ReviewsReview: Defend the Rook

Review: Defend the Rook


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Rogue-like games are like Marmite. Consequently, you either love them or hate them. For years, I was in the hate club. However, my tastes have evolved and now I adore their addictive ways and cruel mechanics. As such, when I was offered Defend the Rook on Xbox Series X, I couldn’t resist. This is a game I covered on Steam in 2021 and I was looking forward to playing it again.

Developed by One Up Plus and published by Klabater, this is a mishmash of interesting genres. With rogue-like elements at its core and a heavy smattering of tower defence to deal with, this isn’t a simple title to master. Yet, once you get to grips with the fundamentals, you’ll adore the challenge on offer and the interesting fantasy edge.

Bloody seahorses.
Time to take out those cursed seahorses.

Defend the Rook is a tale of invasion and betrayal.

Money is the bane of all evil. Subsequently, whenever gold, gems, and treasure are available, people’s personalities change. This is exactly what happens in Defend the Rook! This fantasy title highlights the plight of an all-powerful Queen. Her kingdom is under attack as each tribe attempts to steal her gems. Without the skills or heroes to stop them, she turns to a mysterious being for help. This hooded man is a tactical genius as he moves his forces as if he was playing a game of chess.

The plot to one side, the crux of the game, is straightforward. You must protect your rook from each wave of enemies. With three heroes at your disposal, you’ll manipulate their strengths and weaknesses to destroy each creature. Furthermore, you’ll place barricades, traps, and automated turrets to improve your defences. However, unlike other tower defence games, your foes don’t follow a predictable pattern. Instead, you must react to their advances and think on the fly! This weird mechanic makes Defend the Rook stand out from its peers. Moreover, it is an uncomfortable element that may displease veterans of the genre.

Turn-based shenanigans. 

Turn-based elements drive each battle forward. Accordingly, you’ll move your heroes, attack your enemy, and await their response. What’s more, at the start of each turn, your turrets will hit anyone in sight and your traps will ensnare unwitting victims. Furthermore, you may use spells to hurt your foes, boosts to improve your health or armour, and enchantments to add more attacks to one hero. These minor layers alter the course of each battle and can turn the tide in your favour.

As you destroy each wave, you’ll temporarily improve one hero. Whether you heal them, improve their attack, buffer their defence, or add mysterious powers, it makes a vast difference. Additionally, you can move each character to prepare for the onslaught of more creatures. This concept repeats itself until the team faces a gargantuan beast. If you defeat this hideous creature, the chapter will end and the story continues. However, you are more likely to die and this is where the unfortunate and often frustrating rogue-like mechanics come into play. 

Complete the round and upgrade a hero.
So many choices.

Upgrades and death. 

Death is as guaranteed as day turning to night! When this occurs, you lose every temporary enhancement and your progress. Yet, you can permanently upgrade your towers, traps, and barricades. Furthermore, you can improve each hero by using gems that you’ve uncovered. This was fantastic as it also unlocks new heroes for you to test out.

With three core roles to select, you must think wisely to enhance your tactical choices. You’ll pick variations of a warrior, rogue, or wizard. Each subcategory will change your approach and ultimately alter how you fight each wave of enemies. Though this concept added a bizarre amount of trial and error, I loved the almost unlimited tactical elements. Moreover, this increased longevity whilst removing a feeling of repetition. 

Defend the Rook is nice but not spectacular. 

Recently, we’ve been treated to some phenomenal-looking rogue-like titles. However, Defend the Rook doesn’t excel visually. Instead, it has a pleasant colour palette, refined level design, and basic cinematic. Furthermore, the sprites are interesting and varied and the combat and movement animation is smooth but familiar. On top of this, the UI is well-considered, easy to use, and minimalist. As a consequence, it is easy to observe each stage as the action plays out like a game of chess.

The fantasy angle is highlighted by the fun and folksy audio. With a blend of aggressive and lighthearted songs, simple dialogue, and interesting sound effects, it delivers a pleasant experience. Moreover, I enjoyed the bizarre magical noises and the uncomfortable sounds from each enemy you face. As such, the developers have done a great job of adding drama to a slow-paced affair.

The rook must be kept safe at all costs.
Whatever you do, keep the rook safe!

Oh, how I hate the controls. 

Whenever a title has a great UI, I expect a pleasant gaming experience. Disappointingly, though, the controls are sluggish and unresponsive! As such, moving the cursor or selecting each hero results in much frustration. Consequently, I spent most of my time pushing the analogue stick in an animated manner. Thankfully, though, the D-pad option is better, but it takes some getting used to. Subsequently, Defend the Rook performs much better on PC.

Rogue-like games ooze replay value and longevity. Additionally, they have a brutish charm that gets under your skin. Thankfully, this is no different, as you must grind out many playthroughs before you achieve the perfect run. However, once that happens, there are many reasons to return as you experiment with new characters and tactical ideas. 

Defend the Rook is excellent, but the controls let it down.

My opinion of Defend the Rook hasn’t altered. I liked it 2 years ago and I like it now. With excellent mechanics, plenty of content, and loads of tactical layers, it is fascinating. Yet, the sluggish controls let it down. As such, you are forced to use the D-pad, and that was annoying. However, this doesn’t make it a poor title. Accordingly, I enjoyed it and I recommend that you buy it here! Can you help the Queen protect her kingdom? Control your heroes, upgrade their skills, and thwart every creature you face. 


Defend the Rook is a tough rogue-lite turn-based tower defence title. With multiple classes to pick from, many enemies to thwart, and some challenging levels to overcome, this isn't for the faint of heart. I adored every moment, but sluggish controls let it down. Other than this, it is a great game that should be on your radar.

+ An interesting genre twist.
+ Fun and folksy audio.
+ Addictive.
+ The fantasy theme is great.
+ Loads of replay value.

- The controls are sluggish.
- It can be extremely tough.
- The rogue-lite elements make it repetitive.

(Rating: PEGI 7 Mild Violence Release date: 16/03/2023 Price: £12.49+)

(Reviewed on the Xbox Series X. Also available on Xbox One, PC (Steam), Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4 and PlayStation 5)

Daniel Waite
Daniel Waite
My gaming career started on an Amiga and spans many consoles! Currently, I game using an MSI laptop and Xbox Series X. A fan of every genre, I love to give anything a go. Former editor and reviewer for, I'm loving my new home here at Movies Games and Tech. I can be contacted for gaming reviews on the following email:

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<p class="has-text-align-justify" style="font-size:14px"><em>Defend the Rook</em> is a tough rogue-lite turn-based tower defence title. With multiple classes to pick from, many enemies to thwart, and some challenging levels to overcome, this isn't for the faint of heart. I adored every moment, but sluggish controls let it down. Other than this, it is a great game that should be on your radar.</p><br/> + An interesting genre twist.<br/> + Fun and folksy audio.<br/> + Addictive.<br/> + The fantasy theme is great.<br/> + Loads of replay value.<br/> <br/> - The controls are sluggish.<br/> - It can be extremely tough.<br/> - The rogue-lite elements make it repetitive.<br/> <br/> <p class="has-text-align-center" style="font-size:10px">(<b>Rating:</b> PEGI 7 Mild Violence <b>Release date:</b> 16/03/2023 <b>Price:</b> £12.49+)</p><br/> <p class="has-text-align-center" style="font-size:10px">(Reviewed on the Xbox Series X. Also available on Xbox One, PC (Steam), Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4 and PlayStation 5)</p><br/>Review: Defend the Rook