There’s a lot to be said about the accessibility and time killing virtues of tower defence games and whilst Defense Grid’s first outing may have been embraced more for its visual aesthetic than its originality, it worked well within the genre’s core principles. With a generous Kickstarter backing and a previous title to build upon, developers Hidden Path Entertainment bring us this second offering that not only keeps you glued to your screen, but also takes that ageing formula and polishes it to a shine.
Game: Defense Grid 2
Developer: Hidden Path Entertainment
Publisher: 505 Games
Reviewed on: PlayStation 4
In Defense Grid 2 your aim is to fend off aliens hellbent on making life difficult for the human race who need to find a new planetary home before they’re wiped out. During missions you’ll hear dialogue constantly as the game does its very best to flesh out the tower defense experience with narrative, and it actually works pretty well. A lot of the none-too-serious chatter certainly brightens the atmosphere, even if a majority of it felt slightly wasted on me with my concentration aimed more towards tasks at hand.
I haven’t played the PC version, but moving through menus in and out of game felt like this console edition wasn’t part of the original conception. At times they can be quite small, but more problematically there’s a plethora of them to wade through that might be confusing to a new player or someone too impatient to delve into the tutorial and soak in everything around them. The confusion will be short lived as you get to grips with everything, but I couldn’t shake the feeling that it could have been more streamlined in that respect. Same goes for the overall graphics, that in all honesty completely underwhelm on Sony’s next-gen console.
With that out the way, you’ll find a very similar beast to the first game as Defense Grid 2 sets out to refine its gameplay rather than rebuild it. The idea, as with all tower defense titles, is to stop enemies in their predefined tracks by setting up defenses around a map. In this instance it’s a bunch of pesky aliens who are trying to swipe your power cores and escape with them in tow. To stop them, there’s a whole host of turret types to place; some might be more effective against clusters, whilst another might be more suited to long range single targets, for example.
What is achieved so brilliantly in this title is the way it demands an obsessive attention to detail as you look to upgrade, tweak and adjust your layout to achieve maximum efficiency – and you’ll want to because of its good amount of variety to what can be built. Boost towers, for instance, are not only clever in the way they allow you to raise your turrets for better results, but as a way to block routes, essentially allowing you to divert traffic in a way that suits you. On top of that unlockable upgrades allow for improved stats so you’ll have plenty of tweaking to do on your quest to get that killer score.
Credits to purchase towers slowly refills without the need to kill enemies this time round. It’s a small alteration that works well by never letting the player become too idle for too long. Infact, the whole balance is particularly well achieved right from gameplay through to level design. There’s a solid mix of levels with some geared towards pacifying a single route and others asking you to help control the flow yourself by using towers and boost tiles effectively. At face value there might not be much to see in titles like this, but when you get in close enough you get a feel for the depth under the hood. Defense Grid 2 is a prime example of that. Perhaps the best example.
Essentially there’s a good 10-12 hours in the campaign alone, that once finished can be revisited over and over as you aim to perfect your placements. It’s far more accessible to do so now, too. That’s because a simple button press rewinds the game to a previous wave of enemies, allowing you to rethink strategies without the hideously long winded trial and error of typical tower defence games. It may feel like cheating, but what it is, is a way to keep players glued to the game without growing bored. Same goes for the great pace of which new elements are introduced. Defense Grid 2 wants you to enjoy every second, and it does a pretty good job of doing so.
Outside of the main game is a multiplayer that never really gripped me. Everything you kill gets sent packing to your opponents map for them to fend off and whilst the idea is pretty good, the incentive and replay value of the campaign is melted down into something more vague and uninteresting. Same goes for the co-op mode, that despite offering a little more fun in execution, still lacks that appeal, maybe because I don’t like other people touching my stuff, or credits.
There’s not a great deal new about this tower defence game and whilst it tries to create a narrative to help draw you into its world, it only ever becomes an average, albeit light-hearted, distraction. However, the gameplay itself has to be up there with the very best of its genre, offering addictive level design, particularly good depth and as many hours of entertainment as your OCD requires to make things better than the time before it. If you need another tower defence game in your life, this is the easiest purchase decision you’ll ever make.