Sentinel 4 features challenging game play based on an alien world. As you move around the planet you defend your base from the various attacking armies with the help of a variety of units and your Commander who himself can be upgraded and swapped out as the game progresses.
If you aren’t familiar with tower defence games then let’s have a quick run through. In tower defence games you typically have to defend your base, or tower, from an ever increasing horde of would-be invaders. You get a range of units that you can deploy on the map, each with strengths and weaknesses and each with it’s own upgrade options. There tends to be two distinct approaches seen in tower defence games, the open map and the fixed map. Open map gives you a large playing area and allows you to place your units where-ever you like – you’d normally use them to build corridors of death and destructions for your attackers to wade through. Fixed map games allow you to position your units only in certain areas and the attackers always come down certain paths. Sentinel 4 Dark Star very much takes the fixed map approach, and Sentinel 3 was one of the best examples of a fixed map tower defence game you could find.
Sentinel 4 Dark Star builds on the work of Sentinel 3 by adding a range of new upgrade options and one time power ups. These are powered by collecting star fragments within the game and, of course, you can buy additional star fragments via in-app purchases. Add to this a progression in the storyline and you have the core of Sentinel 4 Dark Star, an evolution on Sentinel 3 Homeworld for devoted players, rather than any radical revolution of the game.
The type of available units remain broadly the same with the laser unit still featuring as your basic unit. There’s been slight adjustments to the usefulness of each unit – in Sentinel 3 Homeworld the basic laser tower could be upgraded to a weapon that seemed far too powerful. In Sentinel 4 these minor issues have been resolved.
My only issue with the playability really is that there seems to be a chasm between the difficulty on normal and hard. Normal is a walk in the park, it’s safe, dull and you will never ever be beaten. On Hard it’s easy until about half way through where it just smacks you in the face with a tower defence shaped wall of pain.
The graphics are reasonable and appear to be little changed on the previous release. They could do with being a bit…more. You only see the quality of them when you zoom in, which you rarely need to do, and as a result the graphical work doesn’t stand out like it should. There are other games in the genre that manage to pull of fantastic graphics and challenging game play.
The maps are decent enough and well drawn out but it would be nice if they were more detailed – perhaps there could be an HD version in the future.
Audio is way down on the list of reasons why you should get Sentinel. Any of you that love playing mobile games for the portable audio experience aren’t going to add this to your Christmas list. It’s arguable that people don’t play tower defence games for the sound but even so, more could have been done.
I would have liked more ambient sound, particularly from your Commander who helps defend your structures. Hearing a few well chosen words of encouragement, or shouts of pain or demands for reinforcements would really make the sound worth turning up. A few “VICTORY!” audio congratulations wouldn’t have gone a-miss and instead when you slog through a touch level you just get shown a simple thumbs up. A little more audio detail would have gone a long way.
I loved the previous release, Sentinel 3 Homeworld, which I’ve played through several times across a number of devices. I’ve been beating my head against Sentinel 4 for several weeks now on the harder levels and I still love it. It’s challenging, difficult, and the new upgrades and power ups add reasons to revisit levels. But I love it for more or less the same reasons as I loved Sentinel 3. Other than a few additional bits here and there little has changed.
I hoped for some new spin on the game play, some graphics that made my phone melt with the power needed to make the HD goodness come alive. The audio really hasn’t changed much and I would kill for some actual audio-personality.
Sentinel 4 Dark Star is well worth buying and it will provide you with many hours of mind breakingly hard tower defence glory. For those of us who played through Sentinel 3, and love the genre, it wasn’t as much as we were hoping for and I hope that Sentinel 5 brings the enhancements we crave.