Let’s talk Tower Defense. Not a favourite genre for many people, myself included. Gemcraft however, is different. The creators of this game started on Armor Games and other such flash sites, and have been making the Gemcraft series for a good many years. “Chasing Shadows” is the fourth installment in the series, preceded by chapter 1, chapter 2, and Labyrinth. The fifth game in the series: “GemCraft – Frostborn Wrath” is also available on steam.
The same but different
What makes a good tower defense? Well, towers for one,. I guess? And yes this game allows you to build plenty of those. Unlike most fairly flat progression tower defense games however, GemCraft expands on the genre by adding a multitude of options and maps. 23 Map sections, each with 5-6 fields in this case. A total of about 190 fields. Each map may be adjusted and replayed any time you like in regards to difficulty to improve your overall score for that level. Your total score will then determine your wizard XP and level – and this in turn will give you more abilities to improve. Such as higher gem power, cheaper walls, stronger bombs and many more effects.
The gems make up the meat of the game, and it’s the monsters they will defeat as is usual in the genre. Critters come from 1 or multiple entry points, and will try to reach your orb. The fun bit is, in GemCraft you will be dealing with SWARMS of critters. It’s not uncommon to have several hundreds of them coming towards your orb.
In the video above you can see you’ve got 9 gem colors, these can be moved and relocated among your towers. They can also be upgraded almost indefinitely, and combined to form dual, triple and any sort of color combination you like. A mana draining chain hit gem is a good way to level your score. Or how about a slowing gem with poison effect? Anything is possible.
This is one of the few games I went 100% achievements on. And this game has 419 achievements! Iron wizard was a definite challenge, but very doable. You unlock fields and earn new gem colors as you progress, along with new spells and curses. In normal mode you will be able to re-play fields to gain skill points which improve your strength. In iron wizard mode you get a flat number of skill points per beaten field. The number of monsters certainly won’t decrease, so the challenge is quite rough if you’re unfamiliar with the tower defense concept.
Setting higher difficulties (as in the image below) can be done to improve your score multiplier. This increases your score, and thus your XP, etc as mentioned. Faster monster spawns, more Giant monsters (big health and armor buffs), more swarms, orblets, etc. The game is very flexible and can be tailored to your skill in various ways.
The “goal” is to reach the iron forge, which will need to be unlocked by charging up a few pillars along the road. Meanwhile you’ll get thousands of monsters coming at your orb while flinging spells left and right. Good fun.
Relics of an ancient past
Depending on the difficulty of the level you may also obtain some relic fragments. These you can equip into your very own pentagram charm, and this will provide you with various buffs on top of your skills. Debuffs for monster armor, increased gem range, extra skill levels all add up to improve your power and make it easier to get higher scores. In endless mode you’ll find these things shine the most. Your gems can reach levels exceeding 100, but the monsters will have a few million hit points to compensate. The relics are random but they drop 1-3 or more per level, with varying values depending on the difficulty.
GemCraft is a game that should keep you busy for many hours. I’ve put in about 200 myself, and that was for the completionist badge. It’s one of the best ways to spend 5$ honestly.
Release date: 30 Apr, 2015
Minimum system requirements: Windows Vista SP1, Intel Celeron N or better, 2048 MB Ram, Intel HD Graphics or better, 100 MB available disk space. Higher system specs are recommended however, especially if you play to summon a few hundred extra monsters on screen simultaneously.