I can’t believe it’s been nearly six years since the original Defense Grid: The Awakening was released, that’s plenty of time to make Defense Grid 2 a worthy sequel, right?
Well it’s certainly got a bit more substance from what I remember of the original Defense Grid but let’s start with what it’s all about. Tower-defense, an increasingly popular genre thanks to not only Defense Grid but also the rise of Plants vs Zombies most recently cracking the mainstream audience. Anyway the idea here is to prevent the aliens from reaching your power cores and stealing them by using any means available.
Anything you do across the whole game will follow this pattern and with weapons at your disposal (as long as you have the resources to buy them) it’s all out warfare. There are 21 different map layouts within the Campaign and it’s entirely up to you whether you play these through the story rules or one of the many other rule types. The story mode makes you work on the basis of gaining resources throughout a map/level and only having certain weapon towers unlocked for purchasing.
Wave after wave of enemies will attempt to traverse the open path to the cores which they desire, so tower placement alongside this path is important to maximise the damage output. It all seems pretty straight forward until a few maps later and the path becomes an open area for aliens to just walk through. The idea here is for the player to use towers to filter the aliens down a path that you make yourself with as many twists and turns as possible slow them down.
These aliens bug me, simply because to plan your defensive strategies you need to be able to see the whole map. By doing this you can only make out the rough outline of the aliens and so it looks like the majority of the time you’re taking out generic aliens which gets rather boring. The larger of them, the Juggernauts are fun to destroy due to them being able to withstand so much punishment that it’s generally a close call as to whether you stop those cores from being stolen.
Having the more advanced, powerful towers unlock as you go along is the best way to introduce fresh elements but there’s always that point where they stop coming. Once you’ve gone from guns to meteors, it’s a bit like… what else you got? Okay there are nine different weapons and one booster to allow towers placed atop it to have extra upgrades as well as the natural level upgrades (from green level one to red level three). Still there’s that feeling I need more, although I credit the versatility in weapon styles from range to close quarters.
Once you’ve had enough of the story, which lacks a whole lot of engaging storytelling, there’s a shed load of choices. The choice you need to make leads you to a question, under what circumstances would you like to try complete maps? Well whether it’s having a set amount of resources from the start, all towers and upgrades available or even one where hovering the cursor over aliens causes damage, you can do it all. So if you do become addicted to the gameplay then the replayability is huge.
The online Multiplayer side of things covers everything you can do offline like the maps, gameplay rules plus some and is then also split into three main game types in DG Fighter, Co-Op Doubles and DG Coordinated Defense. Sound great? Sure it does, but be prepared to just admire the possibilities because across all my matchmaking attempts I’ve found only one person.
The amount of options is impressive, however someone needs to be searching for the exact same as you to be matched up or you have to literally set it to find any match whatsoever and even then I waited a good ten minutes only to find a practice mode match. Having a friend with the game is the easy way then you can invite them directly to the game. It’s rather poor to have so little online activity in the launch week and I cannot see this changing any time soon.
Given the sparsely populated Multiplayer, I will say if you are going to buy this at the rather steep price of £19.99 then convince a friend to do the same to enhance the experience. There’s no doubt there’s a lot of tweaks in the map rules to ensure a potentially healthy amount of hours from Defense Grid 2.
For me it became a little stale and I gained most of my enjoyment by, as the saying goes, going back little and often. Strangely the lack of variety in aliens and weapons becomes obvious too soon but if you can overlook this then it’ll provide a decent challenge for tower-defense veterans.