It’s not exaggeration that the tower defense genre has seen every possible combination thus far. We’ve seen FPS games, puzzle games, RPGs, reverse tower defense and much more. But how about a tower defense title that plays like a twin stick shoot ’em up, challenging you to funnel enemies in a particular way and using destructible environments to your advantage? That’s EXOR Studios’ X-Morph: Defense in a nut-shell but there’s so much more to the game than that.
GamingBolt spoke to EXO’s chief operating officer Pawel Lekki about the game including how the concept came about and what players can expect.
"On the easy difficulty setting players don’t have to care much about tower placement, but on higher difficulty setting they will have to master both tower defense and shooting mechanics."
The concept for X-Morph: Defense is very cool, like the reverse of a classic shoot ’em up where ships come to you. How did the concept come about?
After Zombie Driver we wanted to make a small game that wouldn’t take long to produce. We thought about making a game similar to the classic River Raid, but with a modern take. After a bit of pre-production we decided that making scrolling levels with level of quality that we expected was going to be too much for us. At that point we decided to add tower defense gameplay to X-Morph and limit the size of the maps. As it turned out, that was not a simple concept and the project has already taken about 5 years to complete.
Can you tell us a few of the strategies that players can use to outwit their enemies? Is it possible for a player to just go guns blazing and try to take out all enemies by themselves?
The game’s environment is a perfect example of how the player can play his enemies. One can either collapse buildings onto enemies to destroy them or to block their paths. He can also try to funnel all enemies onto a single path and destroy them all at ones with powerful area damage weapons.
The player’s fighter has a lot of firepower. On the easy difficulty setting players don’t have to care much about tower placement, but on higher difficulty setting they will have to master both tower defense and shooting mechanics.
We know that there are four forms with basic and charged attacks to choose from. Will there be other forms to unlock and varying charged attacks to choose from?
Each weapon and charged attack is unique to its X-Morph form. At the moment we aren’t planning any other forms, however we might add them in future updates.
"Our goal is run the game in 60 FPS on the Xbox One and the PS4. This means that a few years old gaming PC should also run the game at that speed without any problems."
We’ve seen one of the bosses so far but will there be screen-filling bosses with bullet hell tactics?
There are going to be 5 boss encounters in X-Morph: Defense, each with completely different tactics. All of them can be defeated with direct fire or with strategic tower placement.
What are some of the weapons that players can choose from? Are there different categories for different purposes (anti-air, ground troops, etc.)?
Some of the X-Morph forms specialize in dealing with certain kinds of threats. For example the Shredder Fighter only shoots at air units, but it does so with exceptional efficiency. It shoots down targets with homing missiles and can emit strong EMP pulses that disable all flying enemies. On the other hand the Dark Matter bomber shoots only at ground targets, but it is exceptionally good for collapsing buildings and clearing any objects on the ground.
How many maps or levels can we look forward to? Will they have different challenges (like hostile weather or unique win situations)?
There are 14 unique levels in the game. Some of them include boss fights while others have side objectives like defending and additional spot on the map of destroying an enemy base to prevent more advanced attacks from happening.
How does the game’s engine handle the destructible environments without bogging down the gameplay? How does the destruction influence gameplay?
Our goal is run the game in 60 FPS on the Xbox One and the PS4. This means that a few years old gaming PC should also run the game at that speed without any problems. Our engine is very heavily parallelized and we use all CPU cores at our disposal. This allows us to maintain fluid gameplay even when there are buildings collapsing and enemy units blowing up everywhere. Environment destruction is an essential part of the game. It allows the player to shape gameplay in many ways.
"We are planning to add a tower defense only game mode after the game’s release. It will require very good strategy skills as the player won’t be able to shoot enemies directly."
Are there any other additional modes, like one that makes the game play like a traditional shoot ’em up?
We are planning to add a tower defense only game mode after the game’s release. It will require very good strategy skills as the player won’t be able to shoot enemies directly. We might also add more game modes in future updates depending on the game’s success. We’d also like to add a game mode in which you have to destroy as many objects as possible in a given time frame.
Can the entire game be played in co-op? What tougher challenges can co-op players expect?
Yes, the entire campaign can be played in split-screen mode. Each mission has unique unit patterns and additional attacks in coop mode so you can expect a different kind of experience while playing with friends.
Will you be working on any post-launch updates or expansions for the base game?
If the game is successful then we would like to expand the game with additional mini-campaign, each including an epic boss fight.
Do you think the PS4 Pro and Scorpio are just a one off thing for this generation or do you think this is expected very new console cycle?
I think that it’s possible; however rules change with each console generation. It’s hard to predict what is going to happen or 5 or ten years from now.
"I think that X-Morph: Defense is a great game for both fans of twin stick shooters and tower defense games."
What is your take on the differences between the approaches taken by the two consoles?
I think that Scorpio is providing more opportunities for advanced graphics options, however gameplay mechanics are always going to be limited to what is available on the base level consoles. I wouldn’t expect life changing upgrades to games on these consoles. I think that some games may actually suffer from their existence. I can imagine a scenario in which a game is designed to run in 30FPS on the base console versus 60FPS on the upgraded one.
I wanted to ask you, from a gamer perspective, what went wrong for Microsoft and Xbox One this gen?
I think they clearly underestimated gaming as the main driving force for console sales. They simply didn’t put enough effort into providing good 1st party games and great third party development support. It looks like they’ve completely refocused on games so I’m expecting good things from the Xbox team in the future.
Does your studio have a future with the Nintendo Switch?
We obviously prefer playing with strong hardware, but if players want to play our games on the Switch then we’ll bring them there. We aren’t working on a Switch version of X-Morph: Defense, but I wouldn’t completely rule it out.
Is there anything else you want to tell us about the game before we let you go?
I think that X-Morph: Defense is a great game for both fans of twin stick shooters and tower defense games. If you are a fan of one of these genres, but not especially keen on the other, our game will let you play the way you like to play.