I’ve Been Playing… Defence Grid: The Awakening

By Alec Meer on April 3rd, 2009 at 4:11 pm.

Jim tried valiantly to get us all to play this back in December, but unfortunately I suffer from a rare, tragic medical condition that means it takes at least three months to react to anything anyone says to me. Waitaminnit, Obama’s president? And the Beatles have split? Man!

Grabbing it on a whim earlier this week, I’ve found it eating up a healthy whack of my spare time since. I’m feeling a little burnt-out on full-on strategy games, after losing myself in Dawn of War II, Empire: Total War, Men of War, Endwar (avoid) and Stormrise (avoid at all costs), but not yet quite ready for the warm front of action games due to hit from Summer onwards.

Defence Grid hits somewhere in the middle – it’s a tower defence game, but blossomed into a full 3D game that leans far closer to RTS values than the average web-based tower offering does. Charmingly, it’s also narrated by someone doing a Stephen Fry impression and blithering about raspberries -at least until the sheen of terribly English humour lifts to reveal past tragedies.

I’m concious I might simply echo Jim’s thoughts, so I’ll keep it brief. Essentially, it’s the finest tower defence game I’ve yet played, with an expertly-balanced learning curve, plenty of variety of turrets, a satisfying sense of mega-death as you carve up all those trooping invaders with some impressively destructive big guns, and even a surprisingly engrossing storyline of sorts.

It remains a shame it’s still $20/£13 rather than $10/£8ish, as I imagine that’s quite the barrier to entry to gamers who feel they can get free tower defence from elsewhere at the drop of a hat. Definitely one to keep an eye out for should it ever drop in price – we’ll let you know if it does in our weekly Bargain Bucket posts.

It’s available on both Steam and Greenhouse, and there’s a free demo over on the official site.

Oh, and if you’ve got an iPhone/iPod Touch, I can strongly recommend Fieldrunners for some super-slick handheld tower defence shenanigans.

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45 Comments »

  1. juddacus says:

    I recommend geodefense on the iphone. Towery goodness…

  2. Cooper says:

    Yeah, I got it on a whim during Steam’s indie sale. I wasn’t sure it’d be worth even that tenner after the demo, but I’m pleasantly surprised.

    I’m not a big fan of TD games (or any) for the high scores. But this game also comes packaged with a nice array of alternative modes for each level, so there’s a good amount of time to be sunk here.

    I’m using it like Peggle. Something to fill the odd twenty minutes here and there when I don’t have time, or can’t face, firing up something more demanding. Or when I’m jumping 20 systems on autopilot in Eve…

  3. Colthor says:

    Yeah, I’m waiting for this to be a bit cheaper. It sounds good, but that’s too much for one of my might-only-play-it-for-an-hour “seemed like a good idea at the time” buys.

    Ninjatown on the DS is my favourite TD game so far.

  4. jsutcliffe says:

    I picked it up when it came out, after I saw Jim R’s story, and it was 1/2 price on Steam (can’t remember if it was a pre-order offer, or another sale). I had real doubts about the $20 price tag — I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t have picked it up if it wasn’t on sale, but I’m glad I got it.

    It’s a lot of fun, even though I totally suck at tower defence games, it seems (this was my first). I especially liked the “interest” mechanic, whereby you have an incentive to drop turrets at the last possible moment in order to maximise your income.

    @ Colthor:
    Even though I’m stuck about 1/2 way through, and no longer play it very much, I feel like I’ve gotten my money’s worth. There’s a decent amount of replayability — particular challenges you’re offered, or simply trying to get through a level in the most efficient way you can.

  5. Arnulf says:

    Similar here. Before Defense Grid I was not even sure that TD games are real games. That game is so well done, I can only recommend it. Even if you’re not a fan of TD games.

  6. Fumarole says:

    I’m also waiting for the price to drop as I really enjoyed the demo, playing through it several times.

  7. Alex Hopkinson says:

    I was happy to have paid full price on release day – this was definitely one of my favourite games of 2008. My only problem with was the final level, which I have only managed to pass by following someone’s build order & placement instructions. Maybe I’m just particularly inept though. I must have played the penultimate map (the one that’s particularly configurable) dozens of times now, striving to improve my festival of death and destruction.

  8. Baris says:

    I’d heartily recommed this game to anyone who thinks they may have even a slight interest (ho ho ho) in TD games. It replaced E: TW (which replaced DoW2) as my GOTY so far; not counting all the awesome games I can’t think of at the moment.

  9. KJR says:

    I became terribly addicted to this game. Became obsessed enough to do all the challenges, which as a rule I rarely do. Highly recommended.

  10. mrrobsa says:

    One question: Better than Desktop Tower Defence?

  11. bansama says:

    As someone who never really liked Tower Defence games (after a horrible run in with that Monsters! junk on the PS3), this was an amazing game. I was also lucky enough to interview one of the guys behind, so if you interested in that, you can find the interview on my site.

  12. Tei says:

    One question: Better than Desktop Tower Defence?

    No.
    This one has good production values, nice graphics, history, different play modes. But think of the best movie eve against.. chess. Even the best movie ever fail against a classic such chess. Desktop Tower Defense is soo classic and soo pure nothing can beat it. But this one (Defense Grid) sould be on your collection If you like turret defense games. Its the answer to the question.. “how would a TD game will look as AAA game?”.

  13. Po0py says:

    GeoDefence. Tower Defence Game. Geometry Wars style. iPhone. Under a quid. Buy it. Let it kick your arse.

  14. Colthor says:

    @jsutcliffe:
    Ta, I’ll bear that in mind when it’s next reduced :)

  15. Ian says:

    I quite like TD games as a “something to play for 15 minutes” kind of affair. I’d buy this if it was a bit cheaper, though I’ll give the demo a go in case I play it and find it to be super awesome.

  16. Q says:

    I bought it about three months ago. Solid TD game with alternate play methods after you’ve conquered the main story.

    It was worth the 20USD for me, but I agree it should sell sell sell at $10.

  17. Francis L says:

    I agree with your $10 prediction: that was exactly the price I was waiting for and I bought it at Direct2Drive when they had a $10 sale on it two weekends ago. If D2D has it on sale again, Steam-loyalists (or those wary of D2D’s brand of DRM/download managers/whatever) shouldn’t hesitate to buy it from them since it includes a key (which they email you after your purchase) that is activatable on Steam.

    In fact, the download D2D offered after purchase was really just an installer for Steam plus a steam backup file of Defence Grid. I don’t know if any of this is also true of the Greenhouse version.

  18. egg says:

    @mrrobsa: “One question: Better than Desktop Tower Defence?”

    Much better.

  19. Severian says:

    As someone who paid the full $20 for Defense Grid, I’d like to stand up proudly and say it was/is worth every penny. Just a brilliantly designed game, in a lot of subtle ways. The multiple challenge modes for each map add significantly to longevity. The capacity to 1) easily “warp” back in time to a previous checkpoint and 2) fast-forward with the press of a button, make it easy to get obsessive about achieving that perfect score. I can’t stress how important this is. When the difference between losing 1 power core and finishing a map cleanly is a single tower upgrade, or a minor adjustment to placement, or whatever, having these two design features available make “trial-and-error” revision so much easier. Kudos to the creators. This totally changed my attitude towards tower defense games.

  20. Hypocee says:

    The Greenhouse version is not dependent on Steam; I got locked out of Steam when I went to buy DG a month ago, and therefore bought it on Greenhouse instead. I am still locked out of Steam, and I can play my copy of DG without fuss.

    I don’t like tower defence much and I love this. After playing the demo for some time I cheerfully bought it for $20, and while that price point may be a tactical error the game is well worth it. I’d rate DG far above Desktop Tower Defense, though I cheerfully acknowledge that I’m generally turned off and bored by DTD so haven’t explored its obvious depth – it’s more a matter of my general craving for structure, variety and perfectionism over open-ended survival and improvisation. If you like those things, you’ll probably like this.

  21. Still annoyed says:

    Yeah, very enjoyable game. Best Tower Defense-game I’ve played, I think.

  22. Premium User Badge

    Gnarl says:

    I thought it was alright, but no Desktop Tower Defence. And I found it had a rather vertical learning curve actually, finding amazingly easy then suddenly impossible. Then I stopped playing and have no urge to return, even when heaped with praise like this.

  23. Carra says:

    Quite a bit of fun. Later levels are challenging too. With some very challenging achievements for those who are into such thing.

    Although I had more fun with the free game.

  24. Oddtwang says:

    The last level was the only one I really struggled with, it needs a hefty change up of tactics but is definitely doable with a bit of practice. And worht it to unlock the other challenge modes on the other levels – I particularly like the one with 100 waves of walkers and the ones which restrict you to a few towers – very tactical :)
    If you’re a DTD diehard, I suspect you’ll be put off by the restricted placement and lack of mazing opportunities, but they really open up later in the game – the first half is mainly about training you what combinations of towers to build and when to upgrade them, which is fair enough.
    Definitely worth picking up – £13 is maybe a bit too much, think I got it for about £10 (though possibly just through an exchange rate bonus :))

  25. Premium User Badge

    Sagan says:

    Wow, I never thought that people actually liked Desktop Tower Defence that much. I thought it was just that popular because it was the first good one.
    I have only played the demo of Defence Grid, and from that I already thought it was way better than Desktop Tower Defence. Still wouldn’t pay 19€ for it though, when you can get many games that are almost the same for free.

  26. Premium User Badge

    solipsistnation says:

    Yeah, I dug it, although I haven’t finished it. There are some levels that get really hard, and I ended up not wanting to play through one of them again. It’s a really cool implementation of tower defense, though. The graphics are decent, the UI isn’t bad (although I’d like to be able to rotate sometimes) and the levels seem pretty balanced. It was worth the $19.99 to me, especially since I’ll probably start it over the next time I get that hankerin’ for some tower defense, and I bet this time though I’ll have a better handle on some of the subtleties.

  27. Pace says:

    I found the jumps in difficulty came when different tactics were required. For instance early on there was no ‘mazing’, but then towards the middle levels suddenly you had to, or it would be very hard. If I hadn’t played desktop tower defense first, I probably would’ve got stuck there too.

    (definitely worth $20 though.)

  28. Heliocentric says:

    Some of the best td games i’ve ever played have been warcraft 3 maps. Versus tower defence where you spawn the creeps. Or cooperative ones which will make you fear idiot players in the gray slot. Most interestingly syncronus single player td. You can see what strong players are doing, even add a structure to help a weak player, even as simply as telling him a tip or tributing cash. And as everyone is watching you? Genuine shame upon failure.

  29. Morberis says:

    I can certainly say that if the price was $10 instead of it’s current $20 I’d but it but as it is it’s a no go.

    I’ve played the demo and loved it but personally I’ll just play Desktop Tower Defense if I really have a jones for a tower defense game.

  30. Heliocentric says:

    I was $10 on a direct2drive sale a short while ago. Sure we’ll see it at a similar price point again.

  31. cm7 says:

    Fieldrunners is awesome.

  32. Rufus T. Firefly says:

    I played the demo of Defense Grid so much that I had to run right out and buy it, if only to unlock more levels. Some of the achievements are pretty easy to get (inspect an alien, for example), but that last gold medal is still just out of reach. The power core mechanic adds an extra element of suspense, particularly when the flyers start showing up.

  33. Retro says:

    “and even a surprisingly engrossing storyline of sorts”

    what??

  34. Upset_Nerd says:

    I enjoyed the game but haven’t played it for a while. One thing that bothered me about it though is that the aliens can take such an enormous amount of damage before they go down. It makes the towers feel very impotent and I can’t really suspend my disbelief enough to really get into the game. I would prefer if the enemies were much weaker but moved faster and that towers were fewer and more expensive so that you really had to think through each individual tower placement. The ideal result would be if you could get a feel similiar to the scene in “Aliens” where the aliens attack the sentry guns.

  35. Gassalasca says:

    The game’s awesome to say the least (though I got stuck on the last level), but I resent the Stephen Fry reference. :P

  36. Ishy says:

    I found the game pretty fun until I realized I had beaten almost every level by building purely gun turrets and missiles to beat the air waves. (Including the final battle). Then again, to me there are few things more beautiful than dual/quad rotary cannons blazing away. Never found other towers to be nearly as effective as guns.

  37. malkav11 says:

    It’s very polished, very slick, and very satisfying. But yeah, $20 is too much to just check it out. I think I might have been willing to pay that for it now that I’ve played it, but happily D2D had the aforementioned $10 sale, which was how I bought it.

  38. fearian says:

    I find that after Desktop TD, alot of Tower Defense games seem stale. For all the people saying this is a refined, comercial Towed Defense game…

    Its not. the ‘genre’ needs to develop, and that development is Gemcraft

    It really adds something to the gameplay with a new take on building towers that will remind PSP gamers of Crisis Cores Materia system. It absolutly fantastic and everyone should try it once.

  39. Finger Yellow says:

    Gemcraft is great, but the difficulty spikes at the boss levels are insane. They necessitate grinding, and grinding is not fun.

    Anyway, I love DG. It’s got a great balance between the limited placement, puzzle game style of TD game and the mazy, strategy based style you get in Desktop TD. And the presentation is top notch.

  40. Spaceman-Spiff says:

    I just finished Defense Grid few days ago. Now replaying all the maps on challenge and other modes. I like it much better than Pixeljunk Monsters. I dislike running around collecting gold coins :|

  41. MeestaNob! says:

    I quite enjoy this, and like most I picked it up for the half price sale.

    I’m finding it very very difficult after only about 6 levels, the first few are simple (simple maps), but once you’re given some real options as to where to create traps it gets hard, cause there are a lot of wrong setups you can use.

    Also, Defence Grid blue screens my computer a fair bit when I use the fast forward button.

  42. Poita says:

    it’s a fun game and quite polished. The repetetive AI voice over is annoying though. Same comments over and over again.

    also, after you do the hadfull of training missions there is only about ten actual maps to play. That’s way too few for a pricey game.
    When you get a full range of towers going the mape ends too. It would be nice to have some time to see your power knacking the little critters (many of which have guns but never use them, i think they need to be offensive not just passive runners.)

    Battlezone 2 is the best tower defense game I ever played.

  43. GothikX says:

    And for Gemcraft-obsessed individuals, there’s
    http://www.towerdefence.net/games-231-Gemcraft_Chapter_Zero.php
    which is a nice addition (although a bit repetitive after a while).

  44. Tower Defence Games says:

    You can find more tower defense games on this site
    Tower Defence Games