Mark Twain once said that "There is no such thing as a new idea", and if he ever needed proof he may have looked to Block Fortress. But, despite its derivative nature, developer Foursaken Media's mix of FPS, tower-defense, and Minecraft, does manage to entertain.
Three great tastes in one
Block Fortress's blend of genres combines strategic planning with (in later stages) intense FPS action as you and up to three friend (connected locally or online) try to defend your HQ in a 3D sandbox world. Starting on an empty map you must first choose where to construct your base. On some stages your choice of site proves simple – for example, on top of a mountain - while on some other stages just finding an area that isn’t exposed feels like an achievement.
Your next step is building a HQ from a set of destructive blocks. At first you have a limited assortment, with granite blocks and machinegun turrets forming the foundation of your tools. As you level-up you unlock all kinds of additional materials, such as metal walls for better defense, plasma guns, and even my personal favorite the howitzer - a great way to thin the oncoming forces.
Once your defenses are in place, you can begin the combat. Waves of enemies swarm towards your tower, and you are dropped into a first person combat view. Using your own guns as cover, you find yourself picking out the most dangerous targets rather than just hoping your automated guns find them.
Bangs and blocks
Creating your fortress feels like playing Minecraft in create mode. You float around with total freedom of movement, able to place blocks anywhere you want on the map. This allows you to make colossal structures with relative ease, though at times the mix of navigation and block placement can prove tricky on touchscreen.
In the main "survival" mode your resources are frustratingly restricted, limiting your towers development. To earn more resource you must battle waves of enemies and defend your tower. A simple map indicates the direction from which the next wave approach, allowing you to prepare your defenses.
Both you and your tower have health, so you must keep a close eye on these as combat begins and you start darting in and out of the foray to defend the tower. Unfortunately, on the touchscreen the first-person controls are more than a little fiddly - and made all the worse by the look and shoot buttons being mapped to the same area of the screen.
Block Fortress's Minecraft stylings do little to set the world on fire with a color palate and draw distance that combine to give a dingy look. Even as you construct your soaring structure, it’s hard to feel proud of its muddied appearance.
On the plus side, the visual limitations do allow for a fantastic level of freedom in the construction of your world – and the ability to flood the screen with attacking enemies - without any graphical slow down.
Building the fun
It may not master any of its elements, but Block Fortress's melding of genres surprised us, grabbing our attention keeping use involved in its take on tower-defense.