Cursed Treasure 2: It’s Good to be Bad
Right from its premise, Cursed Treasure 2 flips genre conventions around. You aren’t playing this game as a heroic king or general, and the opposing forces aren’t monsters or evil sorcerers. Rather, you are the evil lord of the monsters, and the attackers are the supposed heroes of the realm. As heroes do, these characters come in a variety of different job classes, each with their own unique abilities. There are also some super-powered boss heroes that crop up in certain stages.
For your part, you rely on three main monster races to help you out. The orcs use arrows and other physical projectiles to take shots at the incoming heroes. Demons naturally favor fire, shooting jets of flame and heat waves. Finally, the undead use a variety of dark magic spells to damage the attackers and inflict status ailments on them. You can’t just build their structures wherever you like, which is another key difference from most games of this genre. Orcs can only be built on green land, demons on red land, and undead on blue land. While this seems like it may limit your strategic options, Cursed Treasure 2 actually offers a lot more choice than many of its peers.
Rather than being limited to pre-specified locations to build your towers, you can actually build anywhere clear ground is found. If there are trees blocking that space, you can spend some mana to chop them down. This means you can build defenses in places where they may not actually be able to hit anything, so don’t go too wild with your new-found freedom. Aside from variety in terms of placement, each tower can also be upgraded along different paths. The trick is that a tower can only be upgraded after it has earned enough experience by killing heroes, which means that your frontline defenses will almost always be stronger than the ones at the rear.
Each map may also contain some pre-built structures that offer various effects. Initially, these will almost always work against you. Perhaps they’ll heal the attackers, or periodically send out extra units to tie up your defenses. If you spend your resources, you can not only lessen their effects but often turn them around, making them into a valuable piece of support. Of course, you’ll have to divert your funds away from your more active defenses to do that, so choose wisely.
Gold and mana are occasionally dropped by fallen heroes, and you can also set up miners in some maps to speed up the intake. Gold is used to build and upgrade your towers. It’s also used to build mana miners and to take over certain pre-built structures. Mana is used to clear trees to create more buildable land, and is also used to create gold miners and take over specific pre-built structures. Mana is also used to activate your dark magic, powerful spells that can turn the tides of the battle if used correctly. There’s a great push and pull on your resources in Cursed Treasure 2 that makes everything just click together nicely.
Then there’s the unusual mechanic that the game draws its title from. Those heroes aren’t just attacking you for the fun of it. On each map is a cave with five gems in it. These gems are the target of the heroes, and if they reach the cave they’ll pick one up and start bringing it back. If you take them out on the way home, the gem will drop where the hero fell, and the next hero will try to pick it up. If a hero so much as moves a gem an inch, you’ll lose your chance to earn three stars on the map. If one carries a gem off of the map, you’ll lose another star. If all five gems are carried away, you’ll lose the round. You’ll still earn some experience points, but you’ll have to start the mission again from the first wave.
Those experience points add up, and when you gain a level you’ll get some points you can distribute to unlock new abilities and improve existing ones. Skills are separated into three groups, each corresponding with one of the monster races. Some of them pertain to the structures and how they behave, while others just give you passive benefits or some other kind of helpful skill. There are so many skills to choose from that most players will end up with very different builds by the end of the game. That end comes after 24 rather lengthy stages. Every three stages sends a powerful boss after you, and these characters require very different tactics thanks to their unusual skills and high stats.
After defeating a boss, the prior three stages will have a new night mode available. These are ultra-tough versions of the stages that take place at night. You can only build towers where there’s sufficient light, and each structure you build will help expand the available area. Counting these variants, Cursed Treasure 2 offers up 48 stages, each consisting of an incredible number of enemy waves. It’s a surprisingly substantial affair, especially if you want to earn three stars on all of those levels. The same gem mechanic that feels so lenient when it lets you take double the shots at heroes as they come and go gets very strict when you can’t allow an attacker to make it past your defenses even once.
It’s intriguing how Cursed Treasure 2 creates more tactical freedom in some ways and restricts the player in others. While the gem system comes off as generous at first, the later levels of the game show just how quickly you can lose all of your chances even with plenty of opportunities to take shots at the enemies. Resources seem plentiful at first, and there are lots of opportunities to make more, but there are so many different things to spend it on that you never quite have enough. You may need a new tower in a particular spot, but there’s also an annoying pre-built structure that keeps on healing the heroes. You can only take care of one of these things with the resources at hand, so which one will you deal with?
Decisions like these are what make Cursed Treasure 2 such a wonderful example of the tower defense genre. Sure, its wacky premise is fun and it gets a lot of mileage out of it with the wide assortment of hero classes, but what really makes the game shine is in the ways it steps outside of the genre’s comfort zone in the mechanical sense. It can be awfully difficult, perhaps more so than many of its peers, but there’s a method to its challenge and once you sort it out, it’s a very hard game to put down.