Sunday, March 24

Review: Assault on Metaltron [Nintendo Switch eShop]

When it comes to strategy sub-niches tower defense is pretty well-represented on the Switch in terms of quality even if not in numbers. You have a title like X-Morph: Defense that manages to blend aspects of a shooter into the mix, both Swords & Soldiers titles that are infused with loads of personality, and even Defense Grid 2 that is more traditional but incorporates an ability to divert your enemies into into your strategic opportunities. Standing next to these titles we now have Assault on Metaltron whose main innovation is… dancing to upgrade units?

Most of the formula behind the game is straightforward to people familiar with the genre. Enemies will originate from one or more spawn points, moving towards the thing you’re defending, in this case a collection of crystals. Your goal is to set up units along the pre-defined path they’ll follow (though as you move on there will be multiple routes to account for) to try to destroy them all before those crystals are all captured. The assortment of defensive units you’ll have to choose from are pretty well standard, including guns, flamethrowers, mortars, something to slow things down, and other weapons that are meant to help eliminate the different enemies you’ll need to deal with, whether fast, armored, flying, etc.

The two areas where the game diverts from what’s typical are in some supplemental support units and an added means to help give you something to do as things play out. There are some special units that aren’t all your typical fare, some providing another way to generate money (aside from knocking units or starting the next wave ahead of the curve) and others offering further support functions. The other change from the norm is the ability for the robot you control to dance next to a unit in order to upgrade it for “free”. By changing which dance it does you’re able to increase damage, range, or frequency without needing to pay. This does manage to at least create a new strategic choice where normally you’d sit and watch things play out once you’ve set up and are being hit by an enemy wave.

In terms of issues there are definitely some oddities. First is that the game’s tutorial is minimal and though you can get info on what each of your units do through an option on the main menu some of them take experimentation to understand well. This familiarization is usually done in the first few levels, providing an insight into their use. No direction for some units like the expensive Ultima Tower feels sloppy. Second, the places you are able to set up units is often just weird. There will be smart spots near turns but sometimes the distance from the track is far to the point that most units you put there have little hope of having an effect. This makes placing supporting units like those that slow difficult at best and often is frustratingly limiting for getting set up the way you’d prefer. Last, between the weird placements and special units the game can feel more like a puzzle at times, where success is more a matter of divining what the developers may have had in mind on a specific level than setting up a more sensible solution. I suppose that may be intended to force adaptation, but you constantly feel like you’re playing with one hand tied behind your back.

Overall, Assault on Metaltron is a pretty frustrating and unusual tower defense game. It somehow manages to be both pretty generic and aggravatingly weird at the same time. It’s almost like it zigs when it should have zagged and vice versa. With both traditional and more innovative play in this subgenre represented well in other titles on the eShop it manages to stand apart from the crowd, but generally not in the direction it intended.

Score: 5

  • If you like being forced to work with compromised strategic options it may be appealing as a challenge
  • You can dance to improve your units!

  • Run-of-the mill unit selections in terms of weaponry
  • Where you can place units is often just bizarre and makes setting up layered choke points difficult if not impossible in many cases
  • A cursory tutorial and some short descriptions in a main menu Encyclopedia fail to convey intended use of some of the units and their shortcomings, requiring trial and error experimentation in-game