Wild Seas review

In a short space of time, publisher Afil Games has carved out an identity by releasing inexpensive auto-shooters and tower defence games. It isn’t clear if they’re actively seeking these kinds of games to publish, hoping to stumble on the next Vampire Survivors, or if it’s simply a case of indie developers currently favouring these genres. So far, they haven’t hit the big leagues – although we did find enjoyment in the above average Primal Survivors – and sadly, Wild Seas isn’t going to be the game that changes that. No seas of change indeed.

First impressions of this 2D tower defence game are positive enough. It looks like something that may hold some value, sporting vibrant and appealing pixel art; reminiscent of the chunky aesthetic found on Game Boy Advance. Our crocodile hero – trying to protect a magical crystal from pirates and brutes – has a delightfully gormless expression, and the controls are easily comprehended. Moreover, the basic loop seems entertaining enough initially: smash wooden boxes to acquire gold, purchase an array of projectile-spewing turrets that can be placed freely, and occasionally deal with enemies directly with a whack of the croc’s club. Between waves, there’s a moment of calm to collect gold, place more turrets, and hopefully find an upgrade token. There’s even a bit of nuance here, with the said club able to deflect the enemy’s projectiles, eventually unlocking an achievement named ‘Jedi’ for deflecting 100 in total.

Wild Seas review

But while we were experimenting and learning the ropes during the first stage – unlocking dozens of easy achievements in the process – we were hit with a sudden realisation. The first stage entails everything Wild Seas has to offer. Well, kind of – bear with us. There are a bunch of levels to beat, each with a boss, but all content after the first stage is meaningless; by the time you finally beat the boss, after half a dozen attempts, you’ll either have every achievement unlocked or be so sick of Wild Seas that you’ll never want to play it again. Or quite possibly a case of both.

The best way to describe Wild Seas is as a proof of concept. That first stage, boss and all, may as well be a test level – something a developer uses to check functionality. You can purchase turrets and place them, and progress to the boss, but there’s no strategy or tact. Turrets fire in multiple directions, so it doesn’t matter where they’re placed – a bullet will eventually hit its target, and enemies tend to congregate. There are eight turrets to purchase, but the differences between them aren’t highlighted. Presumably, some have increased stopping power; I can’t say for certain. Land mines don’t seem to function either, and there’s no enemy counter to indicate when a wave is about to end, often resulting in precious seconds being wasted.

The killing blow is how Wild Seas handles health. At first, it isn’t clear if you should be engaging enemies directly or letting the turrets do the dirty work. It soon transpires to be the latter, as bigger enemies can pack quite a wallop and health is randomly placed in random chests. You may get lucky and find a surplus or be very unlucky and find none. Enemies can drop health too, but amidst a sea of incoming bullets and jabbing swords, it can be unsafe to head out mid-wave to collect drops…and if you wait too long, say to the end of a wave, they’ll vanish. This meant spending entire waves cowering behind the crystal, in fear of getting hit by even a single bullet.

Wild Seas review

There are other irregularities, such as no ‘Game Over’ screen – death simply sees the screen wipe, and the map reset to wave one. That’s to say, there are no checkpoints. And because turret upgrade tokens are yet another random drop there’s no scope to form strategies here when it comes to fortifying. Cross your fingers and hope the pick-up Gods look upon you favourably during that round. Oh, and ‘coins’ are called ‘cons’ on the help board.

While Wild Seas may look a little nicer than other games in a similar price bracket, that only makes the disappointment all the more bitter. After luring you in with its tidy pixel art, you’re presented with something that lacks the features we’ve come to expect in a tower defence game, being so barren that it feels like a work in progress. Worryingly, this appears to be a part of a bigger trend of releasing low budget games that seem more like prototypes than finished products. We don’t expect much from something costing £4, but in this instance, even a basic but functionary tower defence game was too much to ask.

DuDeeki Studio’s Wild Seas is out now on consoles. Published by Afil Games. A PC version is also available.