The tower defense genre has been a part of the video game industry as early as 1990 when Atari Games came out with Rampart. The genre did not jump into the limelight until the online multiplayer days of Starcraft and Warcraft III when player made tower defense maps and scenarios flooded the internet. So what makes a tower defense game a tower defense game?
Tower defense games are fairly straightforward—build towers to stop waves of opposing forces from getting to your base. Sounds a bit boring, right? Well, luckily it isn’t! Or at least it shouldn’t be. Defense Grid 2 is a tower defense (in case the title didn’t give it away) which involves a grid system (in case the title didn’t give it away) that you place your towers on–perhaps it is the comically straightforward nature of the tower defense genre that I appreciate the most.
Defense Grid 2 will not give you the best first impression due to its rather clumsy menu design. The menu system is all over the place; on one hand it is simple and straightforward as it should be, but on the other hand it somehow manages to seem so complex. There is the ‘Play’ menu and next to that menu is the ‘Stats and Options’ menu, and next to that is the ‘More’ menu. The Play menu is how you play the campaign and multiplayer modes and each of those modes have menus of their own, which go on to split into more menus. Once you get over the initial confusing menu-filled hump though, it starts looking up.
The gameplay in Defense Grid 2 is solid and pushes the tower defense genre forward. The gameplay stays fresh from start to finish, due to a wide variety of maps, towers, fluctuating levels of difficulty, and enemy types. Each tower in the game has its pros and cons and each of them serves a purpose at one point or another. As you play through the game, you unlock more towers and tower upgrades, as well as new General abilities. General abilities are ultra powerful, but have a long cooldown and depending on your play style can make all the difference between a flawless victory or a complete loss.
The great variety in the gameplay is one thing that really makes Defense Grid 2 stand out as a great tower defense game, but another thing that elevates the whole experience is the comical approach to its story telling. The game does in fact have an interesting storyline involving murderous aliens and finding a new planet to relocate large masses of humans, but throughout the Defense Grid 2 campaign the game refuses to take itself seriously and is presented in a way that feels reminiscent of Mystery Science Theater 3000. It feels as though the games characters have one foot through the fourth wall and the story is constantly bordering on sci-fi satire. I appreciate a game that isn’t afraid to be a game and Defense Grid 2 is exactly that.
It is worth mentioning as well that you can spend an incredible amount of hours playing this game’s campaign missions. Depending on how skilled you are as a tower defense player, the single-player campaign could keep you busy for a good 10+ hours easily, and to top it off you don’t have to do it alone because the game supports 2-player co-op. Once you factor in the near-endless amount of time you can spend in the online multiplayer you have a game that could easily keep you occupied for weeks with-or-without your friends.
In my time playing Defense Grid 2 I noticed that some towers became outdated once new towers were unlocked. I can’t help but feel that the ‘Inferno’ tower is lacking and is easily replaced by the much more devastating ‘Laser’ or ‘Tesla’ tower. On the other end of the spectrum however, I discovered that the ‘Concussion’ tower was incredibly devastating and became a standard in all of my tower defenses. The ‘Missile’ tower is another incredibly powerful tower that becomes necessary for your survival in the later missions with its extreme range and damage.
Graphically, Defense Grid 2 isn’t much to look at, but it isn’t ugly either. Textures are fairly clean, lighting is where the game falls short visually. Shadows could be crisper and some lens flare effects could have added that little extra detail to take it to the next level. On the other side of the coin though, the frame rate holds steady no matter what you have on screen and makes for a very silky smooth gaming experience.
Now it’s time for the recap!
So we got a steady frame rate, towers and defense with a little humor thrown into the mix, but do we have the fun? Yes! Yes, my avid readers we do in fact have the fun. Defense Grid 2 delivers loads of fun with a quirky story mode campaign and solid competitive online multiplayer modes for a great price. Hidden Path Entertainment has created a great game that embraces and evolves the tower defense genre. I definitely recommend picking it up on the PSN and taking on the hordes!