Ninja Cats vs Samurai Dogs – What We Think:
Ninja Cats Vs Samurai Dogs is a tower defense game with a real-time strategy twist. The game may remind you of another lane-based defense game: Plants vs Zombies. Where PvZ strives to make an accessible tower defense game, Ninja Cats Vs Samurai Dogs aims for a deeper strategic experience. There is a lot that can go wrong when combining these genres, but this game manages to blend them together nicely.
Reigning Cats or Dogs
Samurai Dogs and Ninja Cats comprise the two factions you can play. Both are balanced fairly and relatively the same in terms of what they’re capable on the battlefield. There is no story besides destroy the opposing faction, which is disappointing. I felt they could have injected some extra life into the game by adding some narrative. It ends up feeling impersonal and, in spite of its stylized graphical treatment, short on personality.
The game is structured around choosing missions on a world map. All you can really do is choose which battle to embark on next. The map is large with over 65 levels, allowing you to deviate from the main path. Choosing battles that head southward focus more on Magic, choosing battles that go northward focus more on Martial.
The openness and freedom to choose where to go next was favorable, but it ultimately felt limiting; countless times I found myself not being able to complete a certain mission, which forced me to go to another level on a different path in order to progress or level up. There is a thinly veiled way in which the game wants you to complete certain missions, because you will definitely hit a wall and be forced to select battles on every path of the map.
You start off each match creating structures that will spawn cards which represent one time use: magic attacks, deployable units, structures, or traps. In order to activate cards they require a certain amount of Gold, Research or Mana. These resources are replenished by building certain specialized structures.
Feline In The Sand
The goal of the game is to protect your lanes while at the same time capturing the opposing side’s lanes. The first side to capture three lanes wins. It’s fairly simple, but the game offers enough variation, and allows you enough freedom to go about each match in a strategic fashion.
Often the game relies on your effective use of your cards. For example, cavalry units are weak against infantry units but effective against archers. It requires you to think fast and play smart. Brute-forcing your way through matches won’t work every time. After each level you are awarded experience points which help increase your profile’s level.
The game features a skill tree in where you can choose where you want to spend your skill points. One skill point is obtained every time you level up. Certain skills will require a skill point and certain orbs. There are three different types of orbs that correlate to three different skill tree paths – Martial specializes in spawning cards that can be used to upgrade units, Might focuses on your offensive cards including your units and Magic, which is geared towards magic and special ability cards.
Besides the standard battles, the game offers a different type of game mode found on the map known as Skirmishes: these work on the same lane layout as normal missions, but they don’t focus on capturing opposing lanes. You start off each Skirmish with a certain amount of one-time use cards. You have to defeat all the enemy units before they reach your side of the screen. These felt a lot like puzzles, learned through trail and error. I found this process of where and where to place certain cards in order to succeed a lot of fun.
More Than a Dog’s Breakfast
The game successfully fuses a competent battle system with real-time strategy elements. The battles are challenging and require you to deploy your best strategic efforts while managing your resources. Battles are cutthroat in the way that if you make too many mistakes, the game makes it hard to recover. It can be quite frustrating, but battles are relatively short and have a 10 minute limit, which can mitigate frustration.
The Cat’s Meow
Most of the game’s visuals take inspiration from artworks of Japan’s Endo Period. Most of the color palette in this game is calming, reminiscent of the way water colors look on canvas. Backgrounds and areas look great and I found the world map the most visually striking. I wish the same could be said for the samurai dogs, ninja cats and deployable structures; they don’t look bad per se, but they just stuck out when compared to everything else that was so particularly stylized. I would have liked to see more consistency when it came to the visual aesthetics, to create a more cohesive experience.
Before releasing on Steam, this game was available on mobile phones. The transition was smooth besides a few UI issues I encountered. Since the game was originally designed for touch screens, things like swiping the screen or drawing onscreen in order to designate a certain attack are still here. It still feels very much like a mobile game with mouse cursor controls tacked on. The fact that I had to click and drag my mouse cursor to the right to access a structure’s advanced options felt awkward. Every time I had to draw onscreen or click a certain area, it never felt as accurate as it should have been.
The controls work for the most part otherwise, but these small issues are often encountered, since the game requires you to be efficient in every facet of its nuanced mechanics.
Paws For Effect…
There is enjoyment to be had in Ninja Cats Vs Samurai Dogs. The real-time strategy aspects of this tower defense game work well enough to create an engaging experience, but there are some issues that prevent it from truly excelling above countless other tower defense games. Much like any RTS, once you learn the ins and outs, it does enough to scratch that strategic itch for anyone willing to take the plunge.