Thursday, March 6, 2014

A History of Gemcraft - UPDATED 05/13/14

As promised, here is my first article:

A History of Gemcraft

UPDATE 5/13/14: Read my ryview of Gemcraft Chapter 2: Chasing Shadows here.

Watch my Gemcraft Chapter 2: Tips and Tricks videos on my youtube channel here.


Gemcraft Chapter 1: The Forgotten

The first title came out in 2008. It’s a flash game in the “Tower Defense” genre. For anyone unfamiliar, tower defense is a game style that generally involves enemies moving across a map with the player building towers to destroy the enemies. There are variations, but that’s the meat.

There’s the Wikipedia page, if you’re interested.

Anyway, Gemcraft is one of my favorite tower defense games of all time. Most tower defense games involve preset towers, but in Gemcraft, you build an empty building and place interchangeable gems inside. Each gem has different properties based on its color (Red has splash damage, green has poison, etc). This blew my mind when I first played it. You could place any gem in any tower, and you could combine gems to get some unholy sum of their powers. Each time you upgrade the gem, it’s shape changes (up through level 6, I believe).

Another nice feature is that heath, money, everything is mana. It’s simple and yet super complex, because you have to balance how much you want to spend vs how much health you need in reserve. It is such a fine tuned balance sometimes that I would drive myself crazy trying to game the system just right.

Absolutely awesome.

Before gemcraft, I was by no means a tower defense fan. I found the genre boring and repetitive. But gemcraft proved that the genre can redefine strategy in flash games.

Oh yeah, and there were upgrades. I love upgrades. You’ll hear a lot about upgrades if you keep reading this blog.

The biggest flaw is that you can’t infinitely build up XP. Each time you play a level, you gain the xp of your best playthrough, and it doesn’t repeat. So if your first playthrough got you 510 xp and your next playthrough gets you 520, you only get 10 for that second playthrough. And if you get 515 the next time, you get a big fat 0 experience.

It’s my professional opinion (read: completely unprofessional, personal opinion) that any kind of upgrade game should have essentially unlimited experience. I think if you want to put in a million billion hours to get 4 xp every hour, you should be able to beat the game with your eyes closed afterwards. Games like that should be built to be able to be beaten (that was a mouthful) with almost no xp if you’re super talented, or with a whole lot of xp if you’re not. It should still be possible.

It wasn’t such a big deal here, because the game wasn’t super challenging anyway, but as you’ll see below, that method really kicks my ass in the next game.

Gemcraft Chapter 0: Gem of Eternity

So, I know what you’re thinking. A prequel? Do we get to shoot Jar Jar Binks with gems that look inexplicably more intricate than gems that follow years later? Is it high frame rate? In general, the answer  the those questions are no. But I do feel that, as with most prequels, this was generally a letdown.

Chapter 0 is very much the same game. There are more buildings (rather than towers, we now have traps, which go on the path and amplify the power of the gem but diminish the damage, and shrines, which you can’t build but you can put a gem in and it will zap enemies). And there are more modes, giving enemies more hitpoints or armor, etc. Otherwise, the art, the graphics, the gameplay, very similar.

Now, those new features are pretty nice, but I didn’t find the new buildings very useful, and the extra modes didn’t help me finish the game.

In fact, I’ve never finished the game. I’m not talented enough. As I mentioned above, you only keep your highest xp gain for each mode. That means, if you’re stuck on a level, it takes FOREVER to eek out those extra 10 xp per mode to get to another level. And then the level is still super difficult. If I’m needing to grind, I want to have some guarantee that the grind will pay out in the end. But that is sooooo not the case here.
So, maybe the difficulty is beyond a mere Ryan’s capabilities. But this game fell flat for me.

Gemcraft Labyrinth

Okay, now no more numbers, it’s just called “the lost chapter”. Pretty goofy, in my opinion, but I’ll let it slide. (don’t get me wrong, I don’t necessarily think each game needs a number, but when you go 1-0-Lost-2, it just gets confusing)

Labyrinth is my favorite title in the series. I thought that the issue with xp was mostly fixed here, but that was mostly because the game was slightly broken. You have battle settings rather than battle modes, so you can dial up the difficulty slowly, and while you still only keep the max xp on the level, you can get it moving slowly the entire game, and if you play the endurance mode with all (or almost all) of the multipliers on, you pull in insane amounts of xp for minimal grinding. Efficient, but broken.

Labyrinth also had a new layout to the map, with many more levels, an innovative path that the creatures follow in the map that will then lead you to your next levels, and a few different gems (or you know, some changed gems and one new gem). The red gem was now bloodbound, which instead of splash gives adds a percentage of all kills to your attack. Epic early on, and very useless later in the game, but still fun as hell to watch its damage scroll up.

Labyrinth has so much content that I played it for months and still wasn’t sick of it. Now, the biggest problem was that it was a freemium flash game, you had to buy some of the cooler functions (and possibly the endurance mode I was talking about, so that sucks), but if you enjoy 3 flash games from one developer, you can probably shill out a few bucks. I thought that Gameinabottle deserved it.


So, that brings me to the new title.

Gemcraft 2 comes out March 17, 2014. It will be posted on, and may or may not be illegally ported elsewhere right away. I’m pretty sure that it won’t be legally on other flash game sites for awhile, but I don’t know that for sure (I’m a man myself, but I’ll be hopping over to Armor to play Gemcraft 2 when it comes out).
I’ll post my official ryview when Gemcraft 2 comes out. I’ll do my best to get it out within a week of the release.

UPDATE 3/17/14: Gemcraft 2 has been delayed to Tuesday 3/25 (but this is still subject to some wiggle room, apparently). Keep up to date at

There was also an iOS version, it’s pretty much like gemcraft 1. It’s $2.99, I think. I own it, it’s pretty fun and has a good touch interface. But that being said, I still enjoy labyrinth more. So was is worth the money? In my opinion, it was not.

General Gemcraft tips and tricks:

·         Putting mana gain (orange) gems in traps close to the front of the map is a great way of mana farming. In fact, if you use enough of them with pure gems, chances are the enemies will generate more mana than they cost to banish on their first few treks. That makes you pretty invincible (but it’s much better after you upgrade pure gems and the cost of banishment)

·         You want armor reduce/armor tearing gems early in the map, just like the mana gain gems. That will give you maximum benefit before your damage gems hits.

·         Poison and splash are really useful against small enemies, but fighting bosses these will not be very effective.

·         Shock and slow are best used in the middle of the pack, you definitely need some damage gems around them to fully utilize their effect.

·         Chain hit and triple damage are by far the best ways to keep your damage high. Usually, especially in Labyrinth, if you have a lime/yellow gem leveled up, you’ll kill enemies harder than any other gem. You want the chain hit to get up to probably about 100% 5 or 6 enemies, then just pour yellow into it, you’ll really need that damage multiplier as the difficulty ramps up.

·         Strictly speaking, you want to upgrade the mana pool as soon as you can. It ups the mana regenerate rate and how much mana each enemy gives you. However, make sure you know what banishment costs will be, because that can really screw you over if you upgrade an suddenly don’t have the safety net around anymore

If you have any more tips and tricks to share, please comment!


Worth the Price
Worth the Time
Gemcraft Chapter 1
Gemcraft Chapter 0
Gemcraft Labyrinth
Freemium ($4.95)
Gemcraft iOS
Gemcraft 2
Stay Tuned

Until next time everybody,


Pictures courtesy of ArmorGames

1 comment :

  1. At Gemcraft 0, you should try angering the waves of monsters by dropping gem bombs on the wave stones. It makes the monsters stronger and they'll give much more XP. It really helped me to get to the final level so I hope you'll read this and try it out.