For analyzing themes in gameplay, I chose the tower defense genre and more specifically Kingdom Defense and Plants Vs Zombies.
My little brother (10 years younger) used to be obsessed with Plants Vs Zombies and I used to love Bloons Tower Defense so I was kind of interested to see how it felt playing these games today. Especially keeping in mind what themes each of the games relied on.
Firstly, it’s possible I’m biased from watching the PVZ video about onboarding, but goodness gracious is that theme just fun, light hearted and enjoyable the whole time. The lightness to it makes it feel like some fun little tasks that just so happen to be defending the neighborhood from dangerous (albeit slow) zombies. Meanwhile Kingdom defense feels almost ‘formal’ in a way. Even though it is also a simple fun game, being literally war themed just feels too spot on for something like a tower defense game. The feeling of being a war general makes you feel like you should really think about proper optimization. One example of this is that I had the feeling a few times that maybe I wasn’t using my reinforcements at the exact correct times. And since I never got any hints about how best to use them, it was slightly less enjoyable.
Meanwhile in PVZ I felt like I wanted to get strategic for the hell of it. Each of the shooters/plants felt infinitely more creative. The idea of each plant having some sort of thematic defense mechanism was as engaging as it is creative.
All in all these two games are obviously very similar in the general mechanisms of play that come with the relatively limiting genre. But the reliance on a light hearted, entertaining theme in PVZ just gives me exactly the vibe I would want from a tower defense. Whereas Kingdom defense lost me a little bit by being such a direct comparison to some wartime defense strategy game.