Ballad of Solar: Brotherhood at War by Alawar Entertainment, Inc icon

Ballad of Solar: Brotherhood at War ($0.99) by Alawar Entertainment, Inc is a tower defense game that, not only lets you upgrade your tower, but also lets you upgrade the upgrades. Turn a simple archer tower into a full powered turret, complete with rifle shooting snipers.

Ballad of Solar: Brotherhood at War by Alawar Entertainment, Inc screenshot

Players are charged with protecting the kingdom from an oncoming attack by goblins, orcs, and dire wolves. Send out your militia, place mage towers, and call in the reinforcements to stop the enemy from getting through.

Players have three types of towers – the archer, mage, and military strongholds. Plus, you can place your hero’s tower for free. The hero generates bonuses to turrets he is near.

Each of the towers can be upgraded for additional power, range, and attack. When you reach a certain level, the towers can be upgraded to support additional weaponry or armor.

For example, the mage tower can be upgraded to a shaman or scribe. The shaman casts spells that lower enemy’s defenses, or kills them outright. The scribe casts lightning or ice spells. The archer tower can be upgraded to either a sniper or a marksman. The sniper will continue to shoot arrows that can be upgraded to poison or tranquilizers, while the marksman will shoot from rifles with shrapnel or an aimed shot as the upgrade. Militia can be trained to become heavily armored knights or fearless berserkers. Knights can heal each other or protect themselves with a magic shield. Berserkers use the Death Blow or Battle Cry for additional attack.

There are three different heroes to choose from. Each hero has different strengths and weaknesses and also brings a special bonus to the battlefield. For example, when the blue troll, Yord, calls on his special power, all allies gain a bonus to their fighting abilities. When Solar uses his special power, a flaming Phoenix flies overhead, burning enemies.

Players can also call out reinforcements to help hold back enemies. When the regeneration bar is full, tap the reinforcement button to bring out two extra military men. You can place them wherever you choose on the battlefield.

While I found this game to be very entertaining, I didn’t like how difficult it is to earn coins to spend at the in-game store. Items in the store allow you to increase rate of fire, decrease cost of building, and train military. They are pivotal to your ability to do well against stronger enemies.

However, the only time you earn coins for purchasing these items is when you earn a star on a level. It is very difficult to earn stars, and you only earn coins when you earn a star for the first time. For example, if you replay a level that you’ve already earned two stars on, you will only receive coins if you earn three stars.

This practically forces players to pay real cash for in-game coins. If you don’t have enough coins, you can’t earn stars because your towers aren’t strong enough to protect the kingdom. If you don’t earn stars, you don’t earn coins. The only way to be successful is to buy coins through in-app purchases.

If this were a free game, I would expect that kind of tactic. However, this game costs $0.99 to download, so in-game purchases should be considered extras and not necessary to your progress. I replayed the fifth level at least six times and never earned more than one star. It should not be that difficult.

Ballad of Solar: Brotherhood at War by Alawar Entertainment, Inc screenshot

Because this game makes it very difficult to successfully play without buying coins through an in-app purchase, I can’t say it is worth paying for. There are a lot of really fun tower defense games in the App Store that don’t use this kind of approach. I recommend skipping it.