Deathtrap PC Review
The world was once under constant threat of creatures of unimaginable evil storming the lands and laying waste to its inhabitants by breaking through portals from another world; the Ink. Although, the long-since-lost civilisation who took it upon themselves to stop these demons were not so easily defeated. It seems that they discovered the areas of the world where the rifts could be torn open and built strongholds full of traps to keep the enemies at bay before they could do any real damage. Unfortunately, that was then, and this is now. The civilisation that made the arenas are no longer around and the portals have begun to open once again. Now it is the task of the hero(es) to stop the advances of these nightmares using their own strength and trap-engineering skills. But let’s be honest, the story really doesn’t matter.
Deathtrap is a game that I had anticipated from the developers of The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing I and II, as the tower-defence mechanics were used for small sections in each of those games. Of course they were no where near as fleshed out as they are now, with the new trap towers and creative level design that keeps you on your toes rushing back and forth trying to manage enemy advancement.
As with any tower defence game, enemies will move along set paths towards your home bases, taking damage off of it when they arrive, eventually leading to its collapse and resulting in a game over. Your goal is to destroy the invaders before they can get that far by placing traps at key points around the map and entering the battle yourself as a hero. Placing and upgrading traps costs ‘essence’ which is level-temporary currency that’s gained from killing enemies and completing waves. There are many types of traps that can be unlocked by completing certain tasks like ‘killing 300 enemies with fire’. They all have unique weaknesses, strengths, and stats and range from anywhere between saw-blade launchers to time-stasis fields. Personally, I love the freeze towers that slow down nearby enemies whilst also doing continuous damage, and the werewolf summon trap that creates a band of werewolves that will help you in battle.
One thing to mention is that the combat remains the same from the Van Helsing saga and is exactly what you’d expect from a ‘Diablo’ game (yes, ‘Diablo’ is a genre now), but that wasn’t the focus here, so it was nice and comfortable to be able to start the game with little-to-no training in that field. In fact, the complete ensemble of basic action-RPG elements are at work here – classes, levels, a full set of items to equip and upgrade etc, once again helping me slip into that familiar place and instead focus on the new.
When you first begin there are 3 classes to choose from – a warrior, a sorceress and a hunter, all with different stats, equipment and most importantly skills. Each class requires a completely different style of play and tactics to use, from the warrior being a tank that can tackle a horde of on-comers with little worry about health, to the hunter being fast and nimble, requiring more strategy and long-range combat manoeuvres. Each class begins with two basic attacks, with the secondary consuming mana that each hero needs to recover in a specific way. For example, killing enemies or exiting combat to recuperate. From there on you can complete missions to gain skill points and trap points, which are earned separately, to spend on new passive or active skills, buy new traps or upgrade the ones you currently have unlocked. Skills vary from boosting a selected trap’s damage output to dashing through a group of enemies and freezing them in place so you can get in some massive attacks.
The game becomes increasingly difficult as maps become harder to defend due to more enemies simultaneously attacking, portals beginning to open from all directions leaving you surrounded, and being pitted against more ferocious beasts with special skills of their own. And that’s not even the tip of the iceberg. Each of the 13 campaign arenas has 3 levels of difficulty, each of which has 4 tiers. If that’s still not enough there is also an endless mode per arena and 5 ‘scenario’ arenas that allow you to select your own difficulty parameters for an increased reward, such as starting a scenario with enemies that have 30% more health but gaining more experience or enemies dropping 15% less essence but earning more gold at the end of the round.
One of the first thoughts/concerns I had before playing Deathtrap was that I’d only enjoy it multi-player because of its simplicity, much like I did with Iron Brigade and Sanctum, but it felt like a completely different experience alone. On one hand I was working as a team and communication was easily the most important factor for success. Discussing where we needed to centre our attacks and the best strategic placement for traps, trap types and upgrades was absolutely imperative by only halfway through the campaign. And that was on casual! On the other hand, I was alone and needed to more strategically place myself and my traps around the arena, but more importantly I had to trust my traps to finish enemies off before they reached a base. I knew I couldn’t kill everything by myself so I needed to just beat enemies down enough for my traps to finish them off whilst I moved on to handle another lane. That was a very unique feeling compared to other tower-defence games I’ve played. I had to constantly be aware of how my traps were controlling the onslaught, and I liked that.
Deathtrap is a game that, although it may sound cliche, is easy to pickup but very difficult to master. And if you do happen to master it, you can go on to have endless hours of fun online with its Steamworks level editor that allows anybody to create and share new arenas within the community. I haven’t even mentioned the online versus mode where one player gets to control the ebb and flow of enemies whilst the other continues as the hero and needs to defend their bases. There is a lot on offer from Deathtrap and although much of it feels used, it certainly feels nice to just slip into that safe zone and simply just enjoy what you have in front of you.