Rock of Ages

[E3 2011] Solid as a Rock

Rock of Ages helped us re-imagine tower defense. Here's our hands-on impressions.
Author: Sam Bishop
Published: June 16, 2011
Like bald space marines and zombie shooters, the humble tower defense trope seems like it's in danger of being over-exposed just a few years after it became a staple of indie development and more than a few PSN releases. It's understandable, of course; building a game around propping up a bunch of defensive towers in an effort to keep streams of enemies from making it to your home base is a simple, easily tweaked concept that has, above all else, proven to be undeniably fun.

But, again, it's something that's been done and redone so many times across multiple platforms that when something like Comet Crash comes along and adds more than just passive offense to things, that "just one more try" addiction really starts to burn again. Enter Rock of Ages, which does the idea of sending units back to your enemy's base while you build up your own one better: here, you get to fling a giant ass boulder with a face toward the enemy's castle walls.

Well, the levels we played were castle-ish, but in keeping with its moniker, Rock of Ages will span plenty of eras, from early Greek to inspired Renaissance and beyond, but each delivered with a kind of stilted, campy, almost Monty Python-esque flavor to each of the cutscenes that helps set up the time period and what we hope is a tiny narrative thread (E3 isn't exactly conducive to clear audio, even with headphones).

All that really means for the player is that while they're busily burning through funds raised by smashing through enemy defenses before slamming into their main gate in order to build up their own defenses, a massive stone ball (yes, with a face) is being chiseled by whatever era-appropriate cartoony masses at your disposal. It's an entirely hands-off project; the ball is being made more or less the second you've delivered the last one to the enemy's front door, so the objective then is to make the most of the ball when it's available while doing your best to keep the enemy's from slamming into your door.

While it sounds easy enough, there are plenty of things we learned to juggle early on. The economy is based on proper destruction, but building defenses is put on an even keel with applying more offence as the situation calls for it. The rock can be made from multiple materials, even wrapped in things like spikes to help increase its durability. Should the rock break or wither before it has enough momentum to slam into that enemy gate, all the time it took to build will be for naught.

On top of that, the rocks themselves are rather, well, agile -- at least in the sense that while momentum certainly plays a heavy effect on where they can go and how much of a punch they pack (imagine a heavier version of Super Monkey Ball and you're on the right track). Bear in mind, too, that the edges of the bridge connecting the two opposing sides can be downright narrow and offers a precipitous finale for the rock should it roll over the edge. So there's a challenge, yes, but also a heavy focus on strategizing. After all, when one builds a solid wall of blocking towers, one needs to consider what the incoming rock will smash through them with extra force or simply jump over. Yep, they can jump.

Sadly, we didn't have a ton of time to check things out before getting rushed into a further meeting with some of Atlus' higher-profile titles. Make no mistake, though, Rock of Ages has some serious potential. The goofy demeanor might suggest something light and simple, but if our limited hands-on time with the game is any indication, there could well be dozens of hours of "maybe if I just do this differently this time..." and as any tower defense buff knows, that's the beginning of a heady spiral into addiction -- y'know, the good kind.