We can’t quite believe that it’s been almost 6 years since the release of Defense Grid: The Awakening. It’s regarded as one of the best Tower Defense games by fans of the genre who have been hoping for a sequel. Now Hidden Path Entertainment are back with the sequel which we’ve been checking out on Xbox One.
A Tower Defense game, for those new to the genre, is one where you must strategically place different types of towers to prevent an enemy progressing long a path. Defense Grid 2 uses a sci-fi setting where your towers are different types of guns. The path they are protecting leads to your power cores which appear to be in high demand by the attacking alien race. Throughout the single player campaign there’s a story that plays out giving reasons for what is happening.
The action is viewed from an isometric viewpoint and a tap of the right stick can rotate the map 90 degrees or zoom in closer. You begin a level with limited resources that can be spent on tower construction. As time ticks on your resources slowly increase and the various waves of aliens will attack.
Each of the 21 levels features designated places that you can build your towers. The path the aliens will take is shown so that you can make decisions on where best to build. Before building a tower you also need to take into consideration which type is most useful. For example an Inferno tower uses a flamethrower that is only effective at short range while, a cannon tower has a slow rate of fire but a long range and laser towers have medium range and inflict damage over time.
Each tower you build can be upgraded two times and towers change colour to help you track their level. They start at green, change to yellow for level 2 and red for level 3. Should you decide to change your strategy you can also sell towers to regain resources.
Another consideration is the types of aliens that are attacking. Single units are easier to take out than big groups. Some will race along if given a clear run so obstructing them to force them to change direction will slow them down. Others carry shields which protect them for longer. Getting to know the different types of aliens is as important as learning your different tower types.
A particularly useful construct is the new Boost tower. These can be placed in the path of the attacking aliens to change their path to give you more control over them. Boost towers can also have towers built upon them giving them better vantage points and bigger ranges. They can also be upgraded to provide different benefits such as damage and resource boosts or even act as shield disruptors.
Once you feel satisfied that your towers can handle the incoming threats you can speed up the action with a tap of a button. When you get it right it is incredibly satisfying to sit back and watch your towers polish off the last few waves without you needing to do anything further. You can also knock the speed back down and if things go wrong you can always jump back to a previous checkpoint.
If any aliens do make it to your power cores they will steal one and attempt to drag it back to the start of the path to escape with it. Your towers can attack the aliens on the way back and if you kill them the power core they were carrying is dropped and will slowly make its way back to your cores.
If your towers become overwhelmed you can fall back on your Command Team option as a last resort. These are powerful special abilities that you can activate such as an Orbital Laser to annihilate a large group of aliens.
Experienced Tower Defense players are likely to get through the campaign in under five hours. This may sound short but the game features plenty of options to keep you playing. There are multiple difficulties that you can switch between to make things tougher. Each mission can be replayed with a variety of modifiers turned on to augment the experience. These add variety and difficulty to the maps and each provides a leaderboard which will please competitive players.
Another great feature for the more competitive players is the ability to compare your game in real-time to a friend. This allows you to see a graph as you play to show you how your friend was doing at the same point. At the end of a game you can compare the graphs to see where you each did better. You can also see how your performance lined up against the required levels for bronze, silver and gold medals.
Finally the game has some multiplayer and co-op features. In the PvP mode the enemies you defeat are respawned over on your enemy’s side which makes things far more unpredictable. In co-op you must work together with another player to create your defense. This mode can be frustrating unless the two players are prepared to communicate as you work from the same resource pool.
Defense Grid 2 is a cracking game that is absolutely essential for Tower Defense fans. It’s also approachable enough for those new to the genre. If you’re unsure what platform to purchase the game on you might want to consider that the PC version comes with Steam Workshop support to create your own levels.