A revisit of Bloons Tower Defense 6

It’s been a while since I’ve properly updated this site. Besides the day job, I’ve really gone in on developing my own game because I see it as a vague hope of escaping my day job, as dangerously naive as that may be. And also it’s hard to focus on things when this country is so fucked up and stupid.

However, in between all this, I’ve casually been playing Bloons Tower Defense 6. Because I’m fucked up, I’m turning this casual play into content for the site, because god knows it needs content.

Ninja Kiwi’s Bloons Tower Defense 6 was a game I enjoyed all the way back in May of 2020, and I was pretty positive about it even though it had elements that annoyed me on a spiritual level. But with almost three years of updates since then, there’s a lot of things worth talking about on this revisit.

Races were already around when I originally played, but I never played it back then. But with my revisit and expanding knowledge on the game, I finally decided to throw my hat in the ring. Races are a speedrunner’s dream, where you must clear a level as fast as possible. “But Dari, how do you speedrun a tower defense?” Well, Race mode adds a unique mechanic where you can immediately summon the next wave while you’re still working through one – or hell, summon the next two, three, seven, etc.

If you actually want a good time, you have to efficiently place towers and use powers so you can keep up with the massive waves you bring on yourself. It’s intimidating, but after playing several races, I decided that it was actually pretty fun. In fact, I kinda wish that the “summon next wave immediately” button wasn’t just exclusive to this time attack stuff; I’d appreciate a way to get through 80-round games faster.

About two months after my original post, Ninja Kiwi introduced Odysseys. Odysseys are a string of maps threaded together, with the only available monkeys being the ones you’ve chosen at the start. Sometimes, an Extreme mode is active, which makes it so that any non-hero monkey placed gets used up for the rest of the Odyssey, forcing you to be more thoughtful about resource use.

As for the stages, they tend to come with their own modifiers, some of them based on the different main game modes like Deflation (start with a lot of money but can’t gain more). I don’t know if these originated with Odyssey mode, but two level types I like are “Least Money” and “Least Tier”. The former requires you to spend under a certain amount and the latter requires you to only buy and upgrade towers under a certain amount. I really liked these because it forced me to think more efficiently with how I used towers instead of just farming for money and upgrading towers to be the Best like I’d do in the regular modes.

Earlier I mentioned heroes, and they’ve added a whole bunch more since I originally played this. Personally, my favorite out of the new batch is Etienne. Not exactly for his firepower, but for the fact that one of his level ups confers camo detection to all towers, which enables me to explore other paths. Though I haven’t unlocked him, the most unique out of these new heroes is Geraldo, who brings an in-game shop that somewhat mirrors BTD6’s shop that costs real world money (so I guess it’s an in-game in-game shop?), which places a greater emphasis on game economy if you want to use him effectively. While I was originally “whatever” about the heroes, I’ve come to appreciate the added utility they bring to the game, because really, you’re not getting them for the killing power, for the most part.

But oh, what’s this? The bloons got their own heroes too in the form of boss fights. Every so often, a big boss bloon appears as a week-long fight. You go through a standard 40-round game, but instead of a MOAB, a much worse blimp to fight appears. Besides being far hardier than the usual big bloons, the boss bloons carry unique gimmicks that force you to avoid usual playstyles. The Dreadbloon, for instance, gains immunity to a different tower type after its HP reaches a threshold, forcing you to expand your range of options; as someone terminally addicted to using magic monkeys, this boss is a kick in the teeth to me.

After beating the boss, the game will keep going. Every 20 rounds, the boss returns with way more health, the normal game essentially being relegated to a game of grinding money for the next tier fight.. To be honest? I’m no good at these; most of the ones I won was in co-op with a partner because they’re more busted at the game than I am. However! The boss fights are cool and I appreciate how they force you to play differently.

But, there’s a more serious test out there: Contested Territories.

also hey if the name of the team I was placed in is something shitty please let me know

Contested Territories is a collaborative asymmetrical multiplayer mode, where teams try to claim tiles on a board. An overall team score builds up over time on a rate based on how many tiles were claimed (as well as a personal score for the tiles you claimed yourself), and you know, best team wins.

The tiles are all randomized challenges drawing from everything in the game and if someone’s already claimed a tile, you have to beat the score they’ve set. There’s plenty of “Least Tier” and “Least Cash” tiles, and with different players setting the scores, it’s way more challenging than the standard versions that tend to leave you a little breathing room. Besides those, races and boss fights also appear as tiles, and it’s through Contested Territories that I felt pressured to truly “get good” at them. The boss ones are tough, but honestly, if you manage to wrangle a boss tile, you’re pretty much safe from most people because from my personal experience playing the mode, only the most cracked players actually go for them.

I actually think that Contested Territories might be the best part of BTD6 for me. Besides throwing just about everything in the game, each tile also has a randomized selection of monkeys, which forced me to experiment and really feel out how different towers worked. When a Contested Territory week is going on, I marathon through my tries before I go to sleep because I’m just that into them.

In the process of writing this up, Bloons Tower Defense 6 actually got a really sizeable update. This update includes a new monkey! No, not another hero, but a new tower entirely, the first new tower since the game originally released, I think.

The new tower is the Beast Tamer, who can summon a land, sea, and/or air familiar to fight on their behalf, which you can readily reposition within the tamer’s radius. What makes the Beast Tamer unique is that their familiars have their own levels whose cap increases as you upgrade them, and to level them up, you have to combine another tamer’s matching familiar with theirs if they’re within the same radius. So, you can have one Beast Tamer prioritizing a dinosaur build while keeping up a minor bird path for the sake of merging it with a tamer that prioritizes in siccing hawks on bloons. There’s a little bit of a learning curve, but I think this is cool and presents a nice addition to the game. They’re probably gonna be subject to some balancing in the future (because I’ve seen some real busted stuff), but they’re fun to play with.

To introduce the new tower, Ninja Kiwi added quests to the game that essentially act as small tutorials with a little narrative. I think they’re a good way of providing tutorials to the game, but I wonder how far Ninja Kiwi will take this new feature. Like, maybe make it into a campaign mode led by different heroes with preset teams like the Odysseys? Given how Ninja Kiwi’s been regularly working on this game for years, the sky’s the limit.

Since the game makes an easy transition to Steam Deck, I got really into the game. I usually play at least a few minutes everyday, and when I was at my worst, I spent hours marathoning through stuff. I’’m pretty confident that my playtime has more than doubled since my original post. I’ve more than doubled my original playtime, I got a black level border, I’ve been sucked in.

Then I realized that I was not leaving time for other things like my own project and this site. I realized that I’ve fallen into the same time trap other games had me. I quit gacha (especially since it’s also a money trap) and I quit Apex Legends a while ago, but alas, I was trapped in a hell of funny dart throwing monkeys.

Since I originally played BTD6, I admit that I’ve also turned against the idea of a daily. See, when I originally played that, I was also still into Apex Legends. I played a little bit of that everyday because I was pulled into doing daily challenges, and it ate up into my time that I could have used doing something more productive. It all ended up feeling unhealthy to me, because it had me thinking: am I playing this because I want to have fun, or am I playing this because it’s become part of my routine?

The dailies in BTD6 wound up giving me a mixed bag feeling, now. On one hand, they’re nothing like the objective based dailies of Apex that require playing at least a few matches to get through them. After all, it’s just two missions with set conditions. On the other hand, the sheer ease of playing BTD6 feels like an invitation: now that you’re done with the daily, do you want to play more while you’re at it?

Meanwhile, the races, the boss fights, they all got their own sense of FOMO attached to them, since they’re limited time events. Yeah, those maps in that Odyssey look like hell to deal with… but you’re missing out on rewards. Also, can’t forget about collection events, gotta do some maps if you want to advance this battle pass if you want to collect shit…

Personally? Besides causing me to go back to unhealthy gaming habits, I think that BTD6 is a contributing reason as to why people look at completed single player games and call them dead games. It’s a game with lots of content and it keeps adding content – and there isn’t necessarily anything wrong with that. However, lots of gamers are brain poisoned on prioritizing playtime and wringing out as much Content(TM) as possible for their buck. BTD6 feels like a game those kinds of people want, and it feels like a game that feeds into the perception that this is how games should be.

This is not to say that Bloons Tower Defense 6 is a bad game. In fact, it’s very good, and I honestly have a much stronger appreciation of it than I did back then. But it’s a good game that encourages unhealthy dynamics, both as a player and for gaming culture as a whole. You probably wouldn’t fall into the same trap I have because I’m insane, but maybe be cautious with this game. And you know, if you got a kid that’s into colorful and simple to pick up games like this, make sure they’re responsible – especially given the fact that the game still has those microtransactions.

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