Computer viruses are a pain in the arse. They ruin your computer and infect thousands of machines, bringing businesses to a standstill while ruining global economies. Mainframe Defenders goes one step further as it predicts electronic Armageddon.
Developed by Synthetic Domain and published by Big Way Games, this is a retrofuturistic strategy title. It has a basic approach and will remind players of MS-Dos titles. Veteran gamers will love its old-school look and the trip down memory lane.
Mainframe Defenders is wonderfully simple but its UI is woeful.
I love it when a strategy game focuses on simple mechanics that allows you to jump straight into the action. Fortunately, Mainframe Defenders does just that! Its core concept of rogue-lite mechanics, combined with easy-to-understand strategy elements, was a pleasure to experience. You control a team of four robots who must complete an array of objectives while saving the world.
However, for all its straightforward ideas and enjoyable elements, its woeful UI isn’t one of them. A thorough tutorial explains the fundamentals, yet; the developers fail to explain how the UI works. I, fortunately, stumbled through its messy layout and sadly, its lack of an explanation had me on the verge of quitting before I had even begun. Nowhere does it explain that the d-pad is the key navigation tool between the menus. If you plan to play this, take note, the d-pad is essential!
Choose your force and tactics on the fly.
Technology is failing and the world is ending, so what are you going to do? You’re going to hire a reliable team of robots to combat it, that’s what! Luckily, a small band of mechs are available, and they are happy to help. Each of these robots offers different weaponry and strengths and weaknesses. You must pick the best squad that matches your play style and then upgrade them to tackle the latter missions.
The quests are split into difficulty categories and then further divided by goals and objectives. You are given full visibility of what is expected to be victorious, and this allows you to plan in advance. Before starting a mission, you may upgrade weaponry, armour, heat capabilities, repair your robot, and more. You must strengthen your team with a currency known as ‘matter’. This is earned by completing goals or finding it during each expedition. It’s a tough commodity to collect, so wasting it is not advised.
You may plan your approach thoroughly, but frustratingly, your enemy doesn’t care about your desire to be victorious. Reinforcements will spawn randomly and this undermines any plans you have in place. You soon discover that you must think on the fly to react to any new threats. This approach made Mainframe Defenders feel more like a Real-Time Strategy title than a turn-based strategy game.
Mainframe Defenders looks odd on a large screen.
I love retro games and I don’t mind dated graphics, yet I think Mainframe Defenders looks strange on a larger screen. If this was played on a smaller monitor or TV, it would work particularly well. However, its ultra-pixelated graphics look out of place on larger modern screens. If you can get over the oddities of the presentation, you’ll witness a great but dated representation of a future world. The retrofuturistic style is enhanced by the colour palette. The environment is industrial, cold, and sterile, and the classic futuristic look is brilliantly captured.
The futuristic tone continues with the electronic music and shrill 8-Bit sound. Veteran gamers will adore the old-school audio. The nod to classic titles and the throwback to the golden era of strategy titles was appreciated and worked perfectly with the MS-Dos aesthetics.
Once you master the UI, the rest is a piece of cake.
Mainframe Defenders is remarkably easy to play once you understand the horrific UI. The missions focus on Action Points or Ap for the combat elements and a grid-based approach for movement. The environment plays a key role in your strategy and you must destroy or avoid the obstacles in your way. Luckily, it’s easy to understand as many commands are completed by the press of one button. However, this doesn’t make it perfect. My gripe surrounds the lack of an ‘undo’ facility. Mistakes happen, yet there is no way to rectify this. Your plans will be ruined and missions lost and this was frustrating. This was a shame as it was an unnecessary oversight from the developer.
Because of its array of upgrades, vehicles to unlock, and the combination of robots to select, no playthrough is the same. If you then consider the rogue-lite elements that influence the gameplay, you experience a tough but addictive title. Moreover, its challenging achievement list demands you return if you wish to finish it.
Mainframe Defenders is a wonderfully retro strategy title.
I love how much the genre has evolved, but I also enjoy stepping back to a simpler time. Mainframe Defenders does just that with its wonderful blend of strategy mechanics, simplistic gameplay, and dated aesthetics. It won’t be for everyone, but I enjoyed it and recommend you to buy it here! Can you destroy the virus that plagues the future? Grab your squad of robots and take the fight to them!