X-Morph: Defense Review

Posted by: Sam Tree | 20 March 2019

XOR Studios

XOR Studios

Release Date:
21st March 2019 (NS), 17th August 2017 (PC)


PC, Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, Xbox One

Reviewed On:
Nintendo Switch

X-Morph Defense stands out from the crowd with its stunning visuals and engaging gameplay. While at its heart it’s a tower defence game, the addition of the top-down shoot ‘em up elements add for a strategic twist on the tried and tested formula. Dispensing with tradition, X-Morph sees players take on the role of a hostile invading force from the stars, intent on syphoning off the planet’s resources for their own nefarious gain.

The game is broken down into a number of levels and waves, with each level focusing on a different country on Earth. Players first touchdown in South Africa which serves as the game’s tutorial. Each invasion site is marked with the appearance of a Core, a device that contains the required materials to begin relieving the planet of its valuable resources as well as the tech required to achieve this feat. Players are taught how to build and place turrets – the games main defence against the advancing human military – as well as unit blocking laser fences and other features the game has to offer.

As above, missions are represented as a different country to conquer, each with around 6 waves of increasingly tougher enemies to subdue. Each country has its own speciality so upgrading between missions is important to give you an edge. From the Canadian’s heavily armoured tanks to the British transport helicopters. And while each mission is essentially the same formula, it’s the addition of these different threats which keep the game appealing and fresh.

Screenshots from PC version

Through each wave, you’re kept up to speed by both your alien overlord as well as by the General of the human forces – presumably through some form of alien-based transmission hijacking – which provides you with handy hints and tactics advice. Strangely, regardless of which country you’re attacking, the General is always the same. It would be nice to see some verity which clearly defines each country’s military might; though I do appreciate I’m probably just nit-picking here.

Between waves, the number of advancing enemy units is shown as well as their proposed attack routes which players can choose to block with turrets or laser fences – forcing the helpless humans to take a longer route to the parasitic Core. As the game progresses the military might will throw tougher enemies into the fray in a bid to halt the advancing take over which forces you to rethink your strategy from time to time, but with the ability to move turrets found this to be of little consequence. The final wave switches it up a bit and varies from mission to mission and forces you to re-strategise.

And while this sounds like your average tower defence title so far, the real strategy lies with the player controlled space ship; which is also where the twin-stick shoot ém up comes into play. You have two main modes available to you while piloting the futuristic craft. The first is pretty standard and allows you to fly around the map firing projectiles. As you upgrade you gain different forms that can be cycled through using the ZR button. Hitting the X button shifts the ship into Ghost Mode which increases movement speed and allows you to phase through buildings that would otherwise hinder your movement. It’s in this mode that you’re also able to build, move and upgrade your turrets.

Screenshots from PC version

Defeating enemy units with your ship allows you to build and upgrade more towers; giving you both an incentive to do so as well as relieving you from sitting with idle thumbs while events unfold before your eyes. Sometimes I find the tower defence genre to be too much of a waiting game which often causes me to lose interest a few missions in, X-Morph, however, has kept me interested hours into the main campaign. Not only is it enjoyable but it offers a decent challenge.

I think it’s important to note that X-Morph: Defense originally made its debut on the PC back in the latter half of 2017 and was by no standards a bad looking game. Happily, the beauty and intricate details have been fully ported to the switch. The game both looks and runs like a dream. Granted, I noticed a bit of pixelation while playing in docked mode but I suffered no slowdown or framerate issues – the same is true in handheld mode. And while the Switches screen is fairly small, I didn’t find any difficulty reading text or keeping an eye on the action. I should probably mention, however, that there is no touchscreen support for the main bulk of the game. You can navigate the menu with the Switch’s touchscreen, the main game is lacking in this department which is a little disappointing – though not a game changer.

Screenshots from PC version

All in all, I’ve been thoroughly impressed by X-Morph: Defense and I’m somewhat ashamed that it wasn’t on my radar sooner. The blend of top-down shoot ‘em up and tower defence works incredibly well and there’s enough to keep you interested for a good few hours of gameplay. The missions are varied enough to stop you getting bored and the game simply looks fantastic. Playing as the invading force is also a refreshing take. Personal niggles aside, you’d be a fool not to give it a go.

The Good
  • Varied and challenging levels
  • No visible slow down in either docked or handheld mode
The Bad
  • No touchscreen support
  • Some minor pixelation in docked mode
A nice twist to the tower defence genre that plays well and looks great
This review is based on playing the Nintendo Switch version of X-Morph: Defense that was kindly provided for review purposes by XOR Studios.

Screenshots from PC version Screenshots from PC version Screenshots from PC version Screenshots from PC version Screenshots from PC version Screenshots from PC version

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