Robotanika preview: tower defense where you're the tower

By Ozzie Mejia, Oct 12, 2012 3:15pm PDT

Sri Lankan developer Dawn Patrol Games is aiming for the "hardcore" audience with its upcoming Unreal Engine-powered Robotanika. Described as "tower defense, but you're the tower" by Dawn Patrol CEO Prithvi Virasinghe, the player must eliminate waves of robots in a Horde-style game mode. Assuming control of a tower named Peaches, players aim their laser turrets using a slider at the bottom of the iPad.

Peaches can gradually be upgraded over the course of the game, as players can purchase cannon upgrades, shields, and health packs among other boosts. Players earn credits throughout the game to purchase these upgrades and can be purchased at any point in the game. So if enemy robots are proving to be overwhelming, players can buy health on the spot. Of course, they'll likely blow their credits at the expense of useful weapon/shield upgrades, so extra health will only prove useful to a small extent. Strategic money management quickly becomes a key element of Robotanika.

The preview build of Robotanika I played had a friendly learning curve, with the first waves easing me into battle and giving me a chance to accustom myself to the controls. Aiming across an isometric plane took some getting used to, but I started getting the hang of it after the first couple of waves. Upgraded cannons gave me some other functions to play with, as the idea was to aim them with a pair of taps. The multi-touch function of the iPad allowed for plenty of chaotic fun, as I fired my lasers and also took out airborne targets with my cannons. I also appreciated that the slider bar mechanic prevented my fingers from obstructing my view of the action.

Waves gradually become more difficult over time, but enemy robots will also exercise cohesive strategy. Virasinghe showed off the 78th wave, which contained two boss robots. The bosses would attack as a cohesive unit, put up alternating shields, and actively block cannon shots while the other launched an attack from a distance. Later enemies would anticipate certain cannon blasts and put up like-colored shields, which would absorb those shots to replenish their health.

Make no mistake that Robotanika is unforgiving. Completing the game takes about two uninterrupted hours. There are no continues, so if you fall at the 99th wave, you'll have to start back at the beginning from scratch. The game shows the potential to grab players in the same way that classic arcade games like Robotron and Asteroids would relentlessly munch quarters for hours on end. In fact, Robotanika captures this spirit by offering in-app purchases for extra in-game upgrades, though Dawn Patrol is consciously choosing not to play up this aspect of the game. Virasinghe made sure to note that even a fully-upgraded Peaches can easily be taken down by the final waves, as demonstrated when he showed off the brutal 100th wave.

Dawn Patrol wears its punishing difficulty as a badge of honor to the point that they're considering adding an Insane mode for the few that actually manage to complete the game's 100 waves. There are other modes, including a Boss Mode and Survival, currently being discussed for post-release support.

"Right now, we think that's the best bet for us," said Virasinghe, in regards to post-release additions. "Instead of spending all of this time upfront, we'd like to put this out and see what the reception is."

Robotanika is coming soon for iPad.

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