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There wasn't a lot of meat to it, but the original Defender Chronicles still managed to steal away hours upon hours of my free time with its alluring fantasy RPG vibe and vertically-oriented twist on traditional tower defense mechanics. Three years later, Defender Chronicles II: Heroes of Athelia essentially delivers more of the same, but in heftier, shinier portions. I'll admit: this sequel's lack of innovation is forgivable when the formula is so fun to begin with.
Staving off rampaging hordes of wolf-men, winged beasts, goblin warriors, and elemental creatures in each stage of the story-driven campaign is dead simple, but far from easy. Using funds earned by felling foes, you purchase an upgradeable medley of knights, archers, and wizards to plunk down into available guard house slots along the battlefield to fortify your turf. As the throng presses in against your defenses with increasingly greater force, the focus turns to squeezing in every unit upgrade you can afford. It's this constant sandbagging against the tide that I find most absorbing.
Stages are designed as multi-tiered towers with ramps, caves, and branching pathways to throw a loop in your plans, and your enemies often simultaneously approach from above and below. Aside from being an interesting take on tower-defense layouts, this keeps your eyes and fingers ever-vigilant for weak spots to patch, making it easy to sink hours in without realizing it. Hero characters get some play on the battlefield too, and they're more fleshed out this time around with tons of stats and items to boost their power with. Friendly defense units and foes are greater in variety as well, and the visual design is far more crisp and detailed.
The bottom line. Defender Chronicles II: Heroes of Athelia plays it safe without deviating from what made the original so enjoyable, but a heap of extras make the familiar tower defense action well worth another go-around.
iPhone, iPod Touch, or iPad running iOS 3.2 or later
Great visual detail on units and environments. Many new units and extras. Absorbing twist on traditional tower-defense gameplay. High replay value.
Feels a lot like the original, only more polished. Campaign is short.