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Fortified is a combination RTS, tower defense, and third person shooter released this past week on Steam and Xbox One. Fortified comes to us from Clapfoot, a Canadian indie studio that has previously worked on several mobile games. Tower defense and third person shooter games have been tried before, often with great success. How does adding RTS elements into the mix effect this potent genre combo? Let’s find out in my Fortified review.
Fortified starts with a base of third person shooter and tower defense elements, much like Iron Brigade, Dungeon Defenders, Sanctum, and Orcs Must Die. Veteran players of any of these series will feel right at home in Fortified. Evil Martians have invaded the Earth, and our plan to stop the invasion is to launch rockets to drive them back. Protecting these rockets from the hordes of Martian robots is our only chance at survival!
Fortified’s aesthetic is inspired by pulp sci-fi of the 50’s, which is also an inspiration that the Fallout series draws from. Martians are invading, and they’re classic aliens in the style of The Day the Earth Stood Still or War of the Worlds. It’s up to a group of four heroes to save the day! The heroes are similarly drawn from 50’s pulp sci-fi, and include a “rocket scientist” that wears a jetpack, a captain, a spaceman, and an Area 51-style secret agent.
Each hero has unique weapons and towers, although many are shared between the classes. Up to two (of a total of five) weapons can be used at any one time. This is the “third person shooter” aspect of the game. Aliens show up, you blast them, more aliens show up, you blast them, lather/rinse/repeat until the aliens give up and go home. Each weapon has a primary and secondary fire that have unique properties. For instance, the primary fire on the rifle shoots a steady stream of low-powered bullets, while the secondary fire is a more powerful, slow firing shot that has a chance to knock aliens down.
The real-time strategy and tower defense portions of Fortified come in the form of buildable objects. Some definitely fit the mold of “tower,” although there are quite a few wall traps, mines, and infantry units. The infantry units are Fortified’s nod to the RTS genre. Once placed, infantry units can be ordered to guard their starting locations, follow the player, protect a spot, or fall back to the nearest rocket. Towers are generally indestructible, while infantry can be injured, although they recover after a few seconds of downtime.
As you level up your characters, you can spend points to unlock new weapons or towers, although you can also spend those points on unlocking a set of upgrades for existing gear. You can respec for free if you make a mistake, so experimentation is encouraged. There are definitely some winners and losers among the weapons and towers. The Freeze Ray feels super overpowered, while weapons like the Grenade Launcher don’t feel all that fantastic. Meanwhile, many of the towers feel either too short range or fire so slowly that they’re not particularly effective. I found it rather hard in the late levels to pick 6 towers that I thought would actually be useful.
That said, Fortified definitely leans more towards a third-person shooter, rather than a RTS or tower defense title. I tended to relegate my towers to either long range “softening up” of tricky targets, or causing status ailments on my enemies. It was rather rare that I could leave enemies alone for towers to deal with – I’d say most of my kills were from my own two hands.
Fortified can be played solo, but it really shines in co-op. The co-op mode is up to four players, online only. The difficulty seems to scale when more players are present – enemies definitely have more HP, at least. Cash is split among the players, so co-op takes a lot of coordination to get right. If someone on your team doesn’t really “get” the strategy or the level you’re playing, their towers are going to be a waste. It’s really hard to carry the whole team with a quarter of the funds and way more enemy HP. Thus, although it’s possible to play solo, or with randos on the interwebs, Fortified is really a game best played by a team of four friends.
There are a total of 12 levels in the main campaign, which took me around 8 hours to clear on Normal difficulty. Normal is still pretty challenging, and a good understanding of the game’s systems are critical to survive, especially the two boss levels. I probably failed some of the harder missions a good 5-10 times, especially the first boss fight.
As far as replay value goes, there’s a total of 3 difficulty levels for each of the 12 missions, plus an endless “Invasion” survival mode. The “Invasion” mode switches things up with random mutations and an ever-increasing difficulty level, so it’s perfect for tower defense fans who want a big challenge.
Aside from the minor balance issues with some of the weapons/towers, Fortified gets few complaints from me. I do wish that the minimap showed more detail about the placement of towers, or that it was easier to determine who had built a particular tower. The leveling up of characters is also interesting, but it’s not a particularly deep system.
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Fortified is an easy game to recommend to anyone looking for a challenging online co-op tower defense game. It’s got great character and a lot of cool ideas.