Tower defense games have been around for over ten years now. They started as custom maps for the classic RTSs Starcraft and WarCraft III. Lately however, there have been a plethora of full fledged standalone tower defense releases. One such game is the 2008 release Defense Grid: The Awakening. Furthermore the developer, Hidden Path Entertainment, raised enough money through Kickstarter to release Defense Grid: Containment on Jan. 23, 2013. But does Defense Grid do its predecessors justice, or is it just a cash in on a new genre?
Like most RTSes and tower defenses, Defense Grid is able to get away with lower resolution textures and animations due to the nature of the game. This game does look good for the genre, without sacrificing performance. Even on a very low end machine, Defense Grid runs perfectly and doesn’t suffer from slowdown or lag. Defense Grid is not without fault though. The various aliens are often hard to tell apart from each other, which can make planning out a defense much more difficult than it needs to be. But that is just a small gripe that players will overcome with time.
Being a sci-fi tower defense, this game has no shortage of high tech weapon sounds and alien grunts and groans. The music does a great job of setting a backdrop to the slaughter of thousands of aliens. The actual sound track is very diverse. There are enough backing tracks so the player does not get tired of a single track. In a game like this, that is a blessing.
A tower defense game is simple: the player builds towers to defend their base from waves and waves of enemies. This is what makes or breaks a tower defense. The game needs to be challenging enough to make the player think, without seeming impossible. Defense Grid hits that sweet spot. Each level causes the player to think and forces them to not reuse the same strategy they used in the previous level. The levels also have very interesting designs. There are many different paths that the aliens can take, and it’s up to the player to decide which paths to wall off and which paths to fortify.
Another huge aspect of a Tower Defense is the tower diversity. The player needs to feel like they have a lot of choices in their arsenal. This is the one aspect in which Defense Grid falls short. There are no tech paths, and there is only one or two towers that can fill each role. This is a downside, but the other pros of Defense Grid more than make up for it.
The final and most important part of a tower defense is the game’s replayability. The player needs to have a long and enthralling campaign with dozens of challenges and special maps in order to feel satisfied with a title. Defense Grid is perfect in that regard. The base game comes with dozens of maps that the player can play through in several different game modes. These modes range from standard Story mode, to a mode that restricts what towers can be placed, to a mode that has an enormous amount of enemy waves. All of this is also tracked on a set of leaderboards, giving the player a reason to come back and beat their previous score. The expansion Containment adds 8 more maps complete with the same amount of challenges and replayability. As far as price per dollar spent, Defense Grid: The Awakening and Defense Grid: Containment is a true value.
Tower defense games are great ways to spend a few hours, and Defense Grid is no exception. Hidden Point Entertainment is working hard to continue to release content, giving the players even more to do in this treasure. For fans of the genre, Defense Grid: The Awakening and Defense Grid: Containment are solid entries. They do the genre justice and are fantastic games.
Defense Grid: The Awakening and Defense Grid: Containment are available on Steam for $9.99 and $4.99 respectively.