XBLIG Review: Union of Armstrong

In a classic battle of evil corporation vs. the little guy, Union of Armstrong features the titular group of Moon patriots seeking to protect the original landing site of Neil Armstrong’s historic landing site (Buzz gets no love apparently).  Luna, a mega corporation (see: evil) wants to demolish the site in order to mine for precious resources.  Yes, apparently in the future Moon rocks are a fuel or something.  What follows is a relatively simple tower defense game with some interesting aesthetics.

This is what you are protecting.

Union of Armstrong doesn’t really do much to further the genre of Tower Defense.  In fact, it lacks some of what has become the norm for the genre.  With a simple interface, you can place one of three turret types along a designated path that ends at the site of the original Apollo 11’s historic landing.  Wave after wave of robots or ships (not really sure) will attempt to break through and weaken your defenses to zero and demolish the site.  There is no way to manipulate the paths, meaning the only real strategy is to simply put more and more guns up as the waves increase, which does become more difficult as more paths to the site are added along the way.  Every few waves the map resets, as does your resources, etc., ultimately leading up to a final show down.  More on that later.

The first of several map variants.

Like most tower defense games, you gain resources for destroying enemies, but unlike most tower defense games there is a little more resource management.  The game’s most interesting twist is the addition of essentially three resources: one is titled resources and is used to build turrets.  Defense is the number of hit points you have remaining. The third, and last measurement is power, which slowly drains over time and can be used to power a protective shield, which will prevent loss to your defense.  At any time in the game you can transfer stats from any of the three to any of the others, but you must transfer it all or nothing (i.e. if you have 300 resources and you transfer resources to power you transfer all 300).  This does allow for some strategy at times in terms of choosing whether to focus on building turrets at the expense of having a shield in case of an emergency, and so on. This aspect of the game is vital in the (presumably) last wave.   This is really the only thing that made Union of Armstrong stand out in terms of gameplay.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TSuLw_pLTgQ

This XBLIG does have one very interesting feature, and that is the radio and news feed running across the screen CNN style.  The radio features a large amount of royalty free broadcast audio from WWII or shortly after, and has an odd fixation on the character of Killroy and the phrase “Killroy was here.”  (Go look it up quick, I’ll wait to continue the review until you do.

….

Back?  Yeah, a little odd to be so focused on in a tower defense game about the Moon, but hey, whatever floats your boat right?  The news feed offers a somewhat necessary distraction and is at times quite funny.  If as much time and effort had gone into the actual gameplay as the little aesthetic things like the radio and news feed it probably would have been a fantastic game.

Killroy gets around apparently.

As I said, the news feed offers a necessary distraction.  Necessary is the phrase used because much of the game, especially early on, is incredibly boring.  You have more than enough resources to put up enough turrets to repel the attacks easily and since you can’t speed up the incoming enemy troops like in most tower defense games you are often left waiting for another wave with nothing to do.  I would go so far as to say that probably half of the time spent in this game was spent waiting for something to happen.  I found I wasn’t even looking at the game for notably long periods of time while “playing.”  Not a good sign.

After around twenty some levels you finally get to either the end or a big boss, but start with only enough resources to build a few turrets. Not realizing that a single, incredibly strong unit would be coming I build up the front of the path but not the back or middle end.  Without any other units to destroy for more resources and the fact that you have to recycle turrets in the order you placed them, I was quickly left with no viable means of fending off the attack from this very powerful enemy on a very short path.  Now, immediately after it overran the landing site I realized that I could have moved the crazy high amount of power or defense points into resources to help fend it off, but unfortunately the game doesn’t allow you to simply replay the last wave that you failed (or even the last group of waves).  It is all or nothing.  With no interest in starting back over at the start, I exited the game knowing that I wouldn’t be coming back.

You see that guy? F#$k that guy.

Union of Armstrong has a nice look to it; with some very interesting and entertaining bits added into the game like the radio and the news feed. It does get some points for style.  It also sports a fairly interesting concept in resource management that could really be something interesting if implemented in a better manner, earning it another point or two.  Sadly though, the gameplay is often slow, boring and uninspired and lacks features that not only make it feel incomplete (really, no level select?) but feel like a step backward in the genre of the tower defense game; Defense Grid this is not.

Final Rating: 5.5/10

CBR Break Down:
Console Played On
: Xbox 360
Time to completion: ~30-45 minutes? Not sure as it felt much longer.
Gamer Score Earned: N/A
Price Bought at: N/A – Copy furnished by Domain of the Infinite
Current Price: 80 Microsoft Points ($1)
Recommend Purchase Price: Personally, I’d pass.
Why you should buy it: You have a serious tower defense addiction and need a fix very badly.
Why you shouldn’t buy it: There are just too many other better games available.

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About Tristan Rendo

I've made movies, written and performed music, and in January of 2011 got bored and started the awesome gaming site you see before you. My gaming roots began with the original NES, and endless hours spent spilling quarters into machines at the local arcade. I have a personal collection of over 200 Nintendo 64 games, and for many years it was the only system I owned. I re-entered the modern generation of gaming consoles when I decided to purchase a 360. I typically prefer the single player experience of games, so I’m usually playing through some single-player campaign, but can occasionally be found doing some damage in Halo Reach.