Hell Warders combines the tower defense and action RPG genres and adds nothing original to either of them, resulting in a mostly dull experience.
Hell Warders is an interesting experiment in the tower defense genre. Instead of placing players in an outsider-looking-in perspective and tasking them with placing various defenses around a specific area, Hell Warders takes a different approach. Before starting the (admittedly short) campaign, a hero character is chosen with attributes (like health and damage) similar to what you'd see in a standard RPG. This character can be changed any time between missions (there are three classes with different abilities between them), where more attribute points and buffs called artifacts can be applied as well. It's a rather ingenious idea to combine two genres like tower defense and third person action RPGs into one hybrid experience. Unfortunately, the execution does not measure up to the ambitious premise.
After finishing character selection, players take on the role of the Hell Warder they chose and face waves of demons. Between these waves, they can use accumulated experience points to strategically place more troops to better defend their tower. Instead of just watching the action play out, their Hell Warder avatar participates in the action and can be the defining force of combat, not unlike in Dungeon Defenders.
The combat however, is so repetitively boring that some players will be wishing they could just sit back and watch their placed troops do all the work for them. Executing any sort of combat seemingly takes forever to complete and the A.I. of enemy demons and friendly troops is predictable and poorly designed. If an enemy is just outside of a troop's range of attack, that unit will simply stand there and let the demon run on by and decimate your tower. It's one of the most immersion-breaking parts of the game.
Attribute points can be used to offset the clunky combat (via Attack Rate) but the attribute points system is poorly implemented and it never feels like you're earning enough between missions. There's an argument to be made that the player character shouldn't become too much of a powerhouse too fast but when players are already starting out limited by slow, monotonous combat, there's the sense that Hell Warders aims to be frustrating and dated for the sake of it.
Playing with friends alleviates this somewhat (Hell Warders allows up to four people to play at once online) but as a solo experience, it's hard to recommend the title at all. While the campaign in Hell Warders is on the shorter side, every mission is almost exactly the same: show up at a new location, place troops, defeat waves of enemies while defending the tower, and then repeat.
The game throws in small curveballs once in a while like a new troop type or a bigger, badder enemy demon, but the inherent structure is always the same. The enemies themselves are more like glorified sword sponges with health bars that take ages to deplete. Demons use the same strategy over and over again without any real surprise or perceived thought of tactics. After the first few hours, not even the once fresh hybridization of action RPG and tower defense is enough to suppress the realization that Hell Warders is painfully generic in almost every conceivable way.
Perhaps Hell Warders would be a slightly more bearable title if it were more interesting to look at. Graphically speaking, the game is grainy, unrefined and looks more akin to an RPG title released in the PlayStation 2 era of gaming rather than something that would see the light of day in 2019. There's nothing wrong with going for a retro graphics style, but Hell Warders is so dreadfully disappointing in every other area that maybe some top-notch visuals would have at least helped better cover up its various technical shortcomings.
What it comes down to is the sneaking suspicion that Hell Warders is so focused on trying to be unique by crashing two different gaming styles into each other that it forgot about perfecting the mechanics essential to making either genre actually enjoyable. This makes for an end result that is depressingly hollow, incomplete and lacking any sense of fun or wonder, and certainly grades below other games which offers this mix of genres. As a concept, Hell Warders is potentially compelling and fresh, but as a finished product, it's just dull and forgettable.
Hell Warders releases March 20 on Xbox One for $14.99. It was previously released on PlayStation 4 and PC. Screen Rant was provided an Xbox One copy for the purposes of this review.