May 28, 2024
Charming and challenging, Hexguardian puts a creative spin on the tower defence genre. The Finger Guns review:

Hexguardian is a tower defence game set in a fantasy world where the world doesn’t quite yet exist. To flat-earther’s delight, the edge of the known world leads only to a cliff edge. Beyond said cliff is the endless abyss of nothingness. That is until you, as overlord of this universe, attach your hexagon landscapes to create an ever-expanding landmass. Of course, being a tower defence title, there’s plenty of destructive structures and conga lines of enemies.

I’ve always been partial to a good tower defence (and unfortunately, some less than good ones). The ability to both tune-in and tune-out as you peruse over the thousands of missiles being fired at dozens of foes. It’s cathartic, in it’s own deceptively calming way. The ability to draw out the map as you see fit on every “run” is the differentiator in Hexguardian, so does it do enough to hold off the hordes and protect the castle?

Six Sides of The Same Coin

Hexguardian is as straightforward as they come if you’re wanting to jump into the fray. Five distinctive map types (i.e desert, jungle) to choose from, each with their own unique properties. Each map type has three difficulties – easy, hard and crazy – which are unlocked through reaching X wave on the previous one. Eventually, you’ll also unlock a weekly challenge mode and rogue-like mode.

Pick a mode or map and your tower defence mayhem begins. In raw gameplay terms, it plays exactly as you would expect – you plot down towers to cover roads and rivers, deploy groups of troops to defend the path and use various spells to dish out doom. The caveat here is that you can only place buildings or towers where the landscape type allows, and the spots are usually limited.

I found this to be a nice twist on the usual formula. I wasn’t just stacking up multitudes of towers on specific chokepoints, simply because I couldn’t. Instead, you have to think more creatively about where to place your structures. An archery range can only deploy your archers within a limited radius, for example. Which I discovered begrudgingly, when I slapped one on top of an elevated position and couldn’t maneuver them down…

Hexguardian is wave-based survival, so you simply keep destroying armies until they destroy you. This does mean that once you establish a particularly good defence, there’s not a whole lot for you to do. A bit of mundanity can kick in after half a dozen or so goes, but thankfully the landscape and upgrade systems keep things from getting stale.

Hexguardian review

Rotational Advantage

Hexguardian is all about the randomisation. Like a great pack of Revels, you may end up with a perfect crisp crunch, or a devastating turn of coffee. While you always start with arrow towers available, you’ll randomly select one of three structures or upgrades per X amount of waves. You can “lock” out ones you don’t want, but the chance-based system keeps you from relying on one tactic.

Moreover, the battlefield upon which you deal towerly mayhem will be shaped by your choices. As implied in the name, this is a game of hexagons. Killing enemies grants material used to expand the size of the current map. A new hexagon must slot onto an existing one – opening or closing enemy gates, providing buildings for resources or spawning a chest with loot.

My main draw in continuing to play Hexguardian was seeing how efficient I could really be. The hexagon type will always vary each time, so you sometimes get lucky, and oftentimes don’t. If you’re clever, you can loop paths to close gates completely. Alternatively, you might open up 3-4 new gates, only to bottleneck them onto the same pathway.

This creates such a fun sense of dynamism to each round. You’re constantly adjusting, counter-adjusting and strategising, only to have a curveball thrown at you. Creating the ideal winding pathway feels dastardly satisfying, and the thrill of shutting down an entire part of the map is enthralling. I do wish the interface for laying down new areas was smoother and less prone to lock-ups, however.

Hexguardian review

Eiffel Off This Tower

There’s a mix of both temporary and persistent upgrades that’ll aid your attempts to stem the tides of troops and boats accosting your precious castle. Money and worship points (latter acquired through specific buildings) are used to purchase and upgrade structures, as well as provide blessings which act as strong buffs.

Variety in the unit types, spells, tower options, production facilities and even Wonders (like the Taj Mahal) makes learning Hexguardian a joy. There’s a lot rammed into this bustling castle, but it’s easy to get to grips with. Finishing rounds provides trophies which are then spent on unlocking new units, buildings or passive stat improvements.

To which the talent tree, I might add, is massive. It’ll take a long time to unlock everything naturally, while the rewards off the early difficulties are relatively small. There’s a whiff of progress being slow or bottlenecked, but this can arguably be countered as a longer-term sense of improvement. Either way, the tree itself is quite the wonder in and of itself.

Personally, I found the slow dolling out of new buildings and units a bit too labourious, but your experience may vary. What’s not in doubt, is that Hexguardian has more than just its six sides to keep you busy. There’s hours of content in here, and mastering the Crazy difficulties will take some doing. They’re not to be trifled with, that’s for sure.

Hexguardian review

You Want A Pisa This Tower?

As you may have noticed from the screenshots thus far, Hexguardian is an adorable looking title, too. The flow of the rivers falling off the ends of the earth looks wonderful, while the flow of arrows and cannon fire have the charming oomph of a Tom & Jerry cartoon. For the most part, it’s all very distinctive, and very lovely.

There can be the odd minor issue like designated placement slots overlapping or marking a relay point being tricky with the geometry. However, the trade-off is probably worth it, given the impressiveness of the randomised environments and the whimsical look to the game.

Hexguardian was also sturdier for me than the foundations of my house. Even with hundreds of enemy combatants on screen, catapults hurling rocks left, right and center and my pyromancers flinging balls of fire, it neither chugged nor struggled. I’ve seen less ambitious tower defence games crumble like my castle after 23 in-game days of ruthless assault, but not this game.

All in all, I felt quietly confident that Hexguardian would keep up no matter how far I pushed it. Plus, creating winding loop-de-loops of rivers is just nice. Even if I was launching 50+ cannonballs along the riverbank at the same time. A game of juxtaposition, indeed.

Hexguardian review

Put A Hex On You

Don’t be fooled by Hexguardian’s lovely visuals and laidback atmosphere however, as lurking underneath this Trojan horse is an army champing at the bit to bring ruin to your castle. The escalation in difficulty and challenge will keep you busy for some time, should you choose to face it head on. Coupled with fun rogue-lite mechanics and a solid randomiser, there’s plenty to enjoy here.

If you like tower defence games, you have literally no reason not to try this. There’s something just so joyful about watching dozens of little troops getting massacred by a barrage of missiles and magic. Has ever a more maniacal sentence being written? Not sure, but I am sure that Hexguardian inspires that particular brand of menacing charm.

The fact it was made by one person only adds to the spectacular nature of how entertaining it is. With a wealth of modes and content to last upwards of dozens of hours, this is an excellent entry into the tower defence genre. Deploy your archers and man those cannons, you’re going to be mowing down hordes for a good while.

Despite being made by only a single developer, Hexguardian proves to be a tower defence title worth its weight in gold. Depth of challenge and excellent randomiser mechanics make this a sturdy, yet deceptively engaging tower to bask in. There’s a slight touch of repetition and the odd interface or visual issue that sight some structural weakpoints, but Hexguardian’s tower is a booming beacon of wanton destruction.

Hexguardian is available now on PC via Steam (review platform).

Developer: Split Second Games
Publisher: Yogscast Games

Disclaimer: In order to complete this review, we were provided with a promotional copy of the game. For our full review policy, please go here.

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