Defense Grid: The Awakening (DG1)
set the gold standard for Tower Defence games on PC - it is arguably the King of TD! It ticked all the boxes with insane replayability, challenging score based gameplay & a big list of levels & modes. It was the perfect balance for many gamers with some clocking thousands of hours of play time. In all the years to follow, no Tower Defense game has toppled DG1
from its throne - but now there is a serious contender from Hidden Path's own stables.So, is DG2 the worthy successor to the crown?
All the components that made DG1
are essentially in DG2
plus more! That means pretty much all the towers return, along with the Aliens. Similar number of campaign levels on offer & Fletcher returns with some new 'friends' to provide some raspberry comic relief. I got a bit lost with all the new AI voices & story twists but that is not super important for a TD game.
It plays like it’s the same game with more detailed graphics & enhanced mechanics. Everything is a little more refined, that includes a few more modes to challenge, medals for all difficulty levels, extra power-up & commander upgrade options & some dynamic 'moveable' maps. These newer elements add more tactical & strategic options to your arsenal.
Online has got a lot of attention with Multiplayer being added. This was like playing a whole different game! My favourite mode is DG Fighter. In this you face off against a competitor, each of you has your own map in which each kill you make spawns an alien on their map in the location you killed it. Games were hectic, intense and generally close with the ability to counter each other's defenses in real-time. It is excellent fun! There is also a full co-op mode where you share the same map squares & resources, which actually wasn't as much fun as I hoped it would be. For that, you really need a good understanding with your partner & not playing with random matchmaking people.
The third mode was a bit of a hybrid, with players being allocated set squares on the same map, defending the same cores but competing for kills. It was all a bit confusing for many I think on how to best play this mode which limited its appeal. Finding players was a bit inconsistent, but it was well designed to allow you to play single player while you wait in the multiplayer queue. What was not-so-well designed was managing with dropouts. I experienced a lot of defeated players who would rather drop the game than suffer a loss - this will also mean the end your game too & prevent you from recording a high score or achieving a medal. Frustrated me to no end! It would have also been nice to browse a list of active games to join.
Another welcome addition is the level editor for community created levels! This will really add to DG2's
longevity, although, I was disappointed to see the Steam Workshop is only used to submit for paid maps. Might be a technical limitation with Steam & there is an external community run site
to get free maps, but having it all integrated in Steam would have been really nice. Both paid & free maps to encourage the community to keep on playing & exploring content. At time of writing this, there is only 4 official paid maps available via Hidden Path store, but close to 20 or more via the external site.
On a more positive note, I really liked the introduction of the Boost Tower. This tower acts as a simple block on an empty square, but it also provide a tower built on it greater line of sight & power-up options that enhance the tower; like revealing stealth units or score/damage boosts. These power-ups also make the Command Tower from the original game redundant (hence no longer in DG2)
. There is a command structure on each map though which provides level modifications for purchase. These raise or move sections of the maps to give more building options and better defenses. They add variety to each play though, but felt they were a bit under-utilised. After several runs at a level you often find you don't use them anymore.
There are some other differences that set DG2
apart from its predecessor. On a minor point, there are no flying aliens (I always found them a distraction so I don't mind they are gone!)
& on a larger point there is a new scoring system. Now, I need to take a moment to explain this further as it is a deciding factor that does change the feel of the game.DG1
scoring system was time based; this meant the longer you can keep the aliens in the map, the more interest on your resources you got & a higher score. This was somewhat flawed in design as it encouraged players to 'juggle' aliens on the map as long as possible & do things like sell towers for extra interest near the end of the level. In DG2
, the scoring system
is efficiency based; this means when you kill an alien you get a set score for the alien plus a bonus based on the amount of resources. No more increasing interest over time, but there is a periodic drip of supplies you get at key waves. The result puts the importance back on killing aliens & making sure they don’t escape with a core. You can still juggle to improve efficiency but the length of time is no longer a factor.
Although it is a more logical scoring system, for me it doesn't have the same tactile response (or feel)
you get when you are doing well. In DG1
, you could see by the resource score ticking faster & faster along with the combination of the effectiveness of your towers in real time to really feel how well you were doing - it felt precise in a weird way
. In DG2
, there is now an in-game real time graph which helps negate the lack of 'ticking', but I find it is still harder to judge just how much better you are doing. I think this is due to the very small window (zoomed in)
graph you see & the relative impact (or lack of?)
towers seem to make to your score/efficiency. It's different, but for me even though the old system was flawed it was simply more fun to play. The flaws gave DG its character & a unique style of play which now seems lost to a certain degree.DG2
wins on many fronts, but my conclusion is that DG1
retains the crown. If it were an Olympic 100 meter sprint, it would be a photo finish down to the milliseconds! If the old scoring system rules were available as an alternative play mode I think there would be a new king! DG2
is still a fantastic game despite my preference for the old scoring system, that's really deserved of every strategist & tower defence fan's game collection.