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Defense Grid: The Awakening explores a relatively unpopular genre called Tower Defense.  Influenced from the defensive structures of many RTS games, it is the player’s duty to build numerous fortification towers that prevent enemies from reaching their goals.  Each level delivers stronger, faster and numerous hordes that challenge a player’s quickness, strategies and intelligence.  With each new wave of enemies, players are rewarded with new weapons and upgrades.  Hidden Path Entertainment, the developer and publisher, have delivered an amazing experience that is easy to play, but difficult to master.

The game takes place in a distant future where an alien species has come back to take the power cores of a long lasting civilization.  Awaken by the alien threat, a computerized narrator mentors the user.  The aliens enter the environment and take the shortest path to the cores.  Once the aliens have taken the cores, they quickly make their escape to the nearest exit.  To prevent this, it is the player’s duty to build numerous towers to withstand the threat.  If all the cores have been captured, then you lose and must try again.

Based upon pre-play impressions, many will look at this game and think it is fairly complicated, but really, Defense Grid is easy to play.  The first level acts as a short tutorial introducing the mechanics of the game.  You’ll be allowed to build the most basic tower of the game, the gun turret; you can build as many turrets as there are spaces available.  With each successful kill, you’ll be rewarded with resources that allow you to build more towers.

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As you progress from level to level, you’ll unlock new towers and upgrades.  In the back of your head, you’re always thinking, “Is it better to build an abundance of basic level towers, or is better to have fewer, stronger upgraded towers?”  The choice is yours, and I can’t really say if one way is better than the other.  To be vague, the best way is the way you don’t lose.

Initially, the game will seem fairly easy, but as you reach higher levels, the game will become increasingly difficult.  Various aliens will be rallied to their call. You’ll come across mammoth beasts that move slow but require fast and hard hitting towers to take them down; there are shielded aliens that basically have two life bars, which sometimes require two different towers to deal effective damage; there are aliens that move in large numbers; there are speeders that are susceptible to lasers but can withstand any other tower attack; there are turtle aliens that spider into smaller foes when destroyed; there are flying aliens that bypass all ground defense; et al.  Basically, you’ll have your hands full.

What really stands out is how incredibly well balanced this game is.  There isn’t one tower or a combination of a few towers that players will depend upon throughout the game.  Because of the variety of aliens, players will have to depend on all the defenses if he or she wants to advance to the next level.  Often times, I found myself thinking about what tower is the best, and how I should use it to be most effective.  Through trial and error, I realized building one tower always led to my demise no matter how well they were placed.

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Although the game is not known for its graphics, the environments are well designed.  Each level delivers a rich atmosphere with intricate details.  Players can view the levels from three different depths, all of which appear to be more beautiful than the other.  Also, tower animations are enjoyable to marvel at up close and from afar.  When you build a long line of lasers, it’s awesome seeing the vast number of beams shooting out.

Similarly, the game’s sound is not incredibly striking, but Hidden Path Entertainment did a good job of implementing appropriate sounds to the vast amount aliens and the numerous towers.  Some will find the narrating mentor a bit annoying due to his comedic relief, but I found him helpful.  Once you immerse yourself into the game, you’ll sometimes forget he is even speaking.

Finally, this is an incredibly innovating experience.  It takes full advantage of a relatively unexplored genre and produces a product that is extremely rich.  It’ll take you about ten hours to complete, but once you finish, you can go back and try to complete each level perfectly (An extremely difficult accomplishment).  As a result, if you want a game that challenges your reaction time and pushes your intelligence, then Defense Grid: The Awakening is a must play

Rating Category
8.3 Presentation
Presentation Graphics are well done, but a lack of video settings. Feeble storyline. Use of controller or keyboard and mouse. Provides a nice encyclopedia of towers and aliens.
How does our scoring system work?
9.0 Gameplay
Just as the last wave of aliens gets destroyed, you'll be wishing there are more to come. You want to see your maze of death put to the test.
7.5 Sound
Nothing too outstanding about the sound. It's appropriate to game play, and the narrator provides some comedy (it has a weird obsession with raspberries).
7.5 Longevity
There is a leader board, so if you want to be the top dawg, you have something to strive for. Acheiving the perfect ranks are quite challenging. Aside from story mode, no survival mode or challenges to complete.
8.3 Overall
Defense Grid is challenging as well as innovating. You'll find yourself replaying some of the harder levels to test out your other strategies. It has a lack of challenges and modes, and as a result, it fails to give you a"complete game" feel, however.

  1. The demo on steam is fairly sizable but good, for anyone who might be thinking about the game.

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