About the game
GemCraft 3 Labyrinth is the third game in the GemCraft tower defense games series following the highly successful GemCraft Chapter 1 and GemCraft Chapter 0 (yes, in that order) games released by GameInABottle. This new installment in the GemCraft series was released in February 2011. There aren't that many changes in this version of the game from the previous versions, but there are a whole lot more maps and all new achievements and medals to keep you engrossed well beyond whatever timeframe you give yourself to play the game. Here are some of the key features of this new game:
Much like the earlier games, GemCraft 3 game doesn't start out with much of a storyline (although the illustrations are exceptionally good). A sudden storm heralded the arrival of a whole new horde of monsters at the head of a town, and with that all the townspeople fled, leaving you with your gems as the sole defender of the land. At the same time, your map made you aware of your greatest challenge yet, and to get to that you must work your way across a literal labyrinth consisting of 13x13 fields beating off monsters along the way by using your gems. Repel these monsters on one field, and a whole new field will open up for you.
The gameplay is much the same as any other GemCraft game or any other tower defense game, for that matter. You start off with a map with strategic points at various places along a path where you can build gem-based towers. There are other ways to kill enemies too, but we'll come to them later. Your enemies, who are hordes of monsters of different types and abilities in this case, wander along this path until they reach their destination (in this case, your orb) and lessen your life force (in this case, mana). If your mana runs out, the game ends, plain and simple.
Now for the GemCraft-specific info. Apart from just the tower plots, you have various traps on the map itself in which you can place a gem that damages and inflicts its ability upon every monster that passes over it. You can also build structures like shrines and amplifiers that cause more and in the latter case amplify the damaging powers of the gems placed within them. You also use the aforementioned mana or life force to create gems and build every bit of the above, so you have to be careful in how and how often you use it because if you use a lot of it at one time and an enemy gets to it, you could lose.
Next we come down to the real stuff: the gems. There are 8 basic kinds of gems that you can create, and thankfully unlike the previous games you can actually choose which gems you want to create instead of clicking and hoping like in the previous games. As for the types of gems, you have the Red gem, which gets stronger as it kills, the Orange gem, which makes more mana than normal, the Yellow gem, which is devastating when combined with any other gem, the Lime gem, which causes a chain hit that affects multiple monsters, the Green gem, which poisons enemies and hurts them gradually, the Cyan gem, that shocks and paralyses enemies, the Blue gem, which slows monsters down and lastly the Purple gems, which reduce the monsters' armor. When summoning gems, you are faced with a grid. The higher you go up on a grid, the greater the level and power of the gem that you create. Of course, mana costs increase correspondingly. You can also use the Combine Gems spell to combine gems and get the best of both their abilities. For best results you should only combine gems of the same level.
Funnily enough, despite all of this firepower, you only have 3 main types of enemies to deal with. First are the regular monsters, which are, err, regular. Then you have the swarm type monsters, which are really fast and come in huge numbers but usually take only around one shot to kill. And lastly you have the literal giants of the GemCraft universe, the Giant type of monsters. These ones are a bit slow, but they have really high HP and armor and are really hard to kill. Mercifully though, a wave consisting of giants doesn't have too many of them.
Since GemCraft is even at its best a really complex game to get your head around, here are some tips to help you along. Firstly, focus on creating Lime/Yellow gem combinations. One causes multiple damage to foes, the other causes damage to multiple foes. It's like a match made in heaven, especially once you gain Dual Gem Mastery. Place some amplifiers around a high gem level combo of these two gems and you'll not need anything more for a long time. Secondly, mana farming is really important and can make or break your game. You should ideally have a couple of traps wherever monsters are forced to go and place some low level Orange gems in them, with possibly an amplifier. Also, summoning is important. If the next wave has few enemies (even if they're giants), summon them a bit early. The mana gained as a result will easily cover any costs you might have to incur to create Gem Bombs with some mana left over. In other words, it's worth it.
Gemcraft 3 game is a strong tower defense game, but there are a couple of issues with it. Firstly, the grinding. Oh lord, the grinding. It's always been there as a part of GemCraft games, but it really takes the cake here. For those who're not in the know, grinding basically refers to playing levels that you've already completed over and over again so as to gain more XP with which to buy skill points. As mentioned above, grinding is a part of most games, but there's something seriously wrong with the amount needed in Gemcraft 3. Secondly, there are a total of 169 levels. That sort of a number starts to get overwhelming after a while, to be honest. Playing this game only after you've played a bit of the earlier ones helps a lot to get around these issues, but they serve to make an exciting game a tad tedious. And then there's the Premium Edition, which isn't so much of a bad point as a bit of a disappointment in that you don't get a lot for your money if you do decide to support the developers monetarily. The game is still perfectly playable without them too, which is a great thing.
There are plenty of positives to take from Gemcraft 3 Labyrinth too. The strategy quotient of the earlier games that got so many players hooked on to the series isn't just still there; it is amplified beyond all recognition to the point where it is just great. It's almost as if the developers decided to take the best out of both the earlier games and stick it into this one (and the grinding too, but let's not press the issue). The walls are a great addition to an already great game, and the Epic Battles are epic, but we'll not ruin the surprise by saying why exactly they are so epic. And lastly, before each level you get the chance to select Battle Settings, which basically consist of setttings that you could change to make that level harder and hence earn more XP. It is a great addition that allows players to challenge themselves on their own terms.
Graphics and Audio
There are practically no changes on either the graphics or the audio part of this game, and to be honest there really didn't need to be so this isn't a bad thing at all. The graphics are just as good as ever with the gems looking just as shiny and real as in the earlier games and the audio still continues to suit the game well with the "Warcrafty" feel of the audio setup being just as good as before. It's also a great thing to see the way the monsters disintegrate into ashes and get blown away, so keeping that effect makes the game an automatic hit in my opinion.
It is really hard to go wrong with a concept like the one that the GemCraft games is based on, but the previous games were so good that one felt pretty convinced that it would be hard to improve upon any of the games that we've seen so far in the series either. Turns out, this one was wrong. GemCraft 3 Labyrinth is definitely an improvement over any of the games that came in the series before because it keeps the best parts of the earlier games and then adds some great new features to it. The grinding and the sheer number of levels make the game a bit too repetitive, but if you don't mind that then there's no way you can go wrong with this game (or meet a deadline).