Defense Grid 2 comes in as the sequel to Hidden Path Entertainment’s 2008 and hugely popular release Defense Grid: The Awakening and provides a sit back and watch tower defence style strategic tactical game which have become increasingly popular over the last few years thanks to tablet and mobile platforms. So among the well received such as Anomoly 2, Sanctum 2, Plants vs Zombies, Dungeon Defenders and their original Defense Grid game, how well does Defense Grid 2 stack up given there’s much more competition in the genre now than six years ago.
Having booted up the game and looked at the options, Defense Grid 2 keeps menus simple and begs you to jump in right away with a wealth of options available from the get go without the need to unlock stuff. I didn’t try all the variations on offer but mostly stuck with the story mode to get my kicks. For those interested in adapting the core gameplay, then there’s lots to tinker with to mostly up the challenge and make what I could see as quite difficult become even more testing…putting it mildly.
To begin, when playing the story at least, you’re tasked with choosing a main overseeing command team AI who provides a unique ability, adjust some of the turret preferences – more of these become unlocked as you progress – and then dive in to the tongue in cheek tutorial prologue. I’m not going into any details regarding the story as it is as wacky as it is predictable, but provides some reasoning behind your activities as General Fletcher and C0. defend the colonies. During the game, you can control the camera with the game pad right stick, zoom in and out and then the left stick moves the cursor position. The basic idea behind each of the levels is to prevent the onslaught of aliens reaching your cores and taking them back to their portals. To do this all that’s required is placing of defensive towers on the grid which automatically open fire on any aliens within their range. The towers come in various forms such as standard machine guns, to more damaging but slow cannons then additional elements are introduced as the aliens become more diverse with things like shields. So, you’re provided with counter attacking laser, tesla and concussion towers. The key to success is placing the towers in the correct locations on the grid , upgrading the towers with the limited resources available and try and bottleneck the aliens at the source rather than allow them to dig in deeper to reach the core. It’s easily said than done considering the masses of aliens that drive through in wave after wave, but with careful planning and making sure the correct towers for the job are placed in the most optimal location is key to winning. It’s only game over when all the cores have been stolen.
I found the experience to be quite enjoyable at first with the game easing me in quite gently making me feel pretty good that my tactical skills were on par. However, once the hand holding was over the game ramped up the difficulty making mincemeat of my efforts and leaving me a little frustrated as a result. You see, game over isn’t always obvious, and due to the length of each round the strategy you employ looks like its working until something goes horribly wrong and aliens begin slipping through the net. Time is very much the element here and it’s good you’re able to swap out towers should you need to increase a particular number of towers to suit the situation, but the margin for error is ever so slight. You can reload checkpoints, but I found it better to start over and learn from my mistakes that way.
Defense Grid 2 sports some functional visual qualities which is acceptable for an indie game but not going to win any awards as a result. There’s a fair bit of variation across the 20 or so levels, but the details are lacking especially amongst the alien populace which resemble angled blobs more than anything. The sound quality is also fair to meddling and never really invoked a sense of dread or fear aside from the really cheesy voice acting and dialogue which you’ll either embrace with a warm passion or fervently detest.
For £20, there’s quite a lot to wade through including an online multiplayer which adds potential additional hours to the package if you can find suitable challengers. But the reality is, across all modes and with as much tinkering as possible with the play options to make challenges, the core game is quite repetitive and doesn’t deviate at all from its basic feature of placing towers and letting the aliens run free. This has to be taken into consideration because after so long I became a bit tired of repeating the same thing over and over.
Defense Grid 2 will no doubt be well met by its fan base weaned on the original and hungry for more action, but anyone else might not be as vigorously attached. I found the game to be entertaining and mostly enjoyable despite some frustration with the difficulty and would recommend it suitable for playing in smaller doses due to lack of diversity within its core gameplay. It’s a well made game that doesn’t really push the hardware, or build on its strengths but is a worthy inclusion all the same for those who like a bit of strategic gaming.
Score 6.5/10 – Review by Andrew Banks
Review code supplied by Team Xbox UK.