What do you get when you combine tower defense with mech warfare set in a World War 1-esque sci-fi setting? You get Iron Brigade (formerly Trenched), the latest creation from Double Fine Studios available on Xbox Live Arcade. While you might be quick to write off Trenched as just another tower defense game, once you dig down in you’ll find an addictive and replayable game that is designed for co-op gamers to enjoy together in more ways than one.
Trenched is the story of two army officers, Frank Woodrof and Vladamir Farmsworth, who listen to “the broadcast,” a strange transmission from an unknown source. After doing so they both change, Vladamir becomes corrupted while Frank fights for the good in an iron lung. You side with captain iron lung. The broadcast causes all these strange glowing creatures called Monovisions into the world hell bent on spreading their message and commanded by the Vladamir. Your job is to defend certain high value targets from the waves of attacking enemies and in some cases, destroy a boss in the process.
The real genius of Trenched comes from really subtle things - depending on the glowing color of enemies you can determine what they will do. Dark blue attacks the high value targets, light blue attacks your turrets and red attacks you. Enemies come in numerous varieties from normal walkers that charge their target, to flying enemies that require special weapons to bring down, to long range shooters that you’ll need to make sure you dispose of quickly. Later levels even introduce support enemies that shield their squad as well as giant boss like creatures that can spawn other enemies.
The real core of Trenched is actually your trench, or mech. This customizable machine allows players to pick and choose options that effect how many weapons you can carry, how many turrets you can carry, how fast you can move, and any special moves you can do. This is all done through a slick little interface that also recommends what to bring on a mission. One mission you may be tasked with bringing more turrets with you, so the trade off is you can’t load up your trench with a lot weapons. Another machine might have you load up on distance weapons like artillery or sniper cannons, usually taking up multiple weapon slots each.
The weapons themselves almost feel like loot you collect from an Action/RPG. You’ll find it hidden in crates, unlock it for completing goals, and earn it for leveling up by earning XP from kills. The weapons even have awesome names with equally comedic descriptions of what they can deal out. Telling your friends that you are bringing “The Prince,” The Razor of the Gods” or “Mr. Pancakes” on a mission is equally as satisfying as it is effective against the enemy. Weapons and emplacements may be bought or sold via money earned on a mission and you can actually hold multiple copies of weapons and outfit your trench with them.