Tower defense games always seem to have this innate ability to reel you in and potentially keep you entranced for hours. Defense Grid 2 definitely has this infused into its DNA thanks to varied gun towers and creative level layouts. While it doesn’t quite knock out PixelJunk Monsters as my favorite tower defense title, it definitely proves itself to be one of the better places to go to for a good fix within the genre.
While you usually don’t expect a story from games like Defense Grid 2, 505 Games went ahead and added one anyways. It’s not a complex tale in the slightest and if you’re expecting a crazy-compelling tale, well, you only have yourself to blame for the disappointment, because games cut from this cloth just don’t (and typically aren’t expected to) focus on that aspect. For those who are curious, the story revolves around a small cast of commanders trying to defend the human race from core-stealing aliens, and that’s basically all there is to it. Even though the story is pretty much a throwaway aspect of the game, I still appreciate that they made the effort.
Defense Grid 2‘s graphics are simple yet sharp and clean. Environments are well-varied and the gun towers that populate them well-designed. I especially love that the camera has three tiers of zooms and can rotate around the map. The only area that could have used improvement visually were the alien designs. Cycling through the game’s alien encyclopedia definitely shone a light on how generic and bland the extra terrestrials are. I wouldn’t be able to scribble one of the enemies down if my life depended on it. As for the audio front, the music is generic fare and while the voice acting wasn’t exactly excellent, it was solid enough to make it enjoyable and feel natural for the game.
Now, it’s time to get to the main course — gameplay, baby! As with any tower defense game, you have areas where you can build a variety of gun towers and picking where and what tower to build is absolutely essential for perfect execution. You’ll want to build inferno, laser, tesla, and any other crowd control towers near chokehold points such as the basic gun tower or supremely powerful cannon tower to finish the job off. The goal is to try and not let any aliens get their hands on those precious cores. If they do grab them, you can still wipe them out as they try to return to the spawn point, essentially giving you two chances to stop them. I really appreciated this aspect since aliens can spawn plentiful and fast, sometimes flat-out embarrassing my set-up.
Towers are also upgradeable and it’s absolutely essential you do or else you won’t possess the stomping power needed to stop the oncoming foes. Don’t expect to pass later levels with just basic towers or scatter-brained positioning. Speaking of positioning, the trajectory of the enemy is always mapped out with an arrow line. You can completely alter the pathway aliens have to take to get to your base so you really can’t overlook where you place your towers. It’s this constant need to be ready for the present and future waves that make the gameplay so compelling.
Map and enemy variety (not enemy design, by the way) in the game’s 21-mission campaign is wonderful and helps feed into the Defense Grid 2‘s variety and longevity. Once you beat the game, you can even up the difficulty to some pretty insane heights (and that’s not including the various optional modifiers to each map) to really give your brain a workout. There’s even a multiplayer component that’s both competitive and cooperative. The three multiplayer modes seen here are fine distraction,s but don’t expect to be fiending for these modes each time you boot it up.
It’s quite easy to learn Defense Grid 2 if you’ve played any other tower defense games and if you haven’t you’ll still be able to pick up the basics pretty quickly. In a level or two, Defense Grid 2 will sink its teeth into you. Just when you think you’ve got a plan for every situation, an off-kilter map layout will force you to rethink how to approach the game. Thanks to said layouts, the innate addictive nature of tower defense games and 505 Games’ excellent execution, Defense Grid 2 has solidified itself as a premier tower defense game that deserves to be checked out.
This review is based on the PlayStation 4 version of the game, which we were provided with.