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Defense Grid 2 Review

Defense Grid 2 Review

I was gifted the first Defense Grid (cough-defence-cough) by a friend quite a while back, and I enjoyed it a lot. Very much a pick-up-and-play experience. It could be as easy or as difficult as you wanted it to be. Many other reviewers say that the sequel caters a little more towards casual players this time around, and I wholeheartedly agree. Whilst I was utilising everything at my disposal in the first game and still coming up short on a few scenarios, the sequel has given me no trouble whatsoever.

That’s what makes Tower defense games very hit or miss affairs. Balance the numbers wrong, and you’ll have players wasting away the enemies without so much as a chance for them to generate any tension or get anywhere near their objective. Make them too difficult or add too many puzzling obstacles (such as multiple lanes), and you’ll have a far greater problem of alienating your players’ decisions, leaving them feeling helpless like they don’t have a meaningful effect on the outcome. It’s a very tight balancing act, and as said by Soren Johnson on his blog (Civilisation’s Designer), “Given the opportunity, players will optimise the fun out of a game.” Never has this been more true than in strategy games, even here of this lesser nature in Defense Grid 2.

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Assuming you don’t have an Excel spreadsheet right now nor spend every day playing Eve: Online, then you’ll be wondering if Defense Grid 2 is approachable enough to enjoy, without the need to master its minute intricacies. The good answer for you is yes, this is a very approachable tower defence game, that even I (a novice) have done well in. With this inclusive design however, comes the cost of alienating its core fanbase from the first game, as it was known for its very tight design.

“[...] this is a very approachable tower defence game, that even I (a novice) have done well in.”
“You can always turn up the difficulty if you’re a more strategic player, [...]”

Throughout the (shorter) campaign, I must have used my ultimate ability only twice. Once to fire a laser to stop a large group of aliens stealing my orbs (the objective of the game), and the second time to gain a bulk of resources quickly to upgrade a few turrets near the final few waves. It’s in stark contrast against my average games in the first title. I would say the changes are overall for the better. You can always turn up the difficulty if you’re a more strategic player, or choose one of the many modification modes that enables quirky restrictions such as “no ballistic towers” or “no upgrades” etc.

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That’s what I find fun about the game post-completion, is that despite the campaign being shorter and far easier to complete, it’s fun to go back and experiment with different situations and modifiers to see what happens. I think therein lies the freedom for more advanced players, is to really push themselves to limit what they can do within a given match. Having said that, there have been a few withdrawals that I understand would upset fans of the series. For instance, the way certain towers work has changed. Some challenges inherent in the old turrets’ functions and designs, are no longer present. Certain enemy types such as the flying variety have been removed entirely, making it easier for us casuals as we don’t have to balance between air-only towers and ground-only towers. Then finally, the way resources are accumulated has changed too.

“There is an option to go back to the old scoring system if you prefer.”

In the first game, the way resources were gathered was by accumulating as much as possible, thus increasing the rate at which it built up, even faster. A snowball effect, as the more resources you gained, the faster the rate’s growth. This time around, the growth rate is stagnant and remains consistent throughout the entire match. There is an option to go back to the old scoring system if you prefer. Seeing as it’s not the default option however, that might alienate those people who do prefer that older system, and they may feel the game wasn’t designed solely for them this time around.

It’s not an entirely simple thing then to recommend the game to a die-hard fan of the original, who wants more of the same with new campaign missions, enemy types, and turret types. Whilst those are indeed helpful to have, it seems from the steam reviews that this hasn’t stopped people from feeling somewhat disappointed. Something I can definitely relate to, as I’ve felt a few of my favourite series over the years have devolved to cater to new audiences or demographics, and leave original fans behind. Personally I don’t feel the changes are too much here, and would argue that the amount of customisation present means that you can tailor it back to how you like it, minus a few missing components that aren’t crucial I would argue. Other things such as a level editor, online coop, and various other customisations, make this a full package well worth the asking price. While the campaign is a little short, there’s far more to dig your teeth into beyond that. I find myself going back almost every day, simply to play a round or two, and move onto something else.

“Other things such as a level editor, online coop, and various other customisations, make this a full package well worth the asking price.”
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Going back to that quote about players optimising the fun out of games, I’ve found that a few simple techniques usually guarantee success without too much effort (a negative I’m afraid). It’s pretty much a winning formula if you build every turret on top of a boost platform (allows extra abilities/damage). Then it’s just a case of building Tesla towers up front to remove enemy shields first, have some flamethrower/laser turrets start a burning status effect once their regular health is showing, before laying into them with projectile towers to kill them. It’s a pattern that has carried me through from start to finish without any surprises. As long as you have good turret placements to stop runners building up speed in a straight line (make them turn) and have the occasional Temporal tower (causes enemies to slow down dramatically), then you’re golden.

So that’s it pretty much. A relatively short review for me as it’s a simple game, you know what to expect from this kind of game, and it just does what it does very well. Regardless of what position you’re coming from, this game has an angle at which you can approach it. If you’re casual like I am with this sort of thing, then almost the entirety of the game is pretty much accessible to you at some level. More nuanced and skilled players can change options to make it a more challenging experience for themselves. It’s a shame a few minor things devolved or ousted themselves, but I think it was worth it in the name of attracting that bigger audience the game deserves. If you dead-set on having the pure and original experience, you could always go back to the original game. So with all of that said, a very good game. I bought this sequel on impulse because I was wanting something fun and uncomplicated to play around doing other things, and I’m very happy that I did.


“A solid tower defense game that risked alienating its core fan base, by becoming more accessible to everyone. Whether you agree with the changes or not, the level of customisation present means everyone should theoretically be happy!”
— David Treharne



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