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Rating: 3.8/5 (60 votes)
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JoshIonicRecently developed by the Gaming Your Way team, Ionic is a new sci-fi strategy-shooter that joins the ranks of popular tower defense spin-offs. Many casual gamers would argue that the tower defense genre has reached a critical mass, especially after last year's colossal influx of new titles. As a result, we're seeing quite a bit of variation of the classic "creeps walking down a path" formula. In Ionic, you take the helm of a massive "Dreadnought" spaceship, fending off alien attacks by constructing various gun batteries, turrets and defensive modules. Enemy fighters simultaneously advance from both sides of an almost-ridiculously long and horizontal map, which represents the size and shape of your Dreadnought battleship.

The ultimate goal is to protect your Dreadnought's "core" from enemy attacks. It's located in the middle of your ship and has a finite amount of non-regenerative health (illustrated by the blue bar in the upper-right corner). Hit the [left] and [right] arrow keys to pan your viewing area throughout the map, or use your mouse to navigate the mini-map along the bottom (drag the slider or click an area to move instantly). Instead of the usual tower-building mechanic, weapons and modules are constructed atop various "slots" scattered across the ship's hull. To build weapons and modules on hull slots, just click the slot and choose your selection from the small build menu that appears. You can also hold [shift] while clicking an empty slot to automatically build the last weapon or module you selected.

You can view detailed information about each weapon and module by clicking the "Weapons" menu in the bottom-left corner of the screen. Below it you'll find the "Resources" menu, which represents the actions of your ship's crew. By default, 100 points are distributed evenly among four priority levels; "R&D" is the rate at which upgrades (and new weapons) become available, "Construction" dictates the speed of building and repairs, "Life Support" provides the crew's sustainment and "Cloning" gradually raises the number of available crew. The latter two attributes seem a bit ambiguous unless you read Ionic's walkthrough guide, which implies that a larger crew increases the productivity of R&D and Construction (the walkthrough warns players to keep the Cloning level equal to or below the Life Support level). Enemy fighters will continue attacking your ship in timed waves, although you can pause the game at any time by opening the aforementioned menus.

IonicAnalysis: Ionic will attract strategy-shooter and tower defense fans like moths to a flame; the "battleship" premise is unique and under-utilized in this genre, sporadically popping up in occasional gems like Orbital Decay. But hardcore fans are usually the toughest to please; strategy enthusiasts may find themselves looking for additional layers of depth, or frustrated by the seemingly-arbitrary gameplay mechanics of the Resources feature. Tower Defense veterans would have appreciated more than just one level and a "Survival" mode, in addition to a wider variety of upgrade paths and inspired combat scenarios.

Initially, the asymmetric layout of these slots might seem random or counter-intuitive, but that's where the strategic elements of Ionic come into play. In addition to an assortment of offensive weaponry, your Dreadnought also has access to quite a few defensive and "hybrid" modules to choose from. At the start of each game, you'll only have access to three modules; machine guns, laser cannons and a shield generator. Each offensive weapon has a unique function with inherent strengths and weaknesses; for example, machine guns fire multiple bursts of lighter damage, while laser canons inflict higher damage at a slower rate. The shield module will protect weapons within its radius, mitigating the incoming damage from enemy fighters. Each weapon and module can be upgraded as the game progresses, increasing damage, radius and effectiveness and allowing you to change your strategy accordingly.

Regardless of gameplay preference, movement control is particularly frustrating; we can't imagine why the developers neglected to offer the [A] and [D] keys to pan from left to right—it would have made a substantial difference in accessibility. However, despite its flaws, many casual defense fans will receive Ionic as a gratifying and stylized break from the TD norm. It's well-polished in just about every other aspect (including the sleek UI and graphics) and the pacing is easy-to-digest at 20 or 30 minutes to complete.

Play Ionic


an upgrade / repair all function would be nice, this is turning into a clickfest...


Agreed. Maybe even "upgrade all defensive" "upgrade all offensive" and definitely "repair all."

I only lost one turret though.


Thanks for the great review Josh ( btw, we normally spell "Game Your Way" as "GamingYourWay" :) ).

It made me smile your mention of A/D to scroll. Including the 3 methods of scrolling in the game, I think that's either the 7th or 8th option people have come up with.
It's quite astounding how many ways people like to interact with something as simple as a scroller ( Although to be honest your suggestion is the mildest from the ones that didn't go in ).
Def. a learning point for future games.

@charlatan & xadrian, we did look at that, but there was no good way to do it. Say there's a repair all button, and the cost to do so is greater than the credit you actually have, which ones do you repair ?
We looked at checking all the turrets with the lowest energy and repairing them, but then you could have a super expensive turret that costs the earth to repair and that would eat up all your credits.

Also the repair mechanic is part of the games risk / reward. Do you have time to repair and upgrade a turret before the next wave, or do you just opt to risk it and upgrade ?
I think if the repair and upgrade options were simplified, esp. in the case of repair, it would negate the need for having it there in the first place.

Thanks for the feedback though, hope you enjoyed giving it a go.

[Company name fixed. -Jay]


...aren't the sounds taken from paradroid (C64 Version)?


Pretty decent game, visually pretty attractive (explosions on the ship in the background, hehe).

Usability could use some attention, though: every panel needs to be clicked away with the tiny x button - clicking anywhere else to dismiss it would be more friendly. With the upgrade panels this worked - but there it backfired when clicking on another turret would first close the other upgrade panel, without immediately opening the upgrade panel for the new turret. The information panels had a lot of tiny buttons anyway, hard to click. Small details that made the interface feel very slow to use.

The enemy patterns overall felt too 'clean' and the small turret ranges and lack of cooldown indicator made the turrets feel unresponsive (machineguns could've spread their damage some more, rather than doing it in chunks - makes their ROF seem very low). Also, repair costs only increase per turret level - the amount of damage has no effect. Made me waste a lot of money repairing small damage early on.

Repair and construction didn't seem to continue when calling in another wave, which also makes me wonder about research. Is this supposed to reward patience? ;)

Also, when waiting a long time at the start, once you call in the first wave, you get a lot of upgrade messages all at once. Not sure if that has to do with the waiting, or with a previous play though.

Sorry if this feels a bit like a bug-report, I'm just hoping to give some useful feedback on an otherwise nice game. :)


Nice graphics, and pretty good interface. However, as Pieter mentioned, the turrets have a few issues.

First, I think their ranges are a bit too short. Even when your turrets are fully upgraded, enemy ships simply fly around your lines.

Mostly, though, after looking at the flamer turrets, it's pretty clear that turrets are incredibly unresponsive in general. It isn't reload time or anything, either. Turrets just can't switch targets without moving to their rest state and then pausing a further second or so. They also sometimes simply don't attack targets, as far as I can tell.


"Tower Defense veterans would have appreciated more than just one level and a "Survival" mode"

in my opinion the difficulty options add more than one level to the game
(a level is one map at one difficulty lv. so if i have 10 lvs and 3 difficulty levels, i have 30 levels to play)

nice game, i like the almost random fighter movements, as well as the descriptions of the enemies and the backstory.
(I believe that EVERY defense type game should have a beastiary...such as "when the plague came" and of course the famous amorphous+)


It's alright, I guess. I'm not much of a tower defense guy to begin with, but I'd have liked the A/D control mechanism (so much better than the arrow keys when you're using a mouse/keyboard combination). Also, it was quite the clickfest: click on a turret/whatever, click upgrade, click on another one, click upgrade, etc. Plus, they could have implemented a "repair all" button that only lit up if you could afford it (or "upgrade all", though that'd be more expensive overall). Anyway, my stats:

Score: 361910
Wave: 19
Ships destroyed: 429
Turrets built: 46
Turrets destroyed:1
Guineas spent: 22170
Guineas collected: 19515
Shots fired: 3614


Thanks for all the feedback, hopefully I can reply without coming across all defensive ( No pun intended ).

Re: Paradroid sample, well spotted. Paradroid ( C64 version ) is still one of the best games I've ever played, and that sample was just too perfect not to have in there. Part of my Braybrook worship ( Along with the dreadnought itself ).

@Pieter some excellent points there. The main thing I totally agree with is the gun cool down / reload period. After the weapons have shot their load ( So to speak ) they reset and that can be misleading and feel like the guns are dumb / non responsive ( As @Vebyast commented ) rather than reloading. That was a major oversight on my behalf.

@fsjd Thanks. The "one" level was a deliberate thing, it's meant to be a pick up and play game, leaning to my more arcade sensibilities.

@V2Blast Thanks for taking the time to post feedback. As to the repair / upgrade all buttons ( Again :) ), people weren't getting why the upgrade option was ghosted out at times, not realising that it was because they couldn't afford it even though it was available. I think having "All" buttons would open a huge can of worms, with players thinking they're were broken ( Imagine a dreadnought with 20 active towers, some expensive ones on there, it could be quite possible that you'd never have enough cash to upgrade them all by one level ).

Hopefully my replies here don't come across as "This is my art, why aren't you getting it!". I just figured it may be of interest to explain some design decisions. Some were bad, some good, some I had no option.
All the feedback has been excellent, thank you. It will all be factored into the next game ( Although that won't be a TD ;) ).


really good idea, really tedious gameplay

Anonymous March 12, 2010 10:42 AM

I couldn't see a way to get a graphic feel for where the turret ranges were. Usually, the selected turret in a TD game shows a range circle. Also, there wasn't any indication of current damage / upgraded damage. TD's need to have a clear, unambiguous indication of what you're getting when you upgrade. Exploring the tech tree is how TD players optimize their strategy by cost/benefit analysis.

Personally, I can't stand any TD game with a "repair" mechanism. Very, very few TD's have one, precisely because the charm of TD is the set-it-and-forget-it gameplay centered around careful planning, timely upgrades and optimal economics. Putting in a repair mechanism just creates a micromanagement clickfest nightmare.


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