Who stole the power cores from the power core jar?
After going free via Microsoft’s Xbox Games with Gold program a few months back, Defense Grid has remained somewhere on the fringe of my mind as a pure tower defense game and nothing more. When it comes to wasting loads of enemies in order to keep your base of operations or your particularly valuable MacGuffin safe, Defense Grid provided every element I could have asked for even in the face of my own obvious love for another tower-defense brand in gaming.
Still, it’s refreshing to see a science fiction game that doesn’t ask me to perforate an alien’s head personally and instead focuses on strategy, timing, resource management, and more. Defense Grid 2 does that and looks to do it with a lot of style to boot. In fact, even exploring the game’s menus unearthed a multitude of different modes, challenge levels, load-out options, upgrade possibilities, and more. With the game headed to PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC, I tried my hand at a level several hours into the game and got down to business.
Immediately, I posted a few gun turrets near the entrance where initial waves of enemies would enter the battlefield. In order to keep them at bay while I built up other towers, I focused on cheap units that could hold their own without needing an upgrade just yet. While there are a wide-variety of towers, placement is perhaps more important when considering what to buy next and whether or not it’ll prove effective against an upcoming wave.
The map I was playing on featured six different entrance lanes for enemy units and with each subsequent wave, enemies would move to a new lane. This meant that the main pathway needed heavy fortifications and as they got nearer to the last lane and my base, I needed to start planting towers closer to the enemy entrance. Guns did consistent damage but they didn’t have the range I needed to put away baddies for good. I started adding Inferno towers that would throw flames for damage over time and Laser towers that dealt consistent damage to enemies remaining within range.
When two or three groups started to get closer and closer to my base, I started focusing my efforts on the exit lane. While the main path stretched straight down an alley full of turrets, enemies who successfully made it to my base could steal an energy orb and head out a back alley. Planting Meteor-casting or Missile-firing turrets allowed me to finish off enemies though each has a much lower rate of fire to account for the enhanced range or damage.
All in all, Defense Grid 2 felt extremely balanced with a mind for the kind of tactical warfare that gets simplified in the tower-defense genre without being completely dumbed-down. I still needed to make careful choices in-between waves. Upgrading a gun near the entrance wasn’t going to help defeat a boss, but adding to my central Laser tower’s power and range helped cull large groups as the mission went on.
505 Games and Hidden Path Entertainment will have both local and online cooperative play, while a handful of different modes will keep players on their toes as they replay missions or try to take down a friend’s high score. One mode eliminated the ability to fully upgrade towers while another took away the ability to temporally slow enemies, each of which would have forced me to drastically change my tactics. Defense Grid 2 is currently slated for release in September.