I’ve been a fan of the tower defense genre for quite some time. From dozens of Flash titles to a collection of more fully-featured PC titles, it’s one I’ve had a lot of experience over the years. My love for this game style has taught me that they must be remarkably easy to make, given the proliferation, but that they’re very difficult to get right. A huge percentage of the titles I’ve tried out have failed not only to impress, but to create an engaging or interesting experience. When I come across something like Defense Grid 2 that gets so much of it right, though, it truly delights me.
Defense Grid 2 is probably one of the most feature-packed, expansive tower defense titles I’ve ever seen. A slew of tower types offering up a range of strategies and attack capabilities bring a lot of variety to the table; simple gun towers, area-affecting inferno and Tesla towers, and long-range cannons are just a sample of the available arsenal. Add to this a bevy of game modes, including cooperative and competitive online play, and Hidden Path Entertainment has put together a great all-around package.
Adding to the core single-player experience, Defense Grid brings a serviceable plot to the table with a cast of characters to narrate and navigate the story. While the writing and voice acting are a bit subpar – the voices, in particular, I could do without – the story itself isn’t half-bad. I don’t think that a tower defense game really needs to have that element, but it’s a nice framing for the action. The action itself is great, with levels moving along at a good pace. A fast-forward function allows players to speed things up, as well, which keeps the flow going even when there’s a break between enemy waves.
What sets Defense Grid 2 apart from much of its competition in the genre is the level of detail and polish. Beautiful, clear graphics and good sound design bring everything together, and the game looks and feels like a full AAA title. I didn’t get a chance to really tool around with the different game modes, but there’s quite the offering. Local and online co-0op play are an uncommon gem in the world of tower defense, and an included level editor makes for a wide variety of things to try beyond the 21-level campaign offering. Really, there’s a ton of content packed in here, and a Special Edition adds a digital art book, a e-book about creating the game, and an audio novella written by Hugo award-winning author Mary Robinette Kowal.
All told, Defense Grid 2 packs in a vast amount of stuff, all with a great finish. While I’m hard-pressed to recommend many indie games sporting a Steam price of $24.99 ($29.99 for the Special Edition), Hidden Path has likely put enough into this one to make it worth it. It’s quite the jump from 2008’s Defense Grid: The Awakening and the tidy $9.99, but with the great slew of game modes, phenomenally polished content, and great replay value, a fan of the genre would easily find a lot to love. I’d probably wait to see one of Steam’s famed sales hit this title before taking the plunge myself, but that’s mostly because I’m a cheapskate when it comes to my gaming.