THE ultimate in tower defence games that will you coming back time and again
Defence Grid 2
Platform: Xbox One (reviewed) / Playstation 4 / PC / Mac
Score: 8.9 / 10
IF the asking price of £20 for a tower defence game - a stalwart of free to play iOS and Android platforms - has some balking, the detail and depth of Defense Grid 2 should give them cause to reconsider. It may be crowded out in the late autumn rush of blockbuster releases, but the title is arguably the best example of its genre, providing fine value in encouraging multiple repeat playthroughs with different strategies and approaches.
Developers Hidden Path are astute enough to realise that if it ain’t broken, don’t fix it. The core mechanics of Defense Grid 2 are the same as any other tower defence game; faced with an influx of hostile invaders, your job is fortify one of several environments with an array of weaponry in an attempt to stop them pillaging vital resources - in this case, a tower containing precious power orbs. Instead, they build upon the foundations laid by countless developers before them and bring their own variety and depth to the equation.
The levelling up system encourages repeat playthroughs
There are 10 towers in all that can be erected across dozens of campaign levels, each following familiar tropes, such as gun turrets, flamethrowers and missile launchers. Put in a few hours of play, however, and the gradual process of unlocks and upgrades augment the experience; faced with particularly hard to take down foes, it is possible to train your heaviest artillery on them, leaving your gun, laser and inferno towers to focus on the scuttling battalions of tiny extraterrestrials.
The main campaign will take up several hours of your time, but thanks to the ability to customise each level with different modes and difficulty spikes, it will not be long before you are firing up each scenario again to try and complete it in a different way. Some well judged achievements also encourage you to revisit the main missions, with points on offer for using only gun turrets in later, difficult levels. At the end of each successful defence, there is an abundance of statistics and graphs on offer detailing the merits of your approach, a feature some may find superfluous but which actually informs your planning.
A narrative running through each mission is redundant and best ignored
There are several areas where Hidden Path overreach themselves in trying to redefine the genre. The slew of textual narrative prefacing each mission is obtuse and the repeated prompts from your AI allies in the form of audio and text boxes quickly grate, especially when you are trying to train your eye on potential weak points in your ever expanding - and ever volatile - network of towers. It feels like an unnecessary attempt to lighten to the tone and keep the momentum going, something the gameplay is more than capable of doing by itself.
Fortunately, the redundant story is dispensed with entirely in multiplayer mode, where the same degree of tinkering and invention is on show. It is to be hoped that Hidden Path have plans for DLC for Defense Grid 2, as it is the ideal game to dip in and out of when you have a spare quarter of an hour. There may be more grandiose games to come in the final weeks of 2014, but this is one of the few you will still be playing well into 2015.
TIPS AND TRICKS:
1) Hitting X during a game brings up a heat map of kills. It is a useful way of determining which cluster of towers requires upgrading, particularly in areas close to where the aliens emerge from their craft.
2) The missile tower may be one of the most expensive to build, with the final upgrade alone costing 1200 points. But it is well worth the investment, given its ability to strike foes across a vast radius.
3) If you feel you have misjudged a built in the later waves of a level, avail yourself of the option to reload the last checkpoint. Granted, it feels like an easy way out of a funk, but at least it means you don’t have to play through again from wave one.