A Gem of a Follow Up
We rarely find 'expansions' of casual browser games to be worth any time. After all, with the already small size of these games, those "extra levels" should have been included in the first place. While the same does still apply to Cursed Treasure, we cannot ignore the fact that the expansion managed to get us all excited over the concept of being able to play more stages. The original had a great balance of challenge, fun and most importantly, replayability, and this 15 level expansion pack provides even more to that experience.
Okay, for those of you unfortunate tower defense fans who have not played the original Cursed Treasure game, stop now, open up a new browser tab or window and play the first one. It is undoubtedly good -particularly if you are a big fan of the genre. Cursed Treasure is one of the best tower defense titles you will find and it would be a big miss if you have not experience playing it. Sadly, the expansion pack will not carry over your progress from the original Cursed Treasure game (which means you will need to earn experience points all over again). But it does get you all prepped up and ready to play this much more challenging sequel -also, the original is a little bit longer too. Ultimately, playing the first then this expansion pack provides an intensive and fun gaming experience, so we really suggest that you try it out.
And now that you have (hopefully), finished the original Cursed Treasure, we can move on to the fun parts of this new level pack. Being a tower defense game, there is very little in the Cursed Treasure Level Pack that needs much of an introduction. But in case you are not familiar with the genre, then now is as good a time as any to learn. The concept of tower defense is simple: you build "towers" in order to stop enemies from acquiring a certain goal that you are defending. While this may seem a little vague, this is the core working concept for all tower defense titles. Variations come in play when details of the "towers", "enemies" and "objective" are defined; some games allow towers to be built virtually anywhere on the screen, others will limit you to specific locations, some enemies aim to destroy a certain target, others simply intend to get to the other side of the stage.
In Cursed Treasures' case, you place defensive towers on special tiles that surround the pathway where the enemies will be passing on. Your goal is to prevent enemies from stealing your treasure (a pile of gems). If enemies survive the attacks from your towers, they will grab one of your treasure gems and attempt to bring it to their spawn point. And while it is possible to kill an enemy holding your gem, the gem will simply drop to the floor and it can be easily taken by another enemy. If you lose all your gems, you lose the stage. But if you manage to survive all the waves with at least one gem still in play, then you can proceed to the next map.
Preventing waves and waves of creatures from carrying off your treasure gems is not an easy task. You need to strategically plan where you will be placing your defensive towers and managing your gold resources in deciding whether to upgrade existing buildings or to construct new ones. In between, you also determine how to spend your mana pool -deciding which spells to cast in order to adapt to the current situation of the battlefield.
A Simplified Look
As we originally mentioned, the combat and strategy elements of the Cursed Treasure series has been simplified -which means it requires less memorization and more on-the-fly logic from the players. This is a pretty good way to start, since you spend less time number crunching and more time actually enjoying the game.
Determining tower positions has been made a lot easier with the inclusion of terrain limitations. You can only place a specific tower on a specific terrain type. The game has three tower types and thus, three corresponding terrain types. Deciding which one to place where is all a matter of observing the overall stage layout. Players will quickly learn to look for corners and chokepoints where enemy units will tend to slow down and spend the longest time within a tower's attack range. Also, some map positions also provide a better use of the tower's attack circular range (since placing a tower on the side of a path renders half the attack range ineffective). There are even a few no-brainer placement positions as well: isolated tiles in the middle of paths that you can build on as well as several high-ground tiles which mark out key areas of the map.
Occasionally, the game does throw you for a bit of a small loop by adding in mana-geysers in the map. You will need to build a tower on top of these tiles in order to increase your mana regeneration rate -but if it happens that a mana geyser is in a location that is not strategically defensive, then you are practically spending away a bit of gold. Fortunately, a good majority of the geysers are located in semi-useful locations, though expect a couple of stages to push your gold and mana budgeting limits.
As for the enemy waves, they come in specific sets and they will never overlap each other. This means that the game has no bonus for finishing a wave fast or quick (more importantly, no early wave bonuses). You will have the option to speed up time a little bit however - in order to bring in next wave as soon as you finish off the first. The most you get here is that your mana regenerates a lot (you did speed up time for a wee bit), and for that, you can have a fireball spell ready or you can cut down a few trees.
The volume of enemies that come in each wave is set, so if you are having trouble with a specific group of enemies, then it simply means that your current tower setup could use a bit of improvement. Most stages can be finished by simply restarting, changing the way you lay down towers, use spells and determine the upgrade order. At worst, you can always choose an earlier stage and rack up a bit of experience points to get permanent bonuses.
In Gaming, Familiarity is Good
There is always a sense of repetition in any game, and that is why replay value is such a big deal and repetitiveness is never truly an issue. What really matters in a game is how well we stay amused doing the same things over and over. Cursed Treasure's Level Pack has managed to keep us entertained with the satisfaction of being able to efficiently take down hordes of baddies charging in from various directions in different formations. It is an exercise in self-appreciation too; after all, how many of us would not give ourselves a nice pat on the back for cleverly placing that upgraded chilling crypt near the corner when it manages to be the main weapon that keeps the boss type waves at bay? Whether we have gotten lucky or have truly managed to pull off a systematically calculated defensive plan, there are plenty of times that the game manages to shine -and by shine, we mean putting the spotlight right at our own selves.
Sights and Sounds
By this point, many of us are already familiar with the tower defense genre. In fact, the question to be asked now is -who isn't? But despite the fact that we all already know what expect with most tower defense games, a few do manage to pull off the look so successfully. The real bottom line in any form of presentation is the visuals. As gamers, we are all highly visual people -and for those playing in libraries and offices where access to audio (even private headphones) is pretty much restricted, some will only get to experience the game exclusively through sights alone.
In that regard Cursed Treasure Level Pack manages to deliver a complete gaming experience. Even without any audio, the game is completely playable and the player is not handicapped by the lack of any audio cues. Every element on the screen is distinctly detailed. It is easy to figure out what the paths are, which tiles can accommodate towers and also, what kinds of enemies are charging in at you. In terms of function, the game leaves nothing more to be desired.
From an aesthetic point of view, the visuals of Cursed Treasure provide a polished look to the game that tells you it was made for the complete satisfaction of the players. The towers are uniquely designed; each has its own theme and style that is fairly evident just by looking at it. The dens, being designed by orcs, are designed to work well as camouflaged assault turrets in forested locations. The style is quite organic, literally, with bundles of shrubs and greenery covering most of the top and large wooden bars helping support the entire structure. The crypts, in contrast to the lively approach of the dens, are deathly blue in color. As these structures launch spirit based attacks from opponents (and judging from the game's lore, it is run by undead ghosts) it makes sense that the structure seem lifeless and rigid. The last are the temples. These desecrated structures that are made to worship demons reflect their hell-bound origins quite well too. Each structure bathes in the amber glow of molten hellfire and the brownish red walls reflect the blood-bathed skins of the demons of lore.
The rest of the game's visual elements are equally impressive as that of the towers. While the camera is locked in a top view perspective, the level of animation in the movement and the details of the various enemy sprites have been detailed. From mages to knights and even peasants, each enemy unit is uniquely drawn. Of course, our favorite visual elements are the special effects. From the rapid firing arrows of the orcish dens to the ominous magic circle that appears at an opponent's feet when hit by radiance, there are plenty of small details that can be easily missed if you do not pay attention to the little things. Put them all together and you have got the perfect eye candy to accompany Cursed Treasure's gameplay.
Summing The Game Up
As impressed and addicted as we are to the fifteen new levels that this game offers, it still lacks that massively cohesive feel that we got from the original. With its great visuals, excellent tower defense gameplay and easy to master system, Cursed Treasure Level Pack is a great game to play if you have got a hankering for a bit of a challenge and if you loved the original. Those looking for a more relaxing game with a full single player experience may want to stick to the first Cursed Treasure game instead. At the very least, this little side-sampler of a game has us hungering for a true sequel to the original.