Defense Grid is a tower defense game in a futuristic setting. The player, with the help of a the bumbling professor-like AI companion must defend cores against an alien race set on stealing them. Unlike other tower defense games where enemies enter on one side of the screen and exit the other, Defense Grid has enemies going in, stealing something, and then going out either through the place they entered, or a different exit. In most missions, you start off with 24 cores. If you lose all 24 cores, it’s game over.
I’m a novice when it comes to tower defense games, but I found Defense Grid to be a patient teacher. The mechanics of the game are introduced through the first handful of missions in a way that doesn’t overwhelm the player with too much at once. I really liked that as I progressed through the levels, I unlocked more towers, upgrades, and enemy types. It makes even the first hour of the game rewarding.
The variety of towers makes it easy to customize the game to your own playing style. I’m more conservative when it comes to defending, so I like concentrating my main defense near where the enemies enter the field. For example, I’ll put a laser tower near the beginning to set enemies on fire so that they can take damage even when they go out of range. Then I’ll put a flame thrower nearby to take care of the groups of small enemies that render single-target towers useless. If I have the resources, I’ll put in a temporal tower, which slows down all enemies within range so that they can take damage for longer while they’re near my towers.
There are different towers to deal with all types of enemies such as the missiles that only target flying enemies, or the meteors which are good for big groups of enemies from a far range but I wish there was an option to give the towers the command to target the same enemy, or different ones. Too many times, I’ve put several guns close to each other, thinking that each one could target a different enemy only to have them target the same enemy at the same time and ignore any enemies nearby. Maybe it could be an optional upgrade to have towers give un-targeted enemies priority. When times are desperate and I just need to have an alien who slipped by killed, I like to use the player-guided laser. It takes a long time to re-charge, but man, is the satisfying blast it gives enemies worth it.
The puzzle element of where and how to place towers to deal the maximum damage to enemies would have been more enjoyable if I could pause the game before the enemies started approaching. I guess that would be close to cheating, but even if the game had a “preview” mode that just let me view the map without putting any towers down, it would have been helpful. A preview mode would make the maps where I needed to carefully plan out where to put each tower so that I could shape the enemy’s path to and from the cores more enjoyable. As it is now, those types of maps get restarted often because of the trial and error involved with mapping at the same time you’re trying to defend.
Despite the couple of annoyances about Hidden Path’s Defense Grid, I found the game enjoyable and addictive. Many nights, I’ve hopped on to play one or two missions, but stayed for five or six just because I was curious what the next map would look like, or what it would unlock. For the achievement-whores out there, there are plenty of Steam achievements to be had with easy challenges such as saving up a certain amount of resources by the end of the map, to harder ones. For tower defense fans, Defense Grid for $20 through Steam is a no-brainer: it’s polished, the graphics are great and run fine on my 4 year old PC, the music gets your heart pumping, and it’s just plain fun. Sure, there are plenty of capable tower defense flash games out there, but with Defense Grid, you get tower defense, a decent soundtrack, and nice eye-candy while you’re playing.
Images courtesy of Hidden Path.