Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Review: Defense Grid

Ever since my early Starcraft days, I've been a big fan of tower defense type games. Desktop Tower Defense, provided a nice lunchtime activity, but I've always been on the lookout for something more solid.

Defense Grid: The Awakening is a highly advanced tower defense game with stunning graphics. I purchased it through Steam during the boxing day sales for $14.95 US, but it usually retails for $19.95 US.

The basic premise of any tower defense game is to prevent waves of units from getting from point A to point B. You do this but creatively constructing mazes of towers, which slowly eliminate the units. Eliminating units provides resources which allows you to build more towers. The units will follow the path you create through your maze, but if you block them they either attack or simply walk through the towers. There are usually multiple tower types which perform different functions. Strategic placement of the towers is essential to achieving victory.

In Defense Grid there are ten tower types, each of which can be upgraded 3 times:
  1. Gun: good bang for your buck
  2. Inferno: AoE type damage, but ultimately weak versus single units
  3. Temporal: slows down the speed of the units
  4. Concussion: another AoE weapon which can fire in all directions at once
  5. Meteor: a long-range slow firing high damage tower that comes with a price tag
  6. Laser: high damage to single targets, but expensive
  7. Cannon: long-range heavy damage, but can't attack up close
  8. Tesla: causes more damage the longer it charges
  9. Missile: an anti-air missile weapon (yes they have flying units)
  10. Command: a tower that increases revenue per monster killed and reveals stealth within its radius
There are many unit types in Defense Grid and they all require a different strategy to defeat. The game contains a 'story mode' which slowly introduces you to the different towers and unit types. I was able to complete the entire story campaign in a little under 12 hours. The last mission was by far the hardest, which took me about 15 tries and 2.5 hours all up.

The game has excellent replayability with almost all missions supporting multiple challenge modes, which include:
  • Story (need to complete this one first)
  • Story Challenge
  • Resource Limit (e.g. you only have 20k of spending)
  • Tower Limit (e.g. you can only build 20 towers)
  • Grinder (they just keep coming till something gives)
  • Practice (you can't lose!)
Defense Grid is linked into the Steam achievement system, which provides for even more of a challenge. I tried for the 'Gun Crazy' achievement last night, which reads: "Beat an advanced mission with only Gun towers". A lot harder than it sounds, believe me! There are 57 achievements in total.

Every time you complete a mission the game gives you rank in comparison to all other players in the world. This provides for another element of challenge to the game. I usually end up around the 2000 mark, but every so often I break the sub 100s.

Defense Grid was created by Mark Terrano, the lead designer of Age of Empires II, and for $20 makes for one hell of an awesome little game. Perfect for filling the gaps between MMOs and general time wasting. The Steam metascore for Defense Grid was 81 /100, but I'd happily give it 88. Definitely worth the price.


Tesh said...

I saw that on Steam the other day when perusing the sales. Thanks for the review! I might just have to keep an eye on the price for this one.

Crimson Starfire said...

Np. The game is definitely worth buying at it's current price. I'm up to the 20 hour mark on it and am still really enjoying myself. It's just one of those games like bejeweled that you can keep going back to. Also since you're a big fan a good game design, I highly recommend checking it out. Defense Grid is a simple, yet effective game design that has enormous replayability.

Faith Eshelman said...

I find it curious that the main site for the game doesn't have an obvious link to the Steam sales site. That seems like a rookie oversight.

I'll probably pick this up if it goes on sale again. :D

Anton said...

I like it when games manage to offer so many challenges with intricacies. There must be hundreds of different ways to set up those towers, it provides for lots of experimentation and ever-changing gameplay.

Crimson Starfire said...

For some reason the main site is a bit crappy. It doesn't even list the achievements. Definitely buy it through Steam if you decide to buy it.

I forgot to mention in the post that each level has a gold silver or bronze rating depending on how many resources you use. This encourages you to build the most efficient setup possible which usually requires use of all towers available. It's just one big puzzle game.

Thallian said...

Im gonna have to recommend this to my bros.

Anonymous said...

When I saw this on Steam I was definitely intrigued by its description. Lol, I used to make my own maps in Starcraft specifically to play out tower defense scenarios, both defending and attacking. After reading this review I'll definitely be giving it a second look.

Tesh said...

This is on sale this weekend on Steam; it's down to $5. It's definitely worth it if you like tower defense games at all.

...so yes, I'm picking it up finally. :)

Crimson Starfire said...

Awesome, it's definitely worth it.