Defense Grid: The Awakening

   27/04/2009 at 22:03       Micro Explosion       5 COMMENTS. - Score 3/5
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Over the last year, the strategy sub-genre of tower defense games has grown significantly. In part this is because of the likes of FieldRunners for the iPod and Desktop Tower Defense that have allowed them to begin to penetrate the more casual market.

Tower defense games have existed in one form or another for close to twenty years with Rampart being one of the first of its kind. In recent years there has been a proliferation of free alternatives on the PC which has to raise the question: why pay for one when there are good and free alternatives?

[THUMB1]The gameplay of Defense Grid: The Awakening is exactly the same as all the others in the genre with enemies entering from one side and attempting to get to their end target. To stop them you are provided a series of towers, including gun turrets, fire towers and laser towers - all of which can inevitably be upgraded. But there is one slight difference in gameplay from the majority of genre alternatives: in this version the enemies will pass each of your towers twice - once on their way to your power core and once on the way back. This simple difference gives both a second chance to recover a poor position and at the same time a sense of helplessness when you've made really bad choices on towers and locations.

The storyline is typically basic nonsensical and at the same time a nice touch to what could easily become rather pedestrian. It does the job that it seems to be there for: to pull you into the game long enough that you will finally look up at your clock and realise that you've been playing for far longer than you ever planned. Voice acting is far better than some recent games with a far bigger budget and has just the right balance of humour and seriousness to it.

[THUMB2]Defense Grid is on excellent example of the difference between a free game and one that has had the time afforded to its creation that only commercial products are going to achieve (barring extremely enthusiastic and dedicated hobbyists). The time and effort is most immediately apparent in the use of a functional but impressive 3D engine for the genre; it doesn't attempt to do anything that is spectacular but it has a nice futuristic style that, whilst not being very imaginative, it is pleasing to look at and feels comfortable.

There is considerable longevity to the game with twenty levels, all of which with multiple waves of enemies to defend against, followed by the availability of challenges and the inclusion of the ubiquitous Steam achievements when bought through Steam (cunningly) that is likely to keep you coming back for more. It manages that rare achievement of being perfect for just a few minutes (the game autosaves after every single wave) or allowing you to lose yourself in it for several hours.

[THUMB3]As an example of its genre, there are few that are likely to challenge it for quality and replayability. The only question is whether you want to pay for something that has free alternatives available, even if there are few that meet this game's quality.
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