Title: Defense Grid: The Awakening
Release Date: December 8, 2008
Publisher (Developer): Hidden Path Entertainment (Hidden Path Entertainment)
ESRB Rating: Everyone
Pros: Nicely paced learning curve. Nice variety of upgradable towers.
Cons: No reasonable way to detect enemy strengths and weaknesses. Recommended system requirements a bit extreme.
Overall Score: Two Thumbs Up, 90, A-,**** out of five.
There were a lot of huge titles that were released at the tail end of 2008. In all the hype generated by these high profile titles, it’s easy to overlook some of the gems that don’t have as loud a voice. Defense Grid: The Awakening is one of those gems that fans of tower defense games defiantly should not miss.
Defense Grid can be downloaded from Steam or Direct2Drive for only $19.99 and provides hours of gameplay that’s simple to pick up and enjoy.
Gotta Love Those Power Cores
Defense Grid has the standard premise for a game that prides itself on providing hordes of enemies to shoot. Aliens are attacking and it’s up to us and a variety of super-powered towers to fend them off.
This time around those pesky aliens are after power cores that help keep the defenses up. The power cores are little balls of light that surround a node. With the help of our trusty computer ally with an English accent, we strategically place towers to ensure that those aliens don’t make off with our power cores.
The good thing about Defense Grid is that it’s very forgiving at the beginning of game whenever an alien gets through defenses and grabs a power core. The aliens start with a specific entry and exit point that’s usually right next to each other. If a power core is taken the alien has to go through our defenses a second time in order to get away. This is the game’s way of easing us into the process before the more difficult levels start.
Mid way through Defense Grid, the difficulty increases as aliens have multiple pathways to escape and we don’t have the luxury of knowing which exit they will choose. Strategic positioning of the towers – and the towers’ resulting force fields – becomes more important because we can influence aliens’ paths. For example, you can position the towers to make the aliens take the longest route possible, thus increasing your chances to destroy them before they reach the power cores.
Blame the Aliens Yet Again
The aliens are nothing special to look at. Some have different speeds and weaknesses but it’s hard to determine what those weaknesses are. There is no way to tell which aliens are vulnerable to a certain tower unless you meticulously watch their health bars. Even then it’s hard to pinpoint which tower is doing the most damage if you have five towers shooting at once.
You also have to right click on each enemy to get a brief description about them and see their heath meter. It would have been nice to have an automatic health bar pop up whenever the cursor is pointed over an alien to see how we’re doing. All too often you had to hope that your tower strategy is good enough to take down a wave of aliens we’ve never seen before.
At least the aliens are color coded on a chart at the top of the screen to tell you how difficult they are. Green means easy, red means hard. That’s simple enough for anybody to get used to.
Towers of Power
The towers in Defense Grid: The Awakening are your best friends. They are indestructible and never run out of ammunition. They do however require resources in order to build. Resources are slowly accumulated over time or gained quickly by destroying enemies. The larger foes will dish out more resources than typical drones.
In the beginning you have access to the most basic towers such as guns and flamethrowers. They can be placed anywhere on the map that’s highlighted green. There is no shortage of spaces to put towers and attack ranges are very reasonable given the amount of enemy waves you must defeat to complete a level.
Later on you’re given access to other towers such as cannons, tesla (electricity), laser, mortar and a host of others. They can all be upgraded to increase firepower and range by using more resources. Upgrading towers is a strategy in and of itself because while upgrading, the tower retreats underground for a fixed amount of time. You have to make sure neighboring towers can pick up the slack before choosing to take one down temporarily.
Upgrades do look different in appearance and attack animation. It can be difficult to see which towers are upgraded so the developers put in a color coded system that surrounds each tower from green to red to determine its upgrade level.
The View From Above
Graphically Defense Grid is pretty basic. There are three different camera modes to view the action that can be changed by scrolling the mouse wheel. Most of the time the farthest viewing angle will be used most of the time. There’s simply too much going on at once to zoom in completely to get a good look at the towers and enemies. The graphics aren’t bad by any means but the somewhat beefy recommended system requirements leave much to be desired.
All in all Defense Grid: The Awakening is a very fun game with little to complain about. If you like tower defense style games this one will take up a lot of your time. The game even throws in little surprises once in the while such as a super weapon that shoots from space. Not easily knowing what enemies are weak against certain towers puts a damper on strategy but manipulating the path of the aliens sort of makes up for that. You really can’t go wrong with this game for $20.