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Review: Unstoppable Gorg

When we last checked in with Gorg, he was planning his brazen onslaught against the people of Earth.

The cities of man would be laid to waste, entire civilizations would be blown into red mist, and the monuments that once came to symbolize humanity's greatest achievements, would forever more serve as so many headstones - a somber memorial to a once-proud race. Gaia: Mother, provider, and if Gorg were to have anything to say about it, our tomb.

Now that the dust has settled, and Gorg's myriad misdeeds have been captured in video game form, the question remains: Is this a lovely romp through the digitized cosmos, or is Unstoppable Gorg the shame of Futuremark Studios's Finnish motherland?

The answer, as well as some fresh screenshots, awaits after the jump!

In Unstoppable Gorg, you step into the space boots of Captain Adam, the rugged, handsome face of humanity's resistance against the tyrannical Gorg. In the battle against this scaly scourge, you must marshal your defenses, and take the fight to his "unstoppable" legions. During the course of the story, unfolding in cutscenes between missions, you'll get news hot off the wire (conveyed in beautifully-delivered, old-timey tones), and encounter not only Gorg himself, but your damsel in distress, as well as a sultry seductress (played by Finland's burlesque queen, LouLou D'vil), and the cold, heartless robot that is "Radient Beem."

Unstoppable Gorg isn't a visual marvel, but the graphics get the job done. Textures are sharp and clear, and while some of the enemy units can look rather similar, particularly given your rather remote vantage point (Edit: this can be adjusted with the mouse wheel),, they are distinct enough to give you an idea of what you're up against, and which of your towers are best suited for dealing with the particular type of enemy. Sound is equally serviceable, though I did notice the bothersome tendency for sound effects to be rather uneven. Explosions, for example, are quite loud, whereas the "rat-a-tat" of machine gun fire is, at a reasonable volume, quiet enough that it almost seems absent. While minor in the larger picture, it's a persistent issue, and one that I'm hoping will be fixed some time in the future. The music lacks a bit of variety - one must also keep in mind that this is a budget-priced title - which is a shame, give its quality. Composed by Finnish artist "Stakula," whose credits include the browser-based MMO Gunshine, and PSN platformer Rochard, the few tracks fit the mood perfectly, bringing an air of suitable silliness, and having faint echos of JG Thirlwell (perhaps best known for his contributions to Venture Bros.), particularly his project, "Steroid Maximus."

The gameplay of Unstoppable Gorg is, at its heart, quite familiar: build your towers, manage resources, and generally blast alien ships into an adjacent layer of the multiverse until they can be blasted no more. In the pursuit of this, you are given your standard outfit of turrets, rocket launchers and the like. In addition, one needs to consider repair and support towers, the latter of which will either offer some benefit to your units or adversely affect enemies, to maximize defenses. Your towers are not stationary: rather, they can be placed in slots on concentric rings that surround your base, which can be spun to adjust your strategy on the fly. However, you can move only the rings - not individual units - so by moving one or two units to a more advantageous position, you may leave yourself exposed to enemies coming from a different angle. It's a simple mechanic, and as more and more enemies flood the screen, it actually increases the sense of desperation and you frantically go from ring to ring, trying to patch holes in your defenses, and focus on a particularly threatening wave of foes. Your towers' attacks are divided into either or physical or energy, which are more or less effective, depending on which type of enemy comes your way. Yet as fun as the "shooty-shooty, bang-bang" elements of Unstoppable Gorg can be, one should be mindful of including the aforementioned support units on the battlefield. Of particular note, and one that I glossed over like an idiot: the research lab. While completely useless in the heat of battle, it generates research points (the progress of which is noted in a bar on the top-left of the screen) that can be used to upgrade units in subsequent levels. Your available research points are cumulative, so if you've managed to get a point on levels 1-7, you will have at least seven upgrade points at the beginning of each level, for the duration of the game. It's not of vast importance to those, like myself, that favor a select few units on normal difficulty; however, for those willing to brave "Unstoppable" difficulty, having heavily-upgrades units is an absolute necessity, and does give a risk vs. reward dynamic to gameplay - particularly when money is scarce, and there are slots that could be more usefully occupied by combat or support units.

My biggest complaint, and one that is perhaps a common issue for veteran tower defense enthusiasts, is the lack of a manual targeting system. Each unit has a specific range at which it will engage enemies, and choosing to annihilate a particular enemy - your towers will simply pick a target on its own - often involves rotating your units to keep said enemy in range. While a fleeting problem early on, the torrent of enemies in later levels sometimes found me sitting helpless amidst my myriad defenses, watching helplessly as kamikaze after kamikaze flew into my base, while my turrets chose to go after less-threatening foes, or trying to adjust the position of one unit in such a way that your target is the only one in range - this becomes more and more of a trial later on - so as to dispatch the single foe that is sucking the lifeblood from your precious, precious base. It's a minor issue, and later levels do give a couple of non-tower, offensive weapons - but every now and again your enemies will get a "cheap" victory on account of your towers' ADD nature.

As I mentioned earlier, the game is pretty familiar territory - but that's not at all to say it's trite. While one might yawn at "another tower defense game," Unstoppable Gorg does what it does very well, aside from some minor gripes, and definitely has enough content and enjoyment to justify its asking price. It took me a few days of moderate play to get through the campaign - not counting "medal" (the in-game equivalent of an achievement) hunting - and does feature some additional content. "Arcade" mode pits you against endless waves of enemies, which you will have to dispatch using units you have unlocked during the main campaign. There are no power generators available; rather, you must maintain your arsenal and build new units using money that is given to you between waves - all in the interest of that elusive "high score." "Challenge" mode is suitably challenging, altering certain gameplay factors, such as giving enemies a one-hit kill against your base, or causing your rings to rotate on their own, thus stripping you of your ability to manipulate them , and effectively putting all units in orbit around the base. These Challenges can be unlocked by earning "Investor" medals, rewarded for generating a set amount of money in a given level, and are definitely fun enough to justify their inclusion.

The cinematic sequences, rather than being throwaway bits of fluff between levels, have an undeniable charm that make them most enjoyable to watch. Production values are artfully cheesy, with flying saucers "floating" as though being suspended by wires, model rockets lumber gracelessly across the firmament, and the "newsreel" segments harken back to World War II-era, American propaganda. Granted, the old-timey, sci-fi weirdness of Old World Blues is fresh in our collective memory, and games like Command and Conquer have done the cheesily-militaristic cutscenes before, but Unstoppable Gorg is clever and well-written enough to succeed on its own merits.

When I first wrote about the game, I was rather charmed at its premise, and was ever-so-hopeful that the final product would live up to at lest some of my expectations. Thankfully, it largely has. Aforementioned issues aside, the game is well made, charming, and most important of all, very fun. Its story embraces the ludicrous aspects of its subject matter - sci-fi films of yesteryear, and the comically jingoistic tenor of wartime propaganda - but beneath its flourishes, Unstoppable Gorg is an intuitive and terribly addictive game, with a challenge rating that ranges from beginner-friendly to comically difficult, and enough replay value to give you more than your money's worth.

Unstoppable Gorg is currently available for $8.99 on Steam (until January 26th, after which it will be available for $9.99), and is compatible for both PC and Mac. Those with an iPad can snatch up the title for $4.99 through the App Store, and 360 users can expect a release "first half of 2012 depending on Xbox certification process," for a yet-unspecified price.

For those looking to enjoy the Gorg-ness on PC, the system requirements are as follows:

Pentium4 (2GHz) or athlon64 (1.6GHz)

1GB memory

NVIDIA 6600 or ATI X700, 256MB GPU memory

Windows XP SP3

So if you enjoy tower defense games, or simply wish to gleefully fritter away your free time like some kind of tech-savvy hermit, check out Futuremark Studios's Unstoppable Gorg! - and as a closing thought, since we are in the midst of "politics season," I strongly urge all of you to forsake the tyranny of the two-party duopoly and vote, as one of my fellow Minnesotans did, for the "Lizard People" ticket.

Vote Gorg in 2012: "Change your puny mind can scarcely fathom."

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