Six years ago Hidden Path Entertainment released Defense Grid: The Awakening on Xbox 360 to deafening applause from tower defense fans. Now, with the era of the newest generation of Microsoft’s gaming console, the Xbox One, Hidden Path is at it again. This time they’ve released the sequel, Defense Grid 2, on Playstation 4, Steam (Windows), and Xbox One all at the same time. Whichever your platform of choice, you can enjoy arguably the best tower defense game in recent years.
For those expecting only updated visuals, new aliens, and new maps, you’ll be disappointed. While that’s all included, there’s so much more included that makes the game feel like a legitimate sequel. Game modes, multiplayer, and other goodies riddle the game and increase the replayability exponentially.
Again an unnecessary implement, Hidden Path should be commended for including a story that offers witty banter between your character, a human, and the AI that accompanies you. This time around though, you’re not simply interacting with your trusty AI that helped the first time the aliens invaded. Now you’ve got six different AI, each with their own special ability. Instead of relying on the Orbital Laser to destroy a swath of aliens, now you can overcharge your towers for more damage, increase resources, or teleport your precious cores to safety, just to name a few. Each AI also has a unique voice and personality and interact with each other throughout the game.
For each map, of which there are 20 (21 if you count the tutorial), there are nine separate game modes after you play the story mission, each with different rules to modify your challenge. All-in-all, that’s 200 different missions for players to complete, not to mention four difficulties (Easy through Elite), and different AI abilities. That’s a lot of gameplay.
Tower building has been simplified, though. No more do you have to worry about enemies flying onto the maps to steal your cores, instead every alien you face is a part of a ground invasion. Because of that, you’ve got access to only ten different towers to build and upgrade, each with their own strengths and weaknesses. The customization comes in the form of Tower Augments, small modifications that you can make depending on the enemies you see on the map. Some augments cause more damage to shielded enemies, some focus on the biggest threat, and so on. The issue is that there is no rhyme or reason to unlocking tower augments and seem to come at random and aren’t always the most useful.
The biggest issue with the single player, campaign and alternate game modes, is the difficulty. Defense Grid veterans will stroll in expecting to be able easily guide aliens along set paths on the open maps, and should know how to set towers on the maps that provide a set path for the aliens straightaway. And for half of the campaign, you’ll get the results you expect. In quick order though, you’ll find yourself somehow viciously overmatched and, in order to earn those gold medals, will be forced to turn down the difficulty. On Easy though, the aliens are far too easy, which creates an enormous difficulty gap between the settings.
Wonderfully, multiplayer has been introduced to the game in both competitive and co-op capacity, with couch co-op being added in as well. In co-op mode, each player is given different sections of the map to set their own towers on, requiring teamwork to try and bottleneck enemies. Competitive multiplayer is very interesting, with each player playing asymmetrically on their own map. As an enemy dies on your map, it’s transported to the same spot on the enemies map, and vice versa. That means even the most astute Defense Grid 2 players may run into trouble in online games, and no game runs too long.
It would have been easy for Hidden Path Entertainment to get complacent and release an updated version of the first game, but thankfully they didn’t. Defense Grid 2 feels new, but still gives the gameplay that we grew to love six years ago. It plays noticeably better on PS4 than on Xbox One, but the difference in quality and load time is the difference between great and exceptional. At $25.00, the game is worth every penny.
Overall Score: 8 out of 10