Trenched is a humorous tower defense game that incorporates fast-paced action and a rewarding loot system to great effect.
- Great combination of tower defense and action gameplay
- Varied missions with plenty of replay value
- Fun to play solo, even better with friends
- Customizing Trenches with looted gear is compelling.
- Collecting scrap is a hassle.
During the First World War, life in the trenches was anything but fun; rats, lice, heavy rainfall, and enemy snipers all did their bit to ensure misery. Developer Double Fine's take on trench warfare in which Trenches are mechlike war machines rather than muddy holes in the ground, on the other hand, is a blast. Somewhat reminiscent of Signal Studios' excellent Toy Soldiers, but with a greater emphasis on action, Trenched is a tower defense game that lets you take an active role on the battlefield as you defend strategically important locations from an unimaginable evil. You're afforded brief respites between the waves of enemies that are headed your way, but Trenched is played at a pleasingly frantic pace for the most part, and you need to be both smart with your tower placements and skilled with your chosen weapons to overcome the enemy. All 15 campaign missions are fun to tackle solo or alongside up to three friends, and replay value comes courtesy of leaderboards and a compelling loot system. This isn't the Great War that your ancestors might have fought in, but it's a great war nonetheless.
Trenched isn't a game that's going to keep you glued to your controller with its story, but its tale is at least good for a few chuckles. The events of the game transpire shortly after the aforementioned conflict, when two injured comrades serving at an Allied listening station intercept a mysterious signal that makes them supersmart. Frank Woodruff and Vladimir Farnsworth then take very different approaches to using their newfound intellect to aid other disabled veterans. Woodruff invents mechanical legs known as Trenches so that he and others like him might walk again, while Farnsworth invents television (referred to in-game as Monovision) so that veterans who are unable to move can still see the world. Woodruff's Trenches make him the toast of the town, while Farnsworth's broadcasts are considered a plague. Long story short, Farnsworth loses his marbles and, in an attempt to force his broadcasts upon humankind, fashions mechanical monsters (Tubes) and sends them into battle. And that's where you come in. As one of four marines with a customizable Trench at your disposal, your mission is to defend against Farnsworth's forces and to foil his dastardly plan to dominate the airwaves.
The first campaign mission, in which you must defend your battleship-with-legs base of operations, serves as a tutorial and does a great job of familiarizing you with the equipment at your disposal. Controlling your Trench and dropping defensive emplacements almost anywhere that you care to on the battlefield could hardly be easier. Emplacements, which initially include only mounted machine guns and shotguns, must be positioned a certain distance apart, but that's the only restriction. Typically, you start each mission with only enough of the game's scrap resource to place a couple of them, but since scrap is dropped anytime you kill a Tube, there's certainly no shortage of it. What's unfortunate, though, is that while most of your time is spent gleefully managing defenses or using Trench-mounted weapons to deal with enemies in a more hands-on manner, some of it must be spent wandering around the battlefield to collect scrap. Trenches are equipped with magnets that attract this valuable resource, but the magnets aren't nearly as powerful as they should be, and because Trenches move at a pretty sedate pace, this process quickly becomes a chore. Compounding this problem is that scrap disappears after a short time, so if you don't collect it quickly you don't get to collect it at all.
Scrap collection is a minor but frequent irritation throughout Trenched's campaign. As you progress and unlock more customization options for your Trench, you might choose to equip legs that move more quickly or to carry emplacements that automatically collect nearby scrap for you, but these are imperfect solutions. Making your Trench a more effective scrap collector means compromising its abilities in other areas. Using legs with a sprint ability means not using legs with the ability to shorten your weapons' reload times, for example, and since no Trench can carry more than four different types of emplacements simultaneously, devoting one of those slots to a scrap collection pod means you have one less defensive option. It's a shame that scrap collection isn't handled more efficiently in Trenched, because customizing your Trench for each mission can be almost as much fun as the missions themselves. In addition to legs, each Trench incorporates a chassis with variable armor and speed ratings, and the chassis, in turn, incorporates one to six weapon slots and up to four emplacement slots. You'll inevitably have a favorite setup, but missions are varied enough and new equipment comes your way quickly enough that you're unlikely to use the same Trench for more than a couple of missions in succession.