|System: Wii (WiiWare)||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Square Enix||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Square Enix||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: July 20, 2009||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Everyone 10+||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
I am a huge fan of last year's WiiWare launch title, Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: My Life as a King. This title's gameplay featured objective and strategy-based army building with some construction elements thrown in for good measure. The result was an incredibly fun game that could keep you sucked in for hours. Understandably, I was excited about this year's follow up, My Life as a Darklord, when it was announced at the year's GDC. Although the game takes several hints and themes from last year's title, the gameplay here is a completely different experience.
While King left you in charge of a town and its armed forces; Darklord puts you in charge of a tower and allows you to summon various minions to fight off invading good guys from the kingdom next door. The story is a bit more flimsy this go-round, involving a 16-year old darklord who wants to conquer the world because she can. The main character is pretty one dimensional: she's perpetually evil, loves fashion, and has some daddy issues. Pretty simple, right? Still, the main focus of Darklord does not seem to be the story, so I can forgive the paper-thin plot.
What really shines in Darklord is the strategy-based gameplay. Unlike its predecessor, this title belongs very firmly to the tower defense genre, relying on your ability to plan for enemies (or in this case, heroes) that come in waves. As a less-than-omnipotent darklord, you aren't able to attack the do-gooders storming your castle directly, but you can instruct your minions to build trap-laden floors and fill them with enemies that will attack any heroes brave enough to enter your tower.
The action is completely 2D, and you'll start each level with a very short tower. As good guys approach, you'll have to add levels to the tower using the game's currency. There are different types of rooms, including offensive rooms that allow for multiple monsters and traps, defensive and support rooms, which have less room for monsters but offer added protection, and special rooms that come in all shapes and sizes and can rigorously affect battle. As you destroy heroes that enter your tower, you will be able to gain more currency and purchase more levels and monsters. You will also gain access to new types of levels and monsters after gaining bad karma, which is the game's meta-currency. After beating a few levels you can purchase raised monster levels and greater building ability within your tower.
The battle action once a hero and enemies engage is fairly paced. Each character, both good and evil has a status bar that will only allow them to attack once it has filled, which results in a turn-based spectacle. However, the good guys can only fight on each level of your tower for a fixed amount of time, and if your monsters don't defeat the hero, they will move on to the next level.
In addition to the things you can buy to help your strategy, there is also a considerable amount of things you will need to unlock. Completing specific challenges will unlock different types of monsters, which is useful in the game's class-based battle system. The game notes early on that not all monsters are created equally, and certain types are stronger against other types. For instance, a monster who has ranged attacks will be very effective against a magic-wielding Yuke, while a melee-focused monster will not.
Overall, I found the strategy in My Life as a Darklord to be very satisfying. The race and job-based elements allow for quite a bit of flexible strategy, and the building elements are also very satisfying. The depth of this game is actually quite impressive, especially since basically every facet of the strategy is self-directed. If you want to focus on room quantity you can purchase tower extensions, or if you want to improve the specs of your monster army, you can purchase new upgrade levels. The way you defend the tower is entirely up to you, and playing with different strategies is very enjoyable.