stands out here. There’s a co-op mode which is nice and can make the harder challenges more manageable, and there are the usual endless modes and difficulty modifiers. But there’s nothing here that makes this stand out from the crowd. Worse, the game isn’t really all that polished, with pathfinding glitches and graphical errors being quite noticeable throughout. I could forgive those if the game itself was something special, but it’s just so ordinary. Even the traps are standard, with fire traps, ice towers and machine gun turrets. Some spawn monsters to fight for you which is nice, and powering towers up between stages could be fun if the upgrades were more interesting than “Trap will cost 1 less essence to build”. In gaming, there is really not much worse than being a boring game.
The enemies you face are fairly standard, fitting into the gothic monster style you would expect. You have your zombies, flying creatures, some steampunk clockwork robots. The designs are interesting enough, but most are either hordes or bullet sponges. Some of the boss creatures are more interesting, having special effects such as healing when minions die, or disabling your towers. Some are very aggressive and can take you out fairly quickly, so wading into battle is rarely a good move, meaning leaving your traps to do the work whilst you pick off the stragglers or use abilities to slow or weaken stronger monsters is the best course of action. Again though, the monsters don’t really stand out, and by the 10th level you’ll have seen most of what the game has in terms of enemies, and if you’ve played a game of this style before you’ll have probably seen them anyway.
A nice addition though, is the level creator which does exactly as you’d expect. There’s quite a few community made levels for you to have a go at, or use to grind achievements if that’s something that takes your fancy. Whilst this isn’t the first game in the genre to have a level creation utility, it’s always a nice feature to have, especially when it’s user friendly.
Deathtrap is developed and published by Neocore Games. I played the game on PC and I really wouldn’t recommend this one. Even for free, it would be you spending your time on something that just isn’t that good. Maybe if you’re a fan of the Van Helsing game series you could get something out of this, but otherwise, I wouldn’t bother. It’s possible that the Xbox One version has cleaned the game up a little, and maybe added more features. I’m sure you’ll forgive me for not wanting to put more time into it though.