Defense Grid 2 / 25th of September 2014
If you’re not familiar with the genre, tower defense games can appear as a somewhat strange idea. Compared to the more traditional strategy games such as the Total War or Command and Conquer series, tower defense might seem like strategy-light. Where players simply build various types of turrets, and forgo any sort of unit recruitment or direct control, in favour of sitting back and letting the game do all the work. But that’s simply not the case, and should you choose to try Defense Grid 2, Hidden Path Entertainment’s latest foray into the genre, then you’ll find a game rich in subtle tactics and immensely addictive.
Yes the main premise of the game is to build and position various turrets across a grid-based map, but it’s what type of turret and where you place it that can make all the difference. Once up and running the objective is to fend off successive hordes of alien invaders with the defenses you’ve amassed, and use what insight you’ve gleaned from the previous wave’s attack pattern to adapt to the incoming threat. It’s a satisfying system and one that gives you a great sense of achievement when you watch as a perfectly placed flack cannon decimates hordes of alien swarmers. And as you progress with upgrading turrets, turning them into ever more efficient killing machines, the desire to get the next map or unlock rides roughshod over any thought of stopping what you’re doing.
On the flip side however, Defense Grid 2 has the same basic problem that any tower defense game has. By the time you discover what it is exactly you’ve done wrong, it’s usually too late to do anything about it. It can be frustrating, but the game allows players to rewind one wave in an effort to remedy this. Which it manages to an extent, as it allows for players to turn defeats into a chance to learn from their mistakes. But it does feel like a bit of a cheat at times. That being said there’s really little else one can think of that would be a better way of handling this particular problem, and besides it does little to detract from the enjoyment of the game.
What can however is the Defense Grid 2’s storyline, which feels like a jumbled mess that only gets in the way of gameplay. Admittedly some form of narrative isn’t all that easy to weave into any tower defense game, or the strategy genre in general for that matter. But considering the humorous nature of the game’s AI companions, it’s not unreasonable to think the developers could have done a little better when it came to the plot.
As for the rest of Defense Grid 2, the game looks reasonably nice, it’s not the game you use you show off the next-gen graphics on your new console but it was never meant to be. Where it does excel is in the art-style, as new maps are varied, distinct and, more significantly in any strategy game, well thought out. Choke points and tactically superior positions litter the terrain, yet the maps don’t feel suffocated by them. Likewise the numerous enemy types vary in size and shape, making them easy to distinguish and the process of learning their individual weaknesses relatively painless.
It’s often true that the most addictive games are usually the simplest ones, and Defense Grid 2 certainly fits that description. Its constant drip feeding of rewards and upgrades, coupled with its solid mechanics, and that constant sense of learning and improving which all good strategy games do so well, adds up to ensure that Defense Grid 2 is a game you’ll be coming back to time and again. Despite one or two shortcomings it’s still one of, if not the best strategy game available on next-gen consoles at the moment. Not only that but its accessible but surprising depth means that if you’ve never tried a tower defense game before, then Defense Grid 2 may just be the ideal place to start.