Thursday, May 3

Review: Zotrix - Solar Division [Nintendo Switch eShop]

The tower defense game has been a staple of the mobile market in particular, but has had success on just about every platform. Focused on setting up and then reinforcing your defenses against an onslaught of incoming enemy units most games offer a variety of defenses that you need to combine in order to deal with just about any situation. Representation of this style has been surprisingly limited thus far on the Switch so Zotrix: Solar Division has a fine opportunity to set the standard. It offers some decent play but also has its quirks and weaknesses as well.

What, for me, makes Zotrix a bit different is the way things lay out in space with the various paths enemy (and in some cases friendly) ships will take on that given level. This is convenient as it will help you identify the best intersection/choke points on the map. Of course I suppose if you think you’re truly badass you could turn them off but since there would then be an enormous number of potential routes I think you’d be at an incredible disadvantage. Missions will vary a little with some focusing on keeping enemies from getting through to their end point and some others involving friendly vessels that you’ll need to try to protest. This can get particularly tricky when those vessels are moving (thus periodically putting themselves in range of one of your choke points potentially) but this variation does keep things from being quite so predictable.

Enemy will vary in their size, speed, and health and to combat them you’ll similarly need to set up a variety of defenses. If you highlight any given unit you’ll get the fully skinny on its function and stats but in general terms you’ll want to mix up with defenses that slow down enemies, allowing them to be hammered by various laser types from pulse to continuous (though these need to recharge periodically) and missiles as well. Once you get a little further in there will also then be options to put in units whose purpose is to make the others around it more powerful, which is an interesting switch and not something I’ve had as a strategic option in games like this before. The typical round will involve you getting your base defenses ready, usually at a central choke point, and then perhaps throwing in some peripheral units to sap enemies along the way as well. As the waves progress you’ll then need to figure out whether you’re going to try to lay down as many units as possible, super-charge the ones you have to have greater range and power, or do something in the middle.

Probably the biggest weakness for Zotrix is that, overall, it is a bit generic. While the number of available titles in the genre on Switch is very limited there are quite a number of tower defense titles on both PC and mobile platforms that have more character and complexity. While there are some elements that are a little different for genre veterans it probably won’t be as interesting, though the way it is set up also may help make it more accessible for people who have less experience. Control is another issue as coming to grips with the joycon controls in docked mode was a bit of a nightmare, especially since I swear that some prompts for what trigger you need to press are backwards. While I was fine once I figured it out I wouldn’t call it at all intuitive in how it is configured. Playing in handheld mode is an option, and touchscreen controls are supported, but due to the scaling of the text specifically it also may not be a great way to start out since you may not be able to see any of the unit info or instructions very well.

Overall Zotrix: Solar Division is a decent, though somewhat uninspiring tower defense game that is probably better suited to newcomers of the genre. While it doesn’t do anything particularly wrong, it’s very vanilla overall and its controls aren’t as friendly as they could be. If you’re really starved for tower defense on the Switch it’s just about all there is for the moment though so until something better comes along it may be able to help hold you over since what it does offer is a load of missions (and play variations) to work through, which is worth being happy about.

Score: 6

  • 45 missions of increasing difficulty
  • Some variations, including missions where you need to defend ships that move around, help keep things interesting in spots
  • Touchscreen controls are supported

  • More veteran genre fans will likely find it bland and not challenging enough
  • The joycon controls can be worked with but are certainly awkward to learn
  • Text scaling makes reading text in handheld mode difficult at best