Review: Defense Grid: The Awakening

Tower defense titles are a dime a dozen, from the sprightly, “is-it-really-tower-defense” types such as Crystal Defenders, to the universally-loved, such as Desktop Tower Defense, and even the criminally underappreciated games such as Lock’s Quest. At this point in time, however, it seems as though the genre may be beginning to stagnate, as there hasn’t been too many improvements by way of innovation over the years. With the release of Defense Grid, a very obvious tower defense title, thankfully we can breathe a sigh of relief with the fact that tower defense does have a chance to grow and evolve.

Defense Grid is lush with some truly glorious visuals and exemplary storytelling, as you will soon find out upon beginnging the game. While you may be expecting quite typical tower defense gameplay, that notion is soon turned on its head, as you must defend a group of machines known as “power cores” of your own in addition from keeping enemies at bay. It will be all well and good for you to simply target the enemies, but if you allow them to sneak around and grab your cores, you’ll be losing all the same. Understanding the multiple layers of strategy is absolutely key here, and where Defense Grid tends to shine.

Throughout some immense and sprawling maps you’ll need to be frugal with tower placement. While it’s true that enemies can and will take the shortest route possible in order to thwart your plans, it’s imperative that you learn and understand at least some of the maps via their large expansive land masses and sprawling, intersecting routes. Because of this, it will be hard to discern which paths your enemies will take. It’s quite simple to make a mistake with this in mind, so it’s important to note that Defense Grid has employed quite the useful strategy when it comes to perfecting your own routes: the press of the back button will restore an autosave so that you can go back and learn from your mistakes — a glaring omission that many tower defense titles fail to include. Saving your game often has always been a frugal idea, and in Defense Grid it’s no exception. Be thankful to the developers for such a kind addition to the repertoire of gameplay implements.
You’ll encounter quite the varying enemy types, as there is no one mandated character designs for the aliens you’ll be fending off, which is something I can most certainly appreciate as someone who enjoys a little variety after some games presenting the same enemy over and over, simply palette-swapped. Each type of enemy is equipped with its own special set of strengths as well as weaknesses, so it will take a bit of getting used to in order to find out which strategy is most effective against which enemy. This can get a bit confusing later on in the game when it is unclear which aliens have evolved, as they still appear the same, so trial and error is most certainly warranted.
Luckily, you don’t have to go through all of this alone. To guide you, there is an amicable AI companion along for the ride in order to educate and inform you of some of the many rules in-game and some of the varying enemy types. It will provide quite useful, though it tends to omit several rules that would have been imperative to learn earlier in the game than you actually hear about them. This is only a minor complaint, however, as Defense Grid can be picked up quite expediently — you’ll find yourself mowing through the competition at a very quick pace, so it’s of note that the learning curb isn’t punishingly steep.
In all, Defense Grid is quite the competent defense title, and it’s right at home on the Xbox Live Arcade. Gorgeous visuals and deep, strategic gameplay are quite rewarding, even for beginners to the genre. I highly recommend it as a starting point or even another notch on your tower defense bedpost, for those of you who are more experienced.

Comments are closed.