In PC land, tower defense games are breading like rabbits on Viagra. On the Xbox 360, things have been far more limited, with just the rather average Final Fantasy: Crystal Defenders to keep players satisfied. However, things are rapidly changing in this area, with XBLA soon to see Plants vs Zombies and South Park: Let’s go tower defence play. Ahead of these and available right now, is the rather splendid Defense Grid.
Originally available via Steam on the PC, Defense Grid opens up the last remnants of an ancient civilization, which is being invaded by aliens. With the help of a rather melancholy computer, the player must protect the cores of the mainframe system from being snatched away by some rather vicious and somewhat persistent enemy thieves.
This is achieved by placing various different turrets around a grid, setting them in the preeminent strategic positions in order to destroy the ever marching hordes. Initially this is limited to a few machines gun, but soon opens up with lasers, flame-throwers, time control, missiles, Tesla coils and all manner of other weapons, ready to be set down across the map.
Although all armaments will cause damage to most aliens, there are certain types that will cause more carnage to particular foes. Flame works well against groups of working grunts, gun work well against critters with shields and Teslas are great as a final exit defence, slow but big damage when they strike. As the game progresses, gently leading the player into more difficult areas, tower upgrades become available. The decision then becomes, do you upgrade a couple of weapons or stick with more less powerful guns? As funds to purchase these towers are limited, placing the right gun in the right place is critical for winning success.
Once the first tower is placed, the aliens begin marching into the area, their goal being to snatch the twenty or so cores from the computer and leg it off the screen before the player can stop them. Fortunately the cores have an affinity for their high-tech home, and so will gradually return should the player’s towers cut them down to the ground. There can be between three or thirty waves, depending on the level, some of which can have multiple entrances and exits. The variety of maps is quite impressive, given the often repetitive nature of this genre. Some are wide open, allowing the player to place towers, forcing aliens to stride in a certain direction, others are more closed with limited placement of artillery available.
There are some really neat features to Defense Grid, such as the checkpoint system. Should the player mess up their game using a really poor strategy, it’s possible to instantly skip back over three minute intervals, this is particularly handy given that you’ve no clue which aliens are going to make an appearance the first time you play on a map.
When a map is completed, a new one opens up and the finished map provides some new and interesting options. This comes in as playing the level with just level one weapons, or having to battle super hard aliens, or what about playing a level on extremely easy with loads of initial funds to discover the perfect strategy? These and several other choices are available, making Defense Grid a prolonged and repeatable experience.
Defense Grid provides all that is great about Tower Defense games and suffers from none of the pitfalls. For 800 MSP this game will provide hours of sci-fi fun, something that’s very easy to put on for a quick play, only for it to turn into a marathon gaming session. Defense Grid comes highly recommended.
Marty has been gaming since the heady years of the ZX-81 and still owns most of the gaming systems purchased since those days, including the Atari 2600, ZX Spectrum, SNES, Jaguar, Dreamcast and GameCube. Being a collection junkie (or more accurately, hoarder), he buys more games than he can possibly play, far too many of which are still sealed in their packaging. Marty favours RPGs and Driving games when it comes to genres, and is possibly a little bit too addicted to Disgaea. When not gaming he’s out frightening OAPs on his motorcycle, clad in black leather.