Defense Grid: The Awakening

Defense Grid: The Awakening is a tower defence game. I have mentioned these in passing before; it’s a genre I enjoy, combining as it does elements of puzzle-solving and of shooting things in the face until they are dead. Defense Grid (as I shall call it from here on) was originally a popular Steam release for the PC, and now it has come to Xbox Live Arcade, bringing with it an additional four-level bonus campaign and an extra three challenge mode types. So is it worth 800 of your precious Microsoft points? Let’s find out, shall we?

The basic premise of Defense Grid is fairly standard tower defence stuff: aliens will enter the map, proceed to your stock of power cores, nick them, and leave. Your job is to place your towers in such a way that the aliens all die before they are able to make off with any of your precious cores. Some of the maps are fairly straightforward paths with tower emplacements alongside, while others are more puzzle-oriented and allow you to place towers in the path of the aliens to force them to follow a longer route.

Eat hot leaden death, alien scum!
Eat hot leaden death, alien scum!

Aliens come in a variety of forms, from weak aliens in large groups through to large slow bosses, with various cloaked, shielded and flying variants in between. When killed, they grant extra resources which you can then use to purchase more towers.

As is traditional in any tower defence game, there are several different types of tower, each of which has two upgrade levels available to it. These become available to you one or two at a time as you progress through the 20-level campaign and, depending on your play style, will be either essential or largely redundant most of the time.

"Quiet as you can, lads, I think we might get away with this."
"Quiet as you can, lads, I think we might get away with this."

Gun towers are cheap and therefore useful in blocking off sections of the map; they will almost always be useful, at least at the start of a level. Laser towers have a slightly longer range and melt aliens’ faces off. Cannon towers have a longer range again. Missile towers are your primary anti-air weapon but cannot be used against ground targets. Meteor towers spit FLAMING BALLS OF DEATH. Inferno towers project flaming flames of flame, with a short range. Temporal towers slow down aliens caught in their area of effect. Concussion towers set off myriad small explosions around them. Tesla towers unleash a bolt of lightning which is more powerful the longer they are able to charge up. Finally, the command tower reveals stealthed aliens in its area of effect and also slightly increases income gained from aliens killed in that area.

Unlike a lot of TD games, Defense Grid is presented in full zoomable 3D, and very good-looking it is too. Generous use of particle effects make all the explosions look pretty, although too many meteor towers can lead to it being difficult to see what’s going on. But there again, that many meteor towers also tends to lead to lots of dead aliens, so it’s all good.

"Does anyone else smell burning?"
"Does anyone else smell burning?"

Sound is good; some nice atmospheric music and meaty gunfire effects are complemented by the voice of your world-weary assistant, a general who was uploaded into a computer at the end of the last war in order to help fight the next and occasionally flashes back to the horrors he encountered. Or blathers about raspberries. Mainly he’s there to shout encouraging phrases about the efficacy of your weapons, and he does so with gusto.

As remarked earlier, there are twenty missions in the main campaign, and an additional four in the new XBLA-only “Borderlands” mission pack. Once you’ve completed a mission in the story mode, new mission modes for that map are unlocked, which vary from one map to another. These include (but are not limited to) modes which only allow non-ungraded towers, modes which give you a fixed budget to work from, and “grinder” modes where you must survive 99 waves of aliens rather than the story mode’s more usual 10-30 waves.







One response to “Defense Grid: The Awakening”

  1. Ramsden avatar

    This is one of the best games I’ve played on XBLA this year, and was a definite purchase. Admittedly I’m a big fan of tower defence games, as they mark something of a halfway point between turn-based strategy and rts, offering the better aspects of both overall kinds of strategy game. I even liked and bought Crystal Defenders.

    However, Defense Grid however is nearly perfect as an example of tower defence games. It has more different game modes and maps than any other td game I can think of. The graphics are comparatively good, though I tend to wind up sticking to a single zoom level and angle out of habit from these games usually being 2D. And the sound is solid too… it sounds weird when described, but your computerised assistant rambling on about raspberries in a ridiculously jingoistic plummy example of what Americans imagine to be an English accent has a certain charm. My sole complaint is that they couldn’t be bothered to spell the name properly when they released it to the British version of the Live marketplace… but that’s just me being a pedantic arse.

    Anyone who likes strategy games should at least give it a casual look.

Leave a Reply