I actually got the details of the story wrong somehow. What actually happens is that you're protecting a town and it gets assaulted by monsters. You hold them off while the townspeople escape but then a labyrinth appears and you have to go and face it in order to discover what's going on. I really should keep better notes when I do unscripted commentation. :P
I probably should've elaborated a little on the shrines. There's two kinds: Lightning and Charged Bolt. Lightning shrines blast bursts of lightning in the four cardinal directions that span the entire playfield, while Charged Bolt shrines affect enemies within a certain radius. I'm not a big fan of these, or of using gem bombs, because the amount of damage dealt can easily be matched by towers given enough time and towers work forever, whereas when you use a shrine or drop a gem bomb, you're losing all the mana that went into making the gem that's consumed.
The story does lead into some rather eerie moments in the game. For instance, the very first time you play the second "Epic Field" which has a crafting pylon to charge up, you're probably going to wonder what's wrong with the field, then wonder if you broke the game or something. Also, every once in awhile the borders will flash black momentarily, indicating that an "apparition" is going to fly by soon. Destroying these is optional and doing so nets you some extra skill points, but of course you have to draw attention away from the regular monsters to fight it.
Another very neat feature is that when you click on a monster you essentially "target" it, meaning any tower that's within striking range to your target will fire at it and nothing else. ;)
My favourite gems are the Bloodbound gems, which get stronger with every kill, and the Chain-Hit gems which can hit multiple targets in a single shot. My least favourite are the Poison gems, because the extra damage dealt is rather minimal, even if it does bypass armour, and the Shocking gems because they can eventually be completely resisted by an enemy the more times an enemy gets shocked, and there's already Slowing gems anyways which have a similar effect. :P
This game's definitely in my Top 3 for tower defence games, and I've played quite a number of them. My other two favourites are Plants vs. Zombies and Defense Grid, both of which are on Steam.
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