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Old 01-06-2009, 05:26 AM   #1
modeps
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[PC] Defense Grid: The Awakening Review

Title: Defense Grid: The Awakening
Platforms: PC (Soon on Xbox Live Arcade)
Developer: Hidden Path Entertainment
Publisher: Hidden Path Entertainment
MSRP: $19.99
Writer: James 'modeps' Hunter

Defense Grid: The Awakening Review

Despite being around for quite some time (1990's Rampart was probably the first example), there really aren't too many retail titles in the Tower Defense (TD) strategy niche of gaming. Instead, independent developers have released free mods for existing titles and Flash games to fill the void. Recently though PixelJunk Monsters and Ninjatown have stormed the scene and acquired many a rabid fan, making the viability of a retail TD style game plausible. Now, Hidden Path's newest PC offering titled Defense Grid: The Awakening hopes to capitalize on this addictive genre with an excellent out of the gate entry.

The premise is fairly simple in Defense Grid: You're in charge of trying to stop an alien race from completely destroying the last remnants of civilization. Among each of the twenty levels you get a map with entrances and exits, locations where you can build towers, some starting cash, and a stockhold of power cores to protect from being snatched from wave after wave of the alien horde.

At the beginning, you're able to build fairly basic towers along a set path. Done in a very nice learning curve, each level of the game presents new abilities for you to learn and master and different challenges to face. You're not just thrown into the fray and forced to figure out which towers work best in what situation, but instead given time to become versed in the ways of each tower. Additionally, levels can become segmented forcing you to manage two separate paths of attack or give you the ability to shape your enemy's walking route. Protip: The longer it takes the bad guys to get in and out, the better.

You can't just build your towers ad nauseum, you've got to pay for each tower and upgrade so there's a bit of resource management needed. Each destroyed alien unit yields resources for you to continue building more towers and your AI partner-in-crime (an omnipotent voice that talks you through and provides some witty banter as well as helpful tips) can more effectively 'process' resources the more you have, making it prudent to not just spend every penny you have in your pocket as you'll get some free resources for whatever's in your wallet.

When all is said and done, you get ten types of towers to construct, each with three upgrade levels indicated by a color (green, orange, red). They run the gamut from basic gun towers, energy and barrage weapons, and mortar fire. Similarly, there are a variety of enemy unit types each indicated by the same colors to show their strength. When you see red units coming in, watch out, those are effectively the boss units which can take quite a lot of concentrated firepower and keep on going. Seeing reds on your radar approaching can be quite nerve-racking when you realize you can't take on a Red Crasher and have no money to build or upgrade. It's wonderfully maddening.

Getting back to the power cores, about 95% of the time they're held at one point on the map. The bad guys will need to walk or fly past your towers to pick them up, then exit the map. If the units are destroyed while carrying one, the glowing core slowly makes it's way back along the same path it traversed to the holding square. This is particularly annoying because aliens can play bucket brigade with the cores, allowing their friends to pick up a core and make a break for the exit. Taking out your foes prior to them ever touching the cores is of course the best plan, but it rarely works out that way. The waves of enemies often take this brute force relay into account when attacking and expect you to not be completely prepared to save all of your cores. This again puts your brain to the test to try and figure out just what you have to build and upgrade to keep your stash.

Along with just simply beating a level by destroying all baddies while not losing 100% of your cores, the game provides three medals to achieve. The bronze can be obtained by just finishing a level with 1 core remaining, the silver and gold however, with the exception of the first few levels, both need all your cores to be safe and a score to be achieved. I kind of feel that the silver medal should be able to be obtained without having 100% of your cores, maybe 75% instead. This is one very minor quibble I have with the game as doing it the way they did, you've got to be really good just to get the silver and you may be good enough to get the gold as well. More often than not, you'll be getting the bronze the first time through a level.

Another small beef I have with the game is it's soundtrack. The voice-over work by your AI friend is great but the music to go behind everything is generic and repetitive. While it doesn't get in the way or become annoying, it is clearly not anything to write home about.

Defense Grid: The Awakening is deep, challenging, compelling and pretty darn good looking for a 'budget' title. In addition, it also has an addictive chemical reaction with the human brain, making you think about playing even when you're not. With twenty levels, three difficulty modes, leaderboards, and a high level of replayability, I can't help but recommend Defense Grid to any fan of the strategy genre.

Score: 4.5 out of 5

The Good
  • Tons of depth and replayability in a budget package
  • The best looking tower defense game yet
  • Level 3 Meteor Towers
  • The chaos, oh... the chaos.

The Bad
  • Some tower designs are a little too similar looking, making them difficult to distinguish among a sea of activity
  • The music soundtrack is not varied enough and a bit too repetitive

The Ugly
  • Taking on four Crashers without a satellite weapon while Racers are rushing towards the exit holding power cores
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Old 01-06-2009, 06:09 AM   #2
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If you like this and have an iPhone or iPod touch check out TapDefense (free) and FieldRunners($5) on the Apple app store. TowerDefense fun on the go.
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Old 01-06-2009, 07:19 AM   #3
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Originally Posted by riposte101 View Post
If you like this and have an iPhone or iPod touch check out TapDefense (free) and FieldRunners($5) on the Apple app store. TowerDefense fun on the go.
I do not, but thanks for the tip
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Old 01-06-2009, 10:22 AM   #4
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I assume the reviewer has played Warcraft 3 TD maps...?

How does this compared to the variety and custom maps that exist for WC3? Currently, i have a group of friends that get together on Tuesdays and play games...and we find that we still gravitate towards playing TD a lot of times, because of it's co-operative nature, it's relatively gradual learning curve, and it's ability to have lots of players at once...

Does this game have any multi-player functionality? Any co-op? How many max players? Etc..

I'd love to have a new "Tuesday Night" game to get my friends hooked on
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Old 01-06-2009, 10:32 AM   #5
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Originally Posted by NuK View Post
I assume the reviewer has played Warcraft 3 TD maps...?

How does this compared to the variety and custom maps that exist for WC3? Currently, i have a group of friends that get together on Tuesdays and play games...and we find that we still gravitate towards playing TD a lot of times, because of it's co-operative nature, it's relatively gradual learning curve, and it's ability to have lots of players at once...

Does this game have any multi-player functionality? Any co-op? How many max players? Etc..

I'd love to have a new "Tuesday Night" game to get my friends hooked on
Sorry NuK, this is effectively a single player only affair with leaderboard support similar to that seen with many Xbox Live Arcade titles. Its not cooperative like WC3 TD can be. You can look at leaderboards for your friends and for the world, but there is no cooperative play modes. Perhaps this would be a good thing to add to Defense Grid 2. As it stands, its a quality SP TD game.
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Old 01-06-2009, 12:28 PM   #6
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This is a great game...lots of leaderboard friends support on Steam. There are also a nice variety of achievements to attain.

The music is repetitive and the voice over is often drowned out by the music and effects...which makes this a great game to play while listening to podcasts and music.
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Old 01-06-2009, 02:22 PM   #7
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No coop multiplayer?

I L-O-V-E the warcraft 3 TD maps

I'm waiting to see the new ones on Starcraft 2
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Old 01-06-2009, 02:56 PM   #8
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thanks for the info Modeps and review! Very informative!
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Old 01-06-2009, 05:18 PM   #9
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thanks for the info Modeps and review! Very informative!
Glad to help spread the word of a great game.
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Old 01-12-2009, 06:07 PM   #10
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Sounds like it could be a lot of fun. Anyway to turn off the music and just play your own?
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Old 01-12-2009, 07:07 PM   #11
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Sounds like it could be a lot of fun. Anyway to turn off the music and just play your own?
Only by setting the music volume to zero and launching WinAmp (or equivalent) in the background.

Personally, I don't mind the music; though I do keep its volume slider on the low-ish side of things...
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Old 01-15-2009, 07:00 AM   #12
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Another good tower defense game that came out last year was Defendin' de Penguin (DS/Wii). It's marketed as a kids RTS, but if you like tower defense games, it's a lot of fun for grown up kids as well.
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Old 01-18-2009, 07:07 PM   #13
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Bought this game and have been very happy with it! Anyone tried the challenges that you unlock in each level?
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Old 01-19-2009, 03:22 AM   #14
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I apparently just spent 9 hours straight playing this game, the story mode is complete and i've already managed to survive a single level through "endless mode". (99 waves is not endless FYI!)

Either way, this was awesome. I apparently acquired 44 of the achievements too!
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