Defense Grid: The Awakening
Marc "djinniman" Allie
PC - Hidden Path
Tower Defense is quickly becoming its own genre. From Rampart to Warcraft 3 to Desktop Tower Defense, placing towers in order to kill bad guys is addicting. Most Tower Defense games are browser based, or mods for existing games. Defense Grid: The Awakening is a highly polished standalone game, with crisp graphics, excellent menus, and even a storyline, quite atypical for the genre.
If you are familiar with Tower Defense, you will feel right at home here. You are presented with a series of mazes, with alien robots running through in waves. You can place weapons along the maze, maximizing your damage potential. If a baddie breaks through, they steal energy cores, and then retreat off the map. If you lose all the cores, the game is over.
For the most part, the mazes in Defense Grid: The Awakening are premade, and you must find the most effective placement of towers. Guns, lasers, rockets, missiles, lightning, even a time-slowing pulse of energy are all available. Each has strengths and weaknesses; for example, meteor towers have amazing range and area effect damage, but have a minimum range and cannot hit airborne targets. Lasers cause targets to burn, taking further damage over time, but cannot penetrate shields. There is plenty of variety in weapons here to keep a compulsive tower builder occupied for hours.
One aspect I'd like to have seen more of in Defense Grid: The Awakening is creating your own mazes, a la Desktop TD. A few levels allow players quite a bit of freedom to build snaking paths out of their towers, but they are few and far between. To me, this is one of the most compelling features in any Tower Defense game, and I'd love to have seen more of it. Still, the game is enjoyable as it is.
The initial playthrough was only moderately challenging, but there are many replay options. You can earn different medals based on your performance, though I found the jump from bronze to silver a bit steep. A challenge mode with tougher opponents and sandbox modes with unlimited amounts of resources provide more reasons to keep coming back. Defense Grid: The Awakening is easily worthwhile for fans of the genre.