What do you get when you combine a tower defense with an equipment and upgrade system, the Wild West, and a good challenge? You get Long Way, a solid entry into the tower defense genre even if you think cowboys are stupid and that Wild West is played out. Deal with it, because LW is one of the few truly solid TDs to come out over the past couple of years.
Where’s the beef?
I hope you like defending cattle, because that’s what you’re doing in Long Way. Cattle is effectively your health. Once an enemy gets to your herd, one cattle is taken away. There is no grabbing one and dragging it back to the start or exit like in some tower defense games. I mention this up front because LW is hard. Very hard. And you’re going to be putting a lot of effort into defending that herd, otherwise you’re going to have to spend your hard-earned cash in-game on more cattle to keep going.
No walk in the park
The game is also difficult because of how powerful enemies are and the general power of your cowboys (yes, cowboys are your “towers”). Each time they level you can choose to upgrade either their attack power or one of their two special abilities, depending on which one you’ve put skill points into. The notable thing here is that the attack power upgrades are relatively low, meaning you get more DPS overall from placing more cowboys than you do from placing a few and max upgrading them.
Cowboy placement is a big issue as well. There are several obstacles on each level to prevent you from just lining them up for big damage up front, and no level is just a straight path. The game makes you think about where you’re going to place your units, and whether you want to make more of them or just upgrade the ones you have. It’s a nice change from many of the no-thought tower defense games you come across these days.
Let’s wander away from the difficulty and look at Long Way as a whole, because the difficulty isn’t all it has going for it.
The game looks fine graphically, and the music and sounds fit the Wild West theme very well. You go from level to level via an overworld map, on which there are towns and events alongside the levels. The towns are of special interest because they are where you purchase cattle, hire new units, and shop for equipment for the main character. The equipment aspect is a treat especially as the buffs that your equipment provides go toward all of your cowboys. The equipment and overworld map are just nice touches to an already solid tower defense game.
Players seasoned in TDs don’t really see much new these days. 2011 was a good year for the genre, but 2012 hasn’t been so kind. Long Way has enough replayability to make it worth the time of both new and long-time tower defense players. You don’t have to like cowboys to appreciate how well-made and challenging it is.