Trenched is just the game XBLA needs. With very few tower defense games on the service, Microsoft grabbed themselves an exclusive on Tim Scafer’s latest title. As anyone would expect from a game in this genre, you will get to fight the enemy in waves as they try harder and harder to get through the defenses you have built. The game has a few twists on the classic tower defense concept and presents a solid experience that any tower defense fan would enjoy.
Trenched doesn’t work quite like every other game in its category. Instead of building defenses from a top down view, you get to join the fight alongside your turrets to play a more direct role in your victory. You control a mech called a Trench and pack copious amounts of guns and ammo allowing you to blast the enemy away 3rd person shooter style. Unfortunately, because you’re on the ground at all times, setting up your defenses isn’t quite as easy as top down versions of the genre. Every emplacement and upgrade requires you to run to the desired location to deploy. You won’t find any streamlined management of your defenses here.
However, being on the ground does have some advantages. Your Trench is fully upgradable with a healthy selection of weapons and emplacements you can choose before every mission. Any enemy you kill earns you XP and helps you gain levels. This unlocks new equipment and makes certain enemies easier to deal with. The end of every mission awards you with a nice wad of cash to be spent on all those fancy weapons you just unlocked. You can even eventually upgrade your Trench’s legs to make running all over the battle field a little less inconvenient. With the benefit of XP grinding, you can replay old levels to gain more money and experience to make later levels a little easier.
Trenched doesn’t have much of a story to tell. An evil scientist of some sort wants to destroy the U.S. army so he can use his advanced radio creatures to broadcast his message of… evil. This isn’t too much of a disadvantage because this kind of game doesn’t really need much more than that. The gameplay is where it counts.
Defend structures. Get money. Buy weapons. Defend more structures. This formula is fun but does get slightly repetitive. New enemies and defenses are constantly being introduced to prevent all the levels from blending together, but it only goes so far before you feel like doing something else. Luckily, Trenched doesn’t exploit this flaw. As soon as you’re done with it, it’s done with you. Not too long and plenty of fun, but you can’t help but think you should have gotten a little more for $15.
Out of all three of Schafer’s recent downloadable games (Costume Quest, Stacking, Trenched) this is probably my least favorite. However, it is still very entertaining and I enjoyed every minute I played. It even reminds me of how the brutal legend RTS sequences should have been (another game genre typically played top down, but retooled in a 3rd person view). If you had trouble with those levels, don’t worry, the 3rd person angle is a much better fit for tower defense. If you’re a fan of the genre and want to play something new but familiar, buy it. If not, you can survive waiting until it falls in price a little.