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Sentinel 4: Dark Star

For: iPhone   Also on: Android, iPad

Which bunker have you been hiding in?

Product: Sentinel 4: Dark Star | Developer: Origin8 Technologies | Format: iPhone | Genre: Strategy, Tower defence | Players: 1 | Version: Europe | App version: 1.0.0
Sentinel 4: Dark Star iPhone, thumbnail 1
Four years. That's how long we've been waiting for Sentinel 4: Dark Star.

Whole game genres have gone in and out of fashion in the time it's taken Origin8 to follow up on Sentinel 3: Homeworld. Developers have risen and sunk without trace.

That Sentinel 4: Dark Star still has an audience and elicits any glint of recognition is down to two things.

One: the previous game was great. Two: iOS gamers still love a good tower defence game.

Back into the fray

Still, diving into Sentinel 4, it almost feels as if the developer has been holed up in a bunker for the past four years, unaware of the curious evolutionary path mobile gaming has taken.

This is a huge game stuffed full of systems and upgrades and options, with very little in the way of hand-holding tutorial elements. It also doesn't even look that much better than Sentinel 3, which, just to repeat the point, is four years old.

In fact, just about the only clue that the developer has any idea what's been going on in recent years is the presence of an IAP system, but even that feels like a begrudging afterthought.

Defending the defensible

As a result, Sentinel 4: Dark Star feels like a time-displaced oddity. It's both deeply familiar and abrasively different.

At heart, though, it's just another tower defence game. You place defensive turrets in fixed positions on a top-down 2D map to fend of waves of enemy alien attacks.

You upgrade your towers, repair them, and back them up with complementary units that cover for their weaknesses.

IAPs explained
You don't need to spend any additional money in Sentinel 4, but you can make life easier on yourself by activating optional bonuses before each round.

These require star fragments, which are only doled out in small numbers through normal play.

£1.49 / $1.99 gets you 100, which is good for 10 levels-worth of turret boosts (for example). At the opposite end, £34.99 / $49.99 gets you 4,000.

Star fragments can also be traded for more experience points and the game's internal credit currency.
Sentinel 4's key selling point is that there's simply more of this traditional tower defence action going on than in almost any other game.

Tactical options

Pretty soon, you'll find that enemies are attacking from multiple entry points simultaneously, requiring you to spread out your tower placement and hop your walking tank of a command unit from defensive hub to defensive hub.

Meanwhile you have to flit between the front lines and your base, which can be set to work producing automatic drones for repair and attack purposes.

Then there's each tower's individual development. They'll level up through use, but you can also upgrade them manually using currency earned within the level.

You can also level them up permanently in between missions, using the game's separate internal currency.

Information overload

There's just so much for you to do here. It can be dizzying.

In fact, it can be rather too hard to figure out what in blazes is going on, and what every button or tower does. New elements are thrown at you constantly in the early stages, often with little or no explanation.

It calls for a great deal of concentration, experimentation, and careful observation on the player's part to decode Sentinel 4's systems.

Again, these requirements seem to hark from a much earlier time in the App Store's history. You'll either thrive under this curiously novel freedom or wither under the feature bombardment.

Still, let's not leave it up to doubt - the developer could have made this a far more wieldy and accessible beast without sacrificing anything in the way of depth.

If you're willing to negotiate Sentinel 4's steep learning curve, though, there's a rich and absorbing tower defence experience to be enjoyed, the likes of which we haven't seen for several years - and may not see again for several more.
Sentinel 4: Dark Star
Reviewer photo
Jon Mundy | 19 August 2014
An old fashioned, dauntingly dense tower defence game that's positively crammed full of systems to learn and avenues to explore
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