This week’s game is the Gemcraft series produced by Game in a Battle in cooperation with Armor Games. The series consists of the original Gemcraft, the prequel Gemcraft: Chapter 0, and the most recent entry Gemcraft Labyrinth.

The Gemcraft games are tower defense games that are very true to the genre. There is a path along which you place defensive structures. Monsters walk along this path trying to reach the goal at the end, and killing monsters grants you currency to buy and upgrade defenses.

In the first Gemcraft game, you play a mage trying to stop a great evil mage who is loosing his minions of darkness (monsters) on the villages of the kingdom. The gameplay is pretty basic in this installment, yet still enjoyable. It starts with basic mechanics that are used throughout the series; your defenses consist of empty towers into which you place gems that you build (Gem crafting). These gems do basic damage to the monsters and can be of several different colors that each have a unique secondary effect (such as paralyzing monsters for a short amount of time, splash damage, mana generation, etc). You also have a mana pool that slowly increases over time and is filled by each monster you kill. This mana can be spent on gems or other defense structures. Gems can be combined to create higher powered gems and gems with two secondary effects. You can also drop “gem bombs” onto the field by sacrificing a gem in exchange for an area of splash damage to the monsters. One of the features that appears only in this installment is the “moat”. By spending some mana you can place a moat on the path that slows monsters down. This is replaced in Gemcraft Chapter 0 with the more robust “gem trap”. As you complete the many, many levels, you gain skills points which can be spent on improving the various aspects of the game (mana regen, gem damage, secondary effect power, etc).

Gemcraft. As you can see, fairly simple UI with straight forward pathing.

The second installment follows the story of the events that lead up to the first gemcraft game. Chapter 0 brought many improvements to the game and is the installment that really separates it from other tower defense games. Several UI changes improved functionality while the addition of traps allows for stronger secondary effects at the cost of damage and range. Thus if you put a slow gem in a trap it creates a trap that slows monsters more efficiently than a tower with a slow gem. Challenge modes for each level were also added, expanding the replay value significantly over the first game.

Chapter 0: You can see many changes to the UI and the pathing is much more complex.

The current installment, Gemcraft Labyrinth, it a tangential story that, while not on my main branch, does add some girth to the Gemcraft world. There are a few changes to the gems, as well as the addition of being able to build walls the redirect monsters, amplifiers that power up adjacent towers, and shrines (where as in chapter 0 shrines couldn’t be built but were in some levels). Also, instead of challenge modes, the game features a difficulty multiplier. Each map is given a base XP value that can be multiplied by changing the difficulty of the map using a variety of selectable settings that appear just before each map is started. Your performance in each map can increase this multiplier so that you can attain rather huge amounts of mana.

Gemcraft Labyrinth: UI has been upgraded again, and pathing is even more complex, and dynamic with the addition of walls.

Labyrinth is the first of the three that actually has a set of features locked away that is only available for a $5 fee. For such a good series I find $5 a small investment to both unlock these features and to support the production of Gemcraft 2, which is being worked on right now. The other two versions of gemcraft have some features that are locked away so that they are only available if you play the game at Armor Games (the links earlier). Not a big deal, really.

The series is by far one of my favorites among the browser games and has certainly absorbed their fair share of play time. I highly recommend them for both the veteran and newbie of tower defense games.

-Confusion is a state of mind, or is it?