Defense Grid 2 Review – Console Caliber Tower Defense (PS4)
Tower defense games are one of my favorite kinds of strategy video games. There’s something really fun in trying my hand at figuring out the best way to shoot down masses of enemies using limited resources and precise placement of towers. Defense Grid 2 does a good job creating a high quality console tower defense game with tons of features that greatly increase the replayability of the title, while building up narrative intrigue in a mystery that snowballs with each new level.
Many tower defense games feel shallow because they methodically ramp up the difficulty and the levels only differ marginally, as if the game was generated by a computer. Defense Grid 2 has a good balance of difficulty scaling and unique layouts that make it feel like a solid, thought-out game that is meant to be taken seriously. I never felt the usual feeling of redundancy upon entering the next level. There was always a new situation I had to deal with. For example, one level introduced two enemy entrances that were somewhat far apart, and then gave me the long-range missile tower as a solution to the new daunting task of defending two paths with the same amount of resources as usual. It’s got the pacing of a console-caliber title with the fun of a game genre that is especially successful on mobile platforms.
The levels were obviously well planned and different than any tower defense I’ve played so far. Most notably were the levels that moved during gameplay, forcing you to quickly adapt your strategy for the new enemy paths and tower tiles. This didn’t happen in enough levels, though. I would have loved to play many more levels where I didn’t know how the environment was going to change. From the quality of the rest of the game, I was surprised and disappointed more levels didn’t have this cool feature. Defense Grid 2 also combines two styles of tower defense playing fields, one where there are set tiles you can use on the sides of the enemy path, and one where the field is a large empty grid and you have to creatively place towers to lengthen the enemy’s route, giving your towers more time to do damage. I like both methods and was really happy to get both mixed together in this game. It makes for a fun adventure.
The enemies and the towers in this game have the usual wide spread of qualities and features that a tower defense game should have. The cheap gun tower is weak but good in the beginning when you just need to get a tower out there to take down the looming waves of enemies. The cannon tower is really powerful but is really slow to fire, so having many of them fully upgraded is great for tough slow enemies, but not for fast little enemies. Along the way, you learn more and more of the details and intricacies of tower strategy, which I don’t need to go over in this review.
I will say though, that most all the towers are useful in each level, and there never really is an “all powerful” tower that makes you never touch the few you had in the beginning ever again. I kept having to remind myself that this is a good tower defense game, not a cheap one, and I couldn’t just always choose the missile tower, because stealth enemies and healing enemies would breeze right through. I appreciated this because it shows that the developers knew what they were doing and made sure to create a varied and balanced arsenal of towers and cast of enemies in order to keep every scenario feeling fresh and without obvious solution.
The detail of the levels was very impressive. It was nice to rotate around and zoom in and out to examine the nuances of the environment around the level. The high quality environment and graphics exist even way out on the outskirts of the level, past where you can pan the camera. I wish I could zoom in more to fully appreciate all the details, especially the aliens and towers. The towers change and look unique when you upgrade them too. The large scope of the world gives gravity to the game — and in turn the story — and forces you to not overlook it.
The story is a cryptic mystery involving AIs that used to be humans, who are battling aliens threatening humanity on many different planets. I enjoyed the crazy story quite a bit, but I have to admit that some parts lost me. It got a little too cryptic sometimes, like I just needed a few more threads given to me to connect the dots so it could be entertaining again, but they just weren’t provided. I would say let that be yet another reason to play this game, and then replay it. The whole story is fully voice acted, so you can follow along during gameplay. It was engaging to hear the full cast of characters speaking to me, instead of having to read through a script to get what was going on. Yet another nice point of this polished game.
The online multiplayer mode was a nice addition to what is usually a single player experience. There are a few cooperative and competitive modes to choose from, with different difficulty settings. The community for this game on the PS4 seems a little sparse right now, so you could be waiting a while to get matched with another player, but the game lets you play the campaign mode until it does find you a match. Thank goodness! I was waiting upwards of 20 minutes one time, but forgot I was even waiting because I was caught up in the firefight of my single player session and was pleasantly reminded that I had been waiting to be matched up online when I was dropped into a new multiplayer game.
With Defense Grid 2, you get a solid console edition of a tower defense game that you very well could be replaying for years to come. The story is worth-while, the balance of tower types, upgrades, and aliens gives you a lot to test your skills against. I thoroughly enjoyed this game because it took what all of us are familiar with in tower defense and made each aspect smarter, higher quality, and better than the usual fare. Now can I go play it some more?
Defense Grid 2 review copy provided by publisher. For more information on scoring, read our Review Policy here.