May 13, 2015 6:49 PM | Sean Flint
When it comes to the tower defense genre, my experiences have always felt shallow, and ended just as quickly as they began. While defending a base against hordes of enemies is fun, the depth was just not there to convince me that these were games worth playing for long periods of time. While there was a certain level of progression within each level, it was not globally represented, and each level felt like I was starting over again as I had to upgrade my towers all over again. Hydraulic Empire takes the traditional tower defense formula and injects a solid dose of progression to create a game that I feel will have a lasting appeal.
Hydraulic Empire has been in development for just around 5 months, which is impressive considering they crafted a new engine. For a game so early into development, the screenshots and trailers have had an impressively polished look to them, which is why I was surprised to learn that it had been less than a year in development.
Featuring an interesting Steampunk aesthetic, Hydraulic Empire places the player directly into conflict between mages and Steampunk rebels. These rebels have recently devastated the mages in a brutal civil war, which has led to new factions being formed, and a brand new war as the factions fight for control of the newly divided land. The player will take control of a General who is in control of an old capital and is tasked with defeating the mages in a final campaign. Along the way, it is imperative to figure out which factions have decided to betray, and which have remained loyal to the cause.
Hydraulic Empire features a cast of six unique mobs, ranging from the Tinker, who is a light support unit, to the Swarm Mother, who can be used to spawn units as well as tank damage. While these six are the only announced mobs, there are definitely more in the works, so we can expect a wide variety of unit types upon the game's full release. The major standout of the game would be the mob interactions, which they consider to be their biggest innovation. These interactions take place all throughout the level, and alter the way in which you build your defenses. The variation in interactions is huge depending on how the battle plays out, and this aspect provides the game with a huge amount of replayability. Each mob typically can interact with at least 2 others to create an interesting and unique experience as you progress through the game.
As we can expect from a tower defense game, Hydraulic Empire boasts a diverse cast of towers. A few of my favorites are the acid trap, which applies a DoT to the enemies that walk through it, as well as the bomb launcher, which fires explosives that deal AoE damage upon impact. There are currently six towers listed, and with the variation in upgrades I can imagine that there are many different options for creating the perfect lineup of defenses based on playstyle.
The greatest aspect of Hydraulic Empire is the permanent progression that the game possesses. The City is the area of the game where you can upgrade your hero powers as well as your towers. These upgrades are permanent and carry over throughout the campaign. This area will be widely variable depending on the players' preferences and what they would like to build their defenses around. Along with the City, there is also the Factory which is a limited area that grows as you progress. The upgrades in the Factory are attached to specific towers, and requires advance planning if you want to optimize your upgrades and build.
Hydraulic Empire looks to be that entry into the genre that I have been waiting for. With the separate Factory and City, along with the talent tree, the progression that I always search for in the genre is finally there. These global upgrades combined with the unique aesthetic and unit variation make Hydraulic Empire a game that fans of tower defense will have to keep their eye on. If you'd like to get in on the ground floor, there is currently a Kickstarter where you can contribute to guarantee your copy of the game. Hydraulic Empire is also running a Greenlight page, so be sure to pop in and leave a vote to help the game get through onto Steam.