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GemCraft Labyrinth, The Best Tower Defense Game

Updated on November 17, 2011

I'm a bit of a traditional gamer. Although I thoroughly enjoy shooting people and setting them on fire in Team Fortress 2 and am eagerly waiting for some good old dragon hunting in upcoming Guild Wars 2, I still have a very soft spot for board games and the kind of gaming enjoyment they bring you.

However, there are games online (and offline) which can give you this "board game" mental buzz even though they are mostly played solitaire. These are flash puzzle games which are dime a million and sometimes it is hard to wade through the sea of dross most of these games are. My favorite genre are the Tower Defense games where, in a reversal of classic video game formula, it is you who is building the game level obstacles in order to stop an invasion of various nasty creatures.

I must say I fell in love with the concept the first time I encountered it, but I was quickly disillusioned by terribly low quality most of those games are. It is not only the graphics, which are understandably severely limited by flash platform, but the way those games are simply not developed enough from a game design perspective. In short, they all lack depth. Luckily, after some months of futile searching I found...

GemCraft Labyrinth - The Best Tower Defense Game

What makes GemCraft Labyrinth so special?

Well for starters, it has enormous depth. But more on that later.

Secondly, for a free online game it is extremely well polished. The graphics are subdued in color but this gives the game a special atmosphere of its own. For example, the ambient sound is that of rain and a distant storm approaching.. giving you a strange relaxed feeling. Even if you're taking a quick 5 minute break in a busy office cubicle, the combination of sound and autumn colors quickly and imperceptibly transports you into another, more comfy world. Maybe a snug, warm log cabin in the woods where you're solving puzzles on you pc and listening to the storm approaching.

The only real flaw I can find with the game is its distribution model. It is a classical flash browser-based game published by Armor Games and while you can play it for free from anywhere you still need to go through a tortuous process of buying the premium edition in order to access all the battle settings and skills which really are necessary if you want to complete the game.

If I could give an advice to the authors of the game it would be that they should consider porting it to some other online game distribution service such as Steam or maybe even XBox Live. I would gladly pay some five to ten bucks to be able to play this game offline and without a web browser.

Is GemCraft Labyrinth the Best Tower Defense Game Right Now?

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The Depth

The Labyrinth has enormous depth. There is no other way of describing it without going into a logorrhea. You've got your 169 completely different game levels to study. You have your own character levels that you can advance. You can buy different skills to personalize your playstyle. The gems, their combinations and various towers and traps and stuff you can combine them with... Each level has more than a score of different options to tweak the difficulty. There are achievements... and they tie directly into the xp and skills... and there is even a story!

It is probably the most replayable flash game I've ever encountered. I've been playing it for nine months now and it's still going strong. It's just amazing!

There is something almost Tetris or even Civilization-like to it. Even when you manage to complete the story (and it takes a loooong time) you just have to try that favorite level just one more time to see whether you can make just a little bit better.... And did I mention online leaderboards?

I'm really not in the habit of gushing but GemCraft leaves me speechless. You can really see that someone actually put a lot of hard thought and warm love into this game. If you play just one tower defense game in your life then this must be it.

...and there are even walkthroughs and fan videos!

Are There Any Mainstream Tower Defense Games?

Well, I'm glad you asked since this often overlooked genre started getting quite a lot of attention recently, especially since the massive and quite unexpected success of Plants vs Zombies, a simplified and humorous take on tower defense games.

Since then tower defense games really started taking off, with at least two "proper" games being released now - Dungeon Defenders and Orcs Must Die! They are both hybrids of rpg/fps and tower defense genres with unique gameplay styles of their own.


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    • collegeman2 profile image

      collegeman2 5 years ago from long island NY

      I gotta check this game out; I love tower defense, but like you said, there is a lot of crap out there. You should check out Defense Grid the Awakening on steam. It isnt free, but I have seen it go on sale for less than 2 dollars and it is a fantastic TD game. Ive dumped dozens of hours into it. If you try it tell me what you think and ill tell you what I think of gemcraft.

    • ultimateteam11 profile image

      ultimateteam11 6 years ago from Hillsborough, Northern Ireland

      brilliant hub, i really understand what your saying here and i really agree, voted up and useful!