Route making in tower defence has fallen out of vogue over the years like medkits in first person shooters and comedy in The Simpsons. Once a tenant of the genre, it has gradually been sidelined in favour of the less cerebral task of just plain making things go boom. Fieldrunners is old enough to flaunt route making like a pair of vintage jeans.
So each of its three levels begins as a vast and empty playing field on which you devise a mad labyrinth of towers to chaperone the enemy through, meaning as much thought has to be given to the defensive traits of towers as the offensive. It’s no good lining up a chain of blisteringly powerful Tesla towers in one corner of the map because the enemy will always take the shortest route to the exit and you can guarantee that means avoiding your cluster of doom. He’s dastardly like that.
Fieldrunners boasts just four towers meaning tactics are somewhat limited (although an extra two come into play during the Extended and Endless modes unlocked after completing the classic campaign). Towers can each be upgraded three times but density of towers – and a well-devised course – is often enough to throw water on your adversaries’ fantasies of continued existence, until mid-way through the rounds at least.
The underpowered but dirt-cheap machine gun turrets form the basis of any maze and are of more worth used as malicious walls than unit-stoppers. They’re the 2×4 Lego blocks of Fieldrunners, employed at the grass roots to coerce the enemy through thwarting routes while applying a dent to their gaudy green health bars. Supplementing the machine gun is the more meaningful missile tower (useful for hauling helicopters and planes out of the sky) and the super destructive Tesla tower. There’s also a green goo firing number capable of slowing the advancement of any unit doused in its weird sludge.
While it’s certainly a conservative array of towers, they need to be employed in tandem if you want to see the back-end of the huge 100-round games.
And that length is Fieldrunner’s only real black mark because too often you’re relegated to spectator status. Once your maze has been assembled there’s not a great deal left to do but upgrade towers and build more towers but it’s not until late in the game that they’re essential at the rear of your warren. I’m typing this as people die on screen.
Compared to other tower defence titles on the App Store, 3 levels isn’t a great deal of content (there are more but you have to pay for them), but between its solid mechanics and sublime presentation, Fieldrunners remains reasonably good value for money.
It’s the quintessential tower defence that remains faithful to the old ways.