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Defense Grid 2 review

Grate expectations

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Among the first tower defence games  on current-gen consoles, Defense Grid 2 is – by default – one of the best available. Xbox One and PlayStation 4 owners with an itch for stewarding monoliths can expect a suitably robust, if unspectacular, offering that does well in balancing challenge and approachability. Compared to the relative wealth of options on PC, however, DG2 sits in the middle of the pack, lacking both the visuals and variety of the genre’s best.

Which isn’t to say that Defense Grid 2 is short on depth, necessarily. Throughout the game’s twenty campaign missions you’ll utilise up to ten different types of turret, each with its own speciality as you fend off waves of attacking aliens, tasked with stealing the glowing crystalline cores you keep at home base.

Aliens travel at different speeds and boast different strengths (stealth, increased durability, etc.) and picking a balanced assortment of defences is crucial. Equally, choosing the best placements from the vacant grid slots available is key. Some stages are a matter of exposing foes to as much damage as possible; others allow you to directly influence their path, slowing alien progress and affording you more build time.

Turrets can be upgraded during battle, too, and you’re allowed limited use of special weapons with lengthy cooldowns. Your freedom to build is dictated by an autonomous resource counter, ticking up slowly as time passes, and boosted occasionally by clearing waves efficiently. Defense Grid 2 challenges you with calculating the cost of structures and upgrades and making the most of the currency at hand.

To its credit, there’s a subtle depth to DG2 that isn’t always obvious. Planting any old turret down can sometimes do the job, but even slight strategic tweaks can often reap hefty rewards.

For all the architectural intricacies and mathematical ramifications, Defense Grid 2 is actually rather well suited to consoles. You put turrets in predefined spaces by pressing a face-button while looking around with the analogue stick. There’s tertiary functions like speeding up time or special weapons but DG2 is essentially a two-button game.

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Of course, commanding stationary units helps, but nonetheless it’s perfectly approachable. While a mouse will always be the best way to navigate a drop-down menu, it’s commendable that DG2 avoids the trappings of so many other PC ports.

The cost, though, of such accessibility is that stage after stage feels much the same. For all the structural augments and different types of aliens, waiting for your resources to build and planting a unit isn’t all that inspiring. Less so again and again over twenty missions.

Tick, tick, tick, structure A. Tick, tick, tick, structure C. Tick, tick, tick, upgrade. Maps are different enough, but – in truth – involve the same process over and over. Of course, if you’re the type to strive for a gold medal on every stage, or someone who prefers the harder difficulties, then this problem subsides somewhat.

There are elements that freshen things up slightly. Survival mode offers a 100-wave version of any given level; tweaks to the core game include limited resources, weaker towers, limited tower selection and the like; and there’s competitive and cooperative multiplayer modes to try. Again, though, all of the above feels much like the core game. It’s variety, rather than content, that’s left wanting.

Presentation is equally average. Maps look different enough from one another, but each trades heavily in grey. Industrial machinery and advancing aliens churn out a miasma of unhealthy colour, but close-ups reveal a disappointing lack of character detail. There’s a jocular gaggle of AI characters designed to provide exposition, too. Their tone is such, though, that they succeed in making DG2‘s narrative easy to ignore.

As admirable as Defense Grid 2‘s better qualities are, there’s a blandness that permeates both its mechanics and presentation. As a serviceable tower defence game for new-gen consoles, it’s an acceptable – and not unenjoyable – option. As one of many in a crowded PC space, Defense Grid 2 is a game that struggles to stand out.

TheGamersHub Score
Reviewer: Leo McCloskey
+ Pros

+ Approachable yet challenging

+ Control translates to Xbox One well

+ Core game can be tweaked in interesting ways

- Cons

- Plain-looking environments

- Annoying V/O

- Forgettable narrative

- Replay value limited to high-score chasing

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