Defense Derby Review: A fun but complex PvP tower defence game for mobile

The freemium game market is a tricky one to navigate. Developers need to create a game that’s available for free, but polished enough to entice people to play long enough and agree to spend money on it. Defense Derby is a game that aims to do just that. Published by Krafton (of BGMI fame), the game is a hero-based PvP tower defence game. Now, it’s been a while since I played a tower defence game, but the last one I played on mobile was Plants Vs Zombies. So the bar is set quite high.

Let’s see how the game fares.


Errmmm… there is none.

I’m not saying that this is a bad thing. Loads of games have no story and that’s fine. The issue I have is that the game hints at a deeper story. Each character in the game has a backstory and suggests some deeper lore. But the main game doesn’t seem to build upon this. It’s just one match after another. Seems like a missed opportunity if you ask me.


The gameplay is where the rub is and it can get pretty complicated. Thankfully there is a relatively detailed tutorial that goes on for about four levels. It is vital that you check this out as the game can get pretty complicated otherwise. So buckle up as I try and explain the extremely complicated gameplay system.

Here’s a quick, TL;DR version. The main focus of Defense Derby is the PvP tower defence against three other random opponents. The players get random units to help defend their base and have a chance to augment their units between every wave. The player with the last base standing wins. Seems simple right? No, it is not. There is a LOT of strategy involved.

The actual match of Defense Derby is quite simplified as compared to most other tower defence titles, which makes a lot of sense as the game is aimed at quick PvP battles. The base consists of a castle with 3×3 grid where places can place up to eight units. The central slot is taken up by the players’ hero unit. The waves of enemies have a fixed path that goes around the castle to the main gate. Once an enemy reaches the gate, it deals a certain amount of damage. Once your castle’s hitpoints are down to zero, you lose.

Defense Derby offers a number of units each, divided into three factions — Human, Beast and Spirit. Each character has different attacks and ranges Each faction has three hero characters, each offering unique abilities. Before the start of any battle, players will have to choose a hero and then create a deck of all characters. These are collected via ‘Summons’ which are the game’s version of loot boxes. The idea is to have three units of the same faction in a row in order to boost unit strength and improve your chances of survival.

*snap-snap* Still with me? Good.

When the game starts, you are given two random cards from your deck to take on the first wave. Between each wave, you get a chance to recruit a random new unit to add to your current lineup. This is done via an auction where everyone bids their ‘Derby Coins’. These coins are based on how quickly a player defeats the wave and how many coins were left over from the last option. This bit is tricky. Do you spend your Derby Coins and improve your numbers? Or do you try and hold on with the hope that the next auction will have a unit more in tune with your current lineup? That’s a call you’ll have to make.

Overall, the gameplay in Defense Derby is very compelling and the PvP combat can be a lot of fun. However, it can be really complicated and overwhelming if you are not familiar with tower defence games or somehow missed the tutorial. Also, the lack of options to play with a friend or any story mode seems like missed opportunities for me to actively seek out and play. There is also RPG-style upgrading and skill trees, but I really don’t want to get into that. At this point, it seems like it’s complicated for the sake of being complicated.


The game looks quite good and the characters look like they were picked straight from the pages of a Manga or an Anime. In fact, the art style is very similar to the developer, RisingWings’ previous game, Castle Burn. Too similar in fact. Some characters, like the Archer and the Viking, seem to have been lifted straight from there. Are the two games connected as a form of world-building? I would not know as Castle Burn is dead and Defense Derby has no story.

Coming back to the graphics, the game world is colourful and detailed. Each character looks unique and the animations are also quite smooth. There is a lot of titillation in the form of women in very small clothing making suggestive poses. But hey, that’s most of mobile gaming for you.

One gripe I genuinely had was the main menu. It is a mess with buttons, notifications and prompts everywhere. I have seen similar bad menus in many other mobile games and if there is any mobile developer reading this, please stop doing that.


Defense Derby is a very beautiful-looking game. The PvP matches are fun and require strategic thinking. They last about five minutes or so and the tactical decisions being made between waves adds a nice bit of nuance. But everything beyond that seems too complicated and convoluted. The RPG-style upgrading wasn’t really needed if you ask me. Not only that but as there is no story or the option to play together with friends meant there was never any pull to play the game beyond a quick break. If Defense Derby can streamline its gameplay mechanics, then there is something here for everyone to enjoy. The game is free so I think everyone should give it a shot for sure. But, I can’t see casual gamers investing too much of their time and effort into this. However, if you are hardcore into the tower defence genre, then Defense Derby might just be right up your alley.

Rating: 3/5


  • Graphics are good
  • Gameplay is quick and fun
  • Characters have personality


  • A story campaign seems like a missed opportunity
  • Seems unnecessarily complicated

More info
Developer: RisingWings
Publisher: Krafton
Platforms: Android, iOS
Reviewed on: vivo V27 Pro

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