After an unsuccessful Kickstarter campaign in 2012, you might be forgiven for having thought that we may never see a sequel to the popular 2008 tower defense title Defense Grid: The Awakening. However, 505 Games and a private backer stepped in to bankroll development, and Defense Grid 2 is finally seeing the light of day, two years later. With twenty single-player stages and some new co-operative and competitive multiplayer modes, this sequel isn’t just a visual upgrade.
There is a basic story that introduces the new worlds involved in the title, but this is paper-thin and only serves as background noise really. You are here for some tower defense action, and that is what the game provides. You will need to build up your towers in order to survive between twenty to thirty waves of enemy attack. A variety of different towers are at your disposal, with new ones being unlocked the further you progress. Each can also be upgraded three times in order to make them more effective, but sadly there is no real customisation or evolution as they level-up. The twenty campaign stages can all be played solo or via local or online multiplayer, as well as the competitive multiplayer mode which is included.
This is all standard fare, but there are a few nice features that Defense Grid 2 possesses that makes it stand out from other tower defense titles. One welcome addition is the fast-forward button. There will be times where you feel you have created as good a defense network as possible, and simply want to see how it does against the aliens. Hit RB once and the game spins into overdrive and the waves will whizz along. Being a one-touch on and off feature, you can easily drop back to normal speed if something looks amiss and needs your attention. This makes proceedings far less tedious, and is a great idea.
Other than that, the level design allows space in each stage so that the player can direct the enemy and cause them to maze through their towers. With careful planning you can send the aliens round and round, in between your guns, forcing them to pass by as many of your high-ranked weapons as possible, thus causing extra damage and slowing them down. This is very satisfying when you make it work to your advantage, and is a great tactical option.
Also, rather than your core being damaged once enemies reach it, they take away individual energy cores, and try to escape the level with them. This gives you an opportunity to regain your energy, but also allows the aliens to chain up if one is killed, allowing the next nearby alien to pick up the ball and run with it. This creates an interesting tug of war situation, where you need to keep an eye on the position of your orbs on the map and give them time to slowly return to your base.
As each chapter loads up, you can customise each individual mission as well. There are a series of different modifiers to select, which can positively effect your scores if applied. For instance, you may choose to start a level with limited resources, in order to score a better top score, and to pose more of a challenge to yourself. On top of this, tower load-outs can be customised and you can unlock extra passive upgrades for different weaponry after successful missions. These different options really let you adjust the game to make the gameplay just how you want it; whether that be easier or more intense.
Co-operative modes work similarly both online and offline, with the two participants helping to build defenses and co-ordinate upgrades. There are toggles to share resources and positions, or to allocate each player separate scores and resources, so it can be played in a variety of ways depending on how independent each player wants to be. The competitive mode actually sees the enemies defeated by one player added to the attacking forces laying siege to the base of the opposing player – meaning you can pile the pressure on your opponent more the better you play. Multiplayer in tower defense titles is often such an afterthought, but the modes on offer here are thoroughly enjoyable additions to the game.
Defense Grid 2 may not be the most original idea, and lacks any real character in its story and presentation, but it is the unique gameplay ideas that make it a success. Hidden Path have tried to inject a few new tweaks and provide a twist on your expected tower defense conventions, and they all add enjoyment and streamline your experience. Yes, it may lack depth with the lack of skill trees for your towers, and there is little variety in the enemies which you are constantly mowing down, but the lack of complexity allows it to be an easy title to jump in and out of with a friend, and kick some alien behind.
GOOD. A game that scores 7/10 is worthy of note, but unworthy of fanfare. It does many things well, but only a few of them incredibly well and, despite a handful of good qualities, fresh ideas and solid mechanics, it fails to overwhelm.
Review code provided by publisher.