Finishing the last wave of impending doom offers a satisfying experience.
Gamers, like myself, who consider themselves fans of tower defense strategy games have had some pleasant surprises recently. PixelJunk Monsters, Ninjatown and Lock’s Quest have proven to be successful commercial entries to the genre while games like Desktop Tower Defense and Immortal Defense
are great indie additions. From a technical standpoint, it’s rather
easy to develop a tower defense game, but the devil is definitely in
the details here.
A good selection of gameplay elements and proper
balance are absolutely critical, as tower defense games are essentially
realtime strategy games distilled. Defense Grid: The Awakening is a tower defense game with an RTS sheen and was created by Mark Terrano, Age of Empires II‘s lead designer.
story is extremely simple. Aliens have returned after a thousand years
of peace and it’s up to you to control an ancient defense system known
as the “defense grid” to prevent them from stealing the all-important
“power cores”. This serves the purpose of giving you hordes of aliens
to annihilate but it isn’t all that interesting. However, there’s some
charm and depth added to the story via the character of a
formerly-human AI providing support and advice to you. The voice acting
for the AI is excellent and he even had me chuckling at times, as
Only one core required for the bronze?
The gameplay is mostly what you might expect from a tower defense game though this isn’t necessarily bad. Unlike PixelJunk Monsters or Lock’s Quest, you don’t take control of a specific character. Rather, Defense Grid
features the more traditional RTS omniscient eye-in-the-sky control
scheme. This was a wise choice for how the game is designed but I must
say I am a fan of being thrown into the fray as well. Fans of Desktop Tower Defense will recognize early on that Defense Grid
uses a similar gameplay mechanic of controlling the enemies’ paths by
intentionally placing towers to do so. Enemies will not walk through a
tower’s “force field” unless they have no clear path. This adds a nice
puzzle element to each mission and lets you maximize your towers’
lethality by forcing the enemy to traverse extra ground or even
There’s a good array of varied alien enemy types and
suitable selection of towers to put in their way. On the other hand, I
would have liked to see a little more individuality with the tower
selection. “Gun” and “Cannon” towers do stand apart well enough, as do
“Laser” and “Inferno” towers, but starker differences with less “one
size fits all” would make strategizing a more interesting process.
Still, there’s several towers to choose from and the differences are
definitely big enough to matter. The missions are well-balanced and
proper tower placement/upgrading can be the difference between
embarrassment and a cake-walk. One helpful feature not often seen in
the tower defense genre is the ability to jump backward to a previous
save checkpoint (automatically saved at intervals during a mission).
This helps prevent the frustration of that one enemy unit that keeps
managing to slip by when you’re trying to save every single power core
and allows you to easily try multiple strategies. The game features a
generous amount of missions for it’s $20 price tag and has a decent
replay value via extra challenges, highscore leaderboards and
Use the inferno tower to melt the little buggers down.
is a game with enough nuances to warrant a rather detailed manual.
Unfortunately, in what seems to be an attempt to not hold your hand
through the game, the game teaches you to play as you go along. If you
forget which part of which mission, tells you how something works. You
may be left scratching your head, as the game’s manual leaves out some
of the finer details. Fortunately, this isn’t a problem too wide-spread
or serious. One addition I would have liked to see is a hotkey assigned
to each tower, allowing for extra quick placement. The menu used to
choose between the various towers works well enough, but can be a
little finicky at times.
Graphically, Defense Grid
definitely stands apart with it’s attractive big-budget RTS graphics.
While it’s sci-fi look is, at times, a bit on the generic side. The
alien designs and particle effects do a nice job of prettying things
up. I did notice some odd rough scaling issues on the 2D graphics, such
as the menus, and I imagine it’s because of my non-widescreen display.
Luckily, it wasn’t too obvious and this could be easily patched. The
orchestral music and sound (save for the great voice acting) were
decent but weren’t especially remarkable.
Defense Grid: The Awakening
is another good addition to the genre of tower defense games and while
it may not do anything truly new or revolutionary it combines several
existing gameplay elements into an experience that manages to stand on
its own. Fans of tower defense games will find something new and fun
here and they shouldn’t pass it up.