Defense Grid: The Awakening

By Jim Rossignol on December 23rd, 2008 at 10:36 am.


Tower defence games are a peculiarly compelling niche within puzzle games. Perhaps it’s because you are still ultimately shooting stuff that I find them so entertaining, but I suspect it’s a little deeper than that: they are a tinkerer’s delight, a kind of fine-tuning of instruments and setups to discover what works best. It’s the classic pastime of toying with a machine, carefully learn how it works, and figuring out how it could be improved. While I’m playing these I’m a boffin in a shed at the end of the garden, searching for the best solutions to pointless problems. Defense Grid: The Awakening is one of the best tower defence games (yes, I’m spelling it with a c, I’m an Englishman) I’ve ever played.

So: bads come in to try and steal your resources, and you must build a grid of towers to stop them. Most towers shoot, but they all have different properties. Some might be anti-air, some slow down opponents, some bombard from afar. Getting the mix right will decide whether you win or lose. That’s tower defence, and it’s a fun time.

Defense Grid is beautifully presented and absolutely solid in every way. There’s little innovation here, but the improvements on the basic idea of tower defence that the team have made are all implemented comprehensibly and sensibly. Towers can be upgraded, for example, and you soon learn the value of an upgraded tower over those that have simply been built up in their basic mode.

Visually it’s rather fun, with each map being a ruined sci-fi grid, each in a different location – on a dusty planet, amid ice, or lava. What scene setting and explanation the game needs is provided by the voice of the “AI” your mentor and guide through the various levels. As the game expands and brings in new towers and power ups, so the AI explains to you what needs to be done. For such a functional role, he’s actually fairly well acted, and quite entertaining.

The game itself is ludicrously compelling. Even the really tough maps have had me repeat and repeat, rather than quit to do something else – no mean feat with an attention span as gnat-like as mine. I’ve forgotten the last time I was so hooked – to the point where I’ve been scrounging minutes here and there, between work and domestic chores, just to get another round in. I thoroughly recommend this game, and I’m certain lots of other folks will have as much fun with it as I have. It’s a little on the expensive side, sadly, and should clearly be aiming for the $10 bracket.

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55 Comments »

  1. Biscuitry says:

    I do like tower defence games, but the total lack of any sort of demo is kind of a deal-breaker for me.

  2. Jim Rossignol says:

    Yeah, I’m amazed they’ve not released a couple of levels.

  3. Chaz says:

    Tower defense games have the ability to steal hours of my life away, but are the flashy 3d graphics really worth paying £14 for, when there are many good free versions of this game?

  4. Psychopomp says:

    Shot answer, no.
    Long answer, no.

  5. Psychopomp says:

    Oh dear, it appears I broke RPS.
    And I can’t edit, I APOLOGIZE.

  6. mep says:

    you’re doing it wrong

  7. Gnarl says:

    No demo, no pirate versions I can find, no purchase. Looks interesting, but I shall now use my mystical forgetting powers to rid myself of lingering disappointment.

  8. Rosti says:

    I approve of the needless extra words this game employs. PC Game: The Subtitle helps me sleep at night.

  9. Alex Hopkinson says:

    Yeah, I’ve been rather enjoying this since it released. Some of the levels can get quite dastardly indeed, but I’m looking forward to going back and not losing quite so many energy balls when I pick it back up in the new year.

  10. Kua says:

    Oh brill I’ve been wanting to try a Tower Defense Game, but wasn’t sure where to start. Any other recommendations? Especially freeones.

  11. Tei says:

    I make one long route, where the mobs have to repeat to return to the exit. And place tesla turrets near the exit.
    The canon turret is awesome, and the time turret is like esential in any design.

  12. Chaz says:

    @ Kua

    http://www.candystand.com/uk/play.do?id=18047

    I have spent hours playing this one.

  13. Heliocentric says:

    No demo. Tick. Overpriced. Tick. Living in the shadow of mods/free games. Double tick. Released during the busiest time of year. Tick. Colon in title. Tick.

    Why try so hard to fail?

  14. Jim Rossignol says:

    Tei: Yes, I think the cannon is a bit over-powered – the range is so much better than other weapons.

  15. cHeal says:

    Just thought I’d pop in and say Merry Christmas!

  16. KP says:

    Haven’t tried a tower defense game, don’t seem that appealing. BUT Iron Grip Warload just got a holiday update.
    http://www.gametrailers.com/player/43946.html
    It’s a FPS, but I’ve heard it called a “tower defense game.” I think I’m going to buy it. The increased bad guy numbers pushed it over the Cool Factor. :)

  17. egg says:

    I think I’m buying this thing. I just hope it is worth it, because, you know, there are lots of free TD games out there.:S

  18. Kua says:

    Cheers for the recommendations, I’ll be sure to give them a try tonight. Aren’t good free games nice (not to mention free). Hooray for them. And I’d just like to declare that I’m alone in the office reading RPS with mince pies and a kilogram tub of Celebrations that my boss brought round.

    ‘Tis the season folks. ‘Tis the season.

  19. IdleHands says:

    Defence games take far too much of my time than I’d like to admit. I enjoy these games even with simple 2d animations, because the gameplay is solid, so it being in 3d (while nice) isn’t much of a deal breaker with many other free ones out there. Maybe if I had more money and didn’t have an over abundance of other under played games, I might of considered it.

    For some good flash defence games;
    http://www.newgrounds.com/portal/view/362047
    http://www.newgrounds.com/portal/view/466669

    Or take your pick from this huge list;
    http://www.newgrounds.com/game/defensegames

    Aw crap now I’m gonna be playing these for the rest of the day, or week.

  20. Jim Rossignol says:

    Buying this will depend on your love of the game type. It’s too expensive for what it is, I’d say, but I’m still getting an enormous kick out of it.

  21. Still annoyed says:

    20€ on Steam? No thanks.

  22. lemming says:

    I bought this a few days ago, and I love it but then I have a thing for Tower Defence games…

  23. Tei says:

    The good thing about this one is the graphics, story (that most TD games lack), great productions values (theres a traduction and voices in my lang, that is not english).
    The controls seems somewhat byased for a console, but once you get into the game, are just right.

  24. egg says:

    Oh, but I do like TD. It’s just that being myself a cheap bastard is kind of getting in the way in this particular situation. :D

    Until I get back home and buy the damn thing, I’ll just spend some pre-Christmas time playing these free TD games posted by these lovely fellas above.

  25. Pags says:

    I thought the point of Tower Defense games was that it was easy to sneak games of them at work? This destroys all such sneakiness!

  26. Sithinious says:

    Frankly, I think it’s worth the price. It’s the best tower defense game I’ve yet played. The game is really polished, obviously a lot of time and hard work went into making it. I like the changes from normal TD games, like the fact that you are not just trying to keep enemies from going from point “A” to point “B”. Instead, you are trying to keep enemies from going from point “A”, picking up your power cores at point “B”, then taking said cores back to point “A”. And if you happen to kill a core carrier, he’ll drop the core right there, where another enemy can pick it up. Nothing is so frustrating as killing a core carrier in the nick of time before he exits the map, only to have a speedy enemy scoop up the dropped core and zip off the map before you can get three shots on him. The orbital laser is a nice touch too.

    And I wonder… is the voice actor in this the same guy who voices your robotic butler in Fallout 3?

  27. Francisco says:

    I always consider this when buying games:
    “It will be the least worth it the same as going twice in a nightclub in terms of fun?”

    Oh yes this game is good enough, has more challenges after it is done and I got 20 hours of fun so far. Loved it.

  28. BugHunter says:

    I accidentally almost bought this the other night on a whim. At the last second I found out there is no multi-player…then there was no demo to see if it was still worth $20 with no multi-player…no DEMO!

  29. Malcolm says:

    If you like tower defence games then I think it’s well worth the cash – I’ve played it for several hours already and am itching to get back to it – but I’ve got to wrap some Christmas presents first…

  30. AndrewC says:

    The mech walking animation is so adorable I think it might be worth the money.

  31. Michael Walbridge says:

    I’ve been waiting for RPS to write about this since it came out, and I am not joking.

    Will have to pick it up. Loved the DS’s Ninjatown and Lock’s Quest, so I’ll have to waste some time on this one.

  32. Ludo says:

    Free Tower Defense games? I’m surprised nobody’s linked to this yet:

    http://www.handdrawngames.com/DesktopTD/Game.asp

    Desktop Tower Defense is pretty notorious for being fun and also horribly addictive, like crack, so take care folks.

  33. juv3nal says:

    I’m a bit of a TD nut, so here’s a few to have a look at:

    An often overlooked non-free (but with extensive demo) TD game is Immortal Defense. It’s got a story that’s drawn comparison, of all things, to Planescape Torment
    (http://studioeres.com/immortal/)

    As for the free ones, you can’t beat desktop TD. (http://www.handdrawngames.com/)
    It lacks the polish of later TD games, but it’s one of the first (maybe even first?) flash ones where the placement of your towers determines the path.

    For polished & free, there’s gemcraft tower defence. Which has neat upgrading bits but tends to be too easy side once you get the right upgrades.
    (http://armorgames.com/play/1716/gemcraft)

    Incidentally, the idea of the monsters grabbing some of your macguffins and them having to exit the board with them was done earlier in Flash Element TD 2.
    (http://www.casualcollective.com/games/Flash_Element_TD_2/)

  34. juv3nal says:

    jinx, ludo.

  35. Ludo says:

    Great minds etc, Juv3nal.

  36. parm says:

    I came back from the pub and bought this in a drunken haze a week or two back, and then promptly forgot about it until a few days ago, when it took over my life. The above coments really sum it up – it’s incredibly well presented and polished, and it does its job really, really well. It is perhaps a little pricey, but I don’t regret buying it; there’s days and days of entertainment in this.

  37. Ray says:

    Its pretty fun to play, and having to think about line of sight when building towers is a nice touch, but I can’t help but feel it is a bit overpriced.

  38. RichP says:

    Yay for Tower Defense — a genre that not only celebrates turtling, but requires it!

    Also wish this game had a demo.

  39. 2ds says:

    Very polished game. Voice acting is good and occasionally creepy. As stated earlier gameplay mode of steal power node and try to escape with and the juggle two paths with different creeps on it is is novel for the genre. The thing that I feel is most lacking from this implementation is that it is mainly an upgrade TD, I love mazing and there is not very much of it in this title, although it certainly makes a greater appearance towards the end of the game.

    If you’re a TD fan like myself I think it was worth the money for the hours I played.

    I’m supprised you are all talking about TD and no one has mentioned warcraft 3. If you want free polished TD there are heaps of maps made for WC3 all are multiplayer. I suspect that gemcraft TD is a rip of Gem TD for wc3.

  40. Ecko says:

    What have you done?!

    I am now up at this time still playing a TD game.

  41. cliffski says:

    masters of defence is good, and has a free demo, and you can buy it direct from the developer.
    Why these guys have no demo, and force you to install steam to buy their game (and refuse to sell direct and take 90% of the money) just amazes me…

  42. Jochen Scheisse says:

    Probably because Steam allegedly makes games less piratable?

  43. subedii says:

    Steam doesn’t do that, it doesn’t even claim to do that. The most that can be said of Steam releases is that they typically stave off zero-day piracy. After that, it’s pretty much guaranteed to be out there soon, just like any other game.

    I was also wondering why they don’t just sell direct themselves. Heck, if 2D Boy can manage the resources (and that’s just two guys), these people ought to be able to. Unless it’s some sort of exclusivity deal. Who knows, maybe they’re getting a deal on the Steam release, it’s not as if we know what the contract was. Plus releasing on Steam does give them a lot more advertising. For some people there’s probably also a “trust” factor above what you’d normally see for “some dudes taking some money for a game off of their website”.

  44. Heliocentric says:

    No cliffski it doesn’t amaze you. It makes you angry. You angry person of the webs you.

    Serious. I’d sell over steam to increase my profile, but not ONLY steam. Drmphobe money is as good as anyone elses. Also. This game would be a nice little stick it on a usb and play during lunch game, when my monies reallign i’ll be getting hinterland from impulse rather than steam for just that reason. At least that way if i fail my degree i have a reason i can identify rather than have to face being stupid.

  45. Cooper42 says:

    I love TD games, they are the perfect filler game. I love the look of this game, but with no demo, there’s no way I can justify spending that much money on it…

  46. 1hacksaw says:

    I hear demo coming soon. But why wait – Steam is having a storewide sale. Defense Grid is 25% off. Good ‘nuf for me. I love bargains, and this was a steal.

  47. egg says:

    Just bought it and am having a blast with it. I’m a tiny bit frustrated with one particular map, but then again, I’m just pumping towers everywhere and hoping for the best.

    Might have to start using my brain this time around. Hmpf.

  48. Mike Smith says:

    Defense Grid rocks my socks and has me hooked! I can’t remember how long it’s been since I’ve been seriously addicted to a game. Can’t wait for more levels or whatever else they’re going to put out.

  49. amishmonster says:

    Yeah, I’m surprisingly engrossed for a TD game! The presentation is great, though, and the balance is pretty much perfect (I won’t knock the Cannon Towers because I love them so…)

    Probably wouldn’t have taken the leap without a demo if Steam hadn’t given us a quarter off, but I’m extremely happy with my $15 purchase. Thanks for leading us to this, RPS!

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