In most alien invasions humanity is thrust into one of two outcomes: extraterrestrials arrive in peace where we coexist, learn technology, and have a grand time, or creatures from outer space are just like humans and consume countless resources and stumble upon Earth with the desire to strip-mine the entire planet. This latter example is the premise for X-Morph: Defense. Here’s the kicker though – you’re in charge of this invasion as the aliens, and wrecking Earth has never been so beautiful in a Nintendo Switch game.
X-Morph: Defense is a combination tower defense game and twin-stick shooter packed with some of the best action I’ve yet played on the system. As the alien commander, you’re tasked with defending mining cores against the human resistance trying to save the planet. During the career’s campaign you’ll visit many key locations across our beautiful blue marble, from the USA to Britain, Japan, Russia, and others all with uniquely crafted maps to battle on.
When it comes to tower defense, the developers have done their due diligence in the genre creating a mechanically sound experience that is both fluid, and accessible in all aspects. Tower placement is easy via your flying spaceship, and instead of dozens of types of towers you need to place, you’ll primarily be morphing a basic tower into the category you want as the game’s progression moves along. There’s a large variety of towers, and each variation is suited to certain circumstances you’ll encounter in a given mission.
Following in the footsteps of games like Field Runners, the entirety of the map is open to tower placement, and a huge part of this game’s strategy is influencing the alien movement paths both against the ground and air opponents. Much of the meat of the game will be spent here strategizing, and as appropriately so, you’re given as much times as needed to prepare for an incoming wave. You see, all of your towers can be moved at will, and as you can see the paths of enemies in the upcoming waves you’re able to also take your ship and blast down buildings, bridges, and other structures if you want to change up those paths right before the start of an enemy advance too. It’s this highly dynamic system that allows every mission to feel quite freeform in strategy while also keeping you on your toes in responding to ever-changing map conditions.
The other primary gameplay mechanic here is that of a twin-stick shooter. Unlike many tower defense games, where you’re just charged with placing towers from a ‘god-perspective’, X-Morph puts you in control of a powerful and nimble spaceship with the ability of morphing and utilizing a gnarly arsenal of upgradable weapons like powerful missile salvos and singularity bombs capable of making projectiles and tanks quickly disappear. Environments have been crafted to allow your spacecraft the opportunities to create new barriers by blasting down skyscrapers, or knocking out entire pathways via bombing bridges as you see fit. In various missions you’ll also be pitted against massive boss enemies that come in different forms. These huge mechanized combatants are formidable opponents against your ship, and you’ll often be required to knock out portions of these robots before exposing critical parts that can cripple them before they reach your core. Honestly, this is one of the most fun spaceships I’ve flown around in this type of game, and coupled with the insane physics and damage systems, it’s a treat to dive into any mission.
This dynamic damage system also ends up being a keystone of this game, and a technical marvel on the Switch platform. The developers haven’t been shy about headlining the fact that this game runs heavily optimized without really any visual sacrifices on the platform both in TV mode and handheld. I will admittedly say that when I first saw the game trailers and videos on the eShop, I was a bit skeptical that it would translate that well to the system. Regrettably oftentimes ported games from PC to Nintendo platforms don’t always make up for the performance hits. It is with total assurance that I can say X-Morph: Defense delivers 100% on an amazingly beautiful and buttery smooth gameplay experience even when dozens of units are on screen blasting each other. PhysX buildings and structures are collapsing into heaps of pieces, and real-time lighting makes a battle look like a million fireworks going off. Not once did I ever encounter frame rate drops, stuttering or anything else to ruin the experience, which as I said, is a marvel of game development here given the high visual quality this game offers.
However, one drawback I did find was that given the visual fidelity and the amount of simulations running and such, the battery life when in handheld mode does seem to take a hit. On average, I found that playing an entire mission consisting of 5 waves, and about 15min. or so of gameplay would drain roughly 25% of my battery and did make the Switch a bit toasty in the hands. So, if you can play this in TV mode primarily, you’ll definitely get more of a binge session in.
Not only does the game offer stunning, highly complex visual details during gameplay, that entire presentation is carried over into their front-end menus as well. Sparks, lightning, flames, and pulses all make up one of the liveliest UI’s I’ve seen on this platform to date. The game comes off with a Transformers vibe, and certainly the alien commander has that All-Spark, Megatron-infused voice and style to him and this all works well to create a gritty sci-fi packaged game.
When you do start indulging in the game, you’ll realize conquering the world is going to take you some time as there’s a ton of content offered. The story mode has you bounding around 14 global locations, with each mission consisting of 5+ waves to conquer, all increasing in difficulty. When you’ve accomplished this, you can dive into any unlocked territories in a Survival mode as well to see how long you can hold out against advancing human forces. And should you exhaust all of that, the game will be offering 3 DLC packages as well with a variety of new missions, new locations, and new survival challenges.
The team over at EXOR Studios has clearly put the time and effort into creating a tailored Nintendo Switch experience with their game. Although X-Morph was released a few years ago on PC and also on other consoles already, there’s always challenges to overcome when heading into a new platform, and I commend this developer for making sure their game performs just as spectacularly here as it does elsewhere. X-Morph: Defense for me shows off some serious capabilities of the Switch system, while also offering a benchmark tower defense experience and exciting gameplay for each wave you encounter. Invading Earth comes with some serious style, and I definitely recommend checking this game out.
X-Morph: Defense Review
Final Thoughts: EXCELLENT
X-Morph: Defense brings a visually stunning and polished tower defense meets twin-stick shooter game to the Nintendo Switch. I loved the dynamic free-form tactics I was able to employ in every mission, and there’s just a lot of refined gameplay here. That coupled with so many visual effects happening in every battle, it created one of the most chaotically fun experiences I’ve had yet on this platform. For an MSRP of $19.99, I consider this a steal for an excellent game.
Alex has been actively gaming since the release of the Nintendo. Turning passion into profession, he’s spent just over a decade in game development, and is currently the Creative Director at a studio.