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Defense Grid: The Awakening in Review

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Review - Defense Grid: The Awakening
itle: Defense Grid
Publisher/Developer: Aspyr/Hidden Path Entertainment 
Platforms: PC and Xbox 360
Release Date: 12/08/08
Number of players/Multiplayer: 1 no multiplayer

This is a review that’s going to be very short, because there’s not a whole lot to talk about. I sat back for days thinking of talking points, and there aren’t that many for a game in this genre. However, in any area that matters, Defense Grid shines like a lighthouse in a storm of bland Tower Defense titles.

The story is tastefully minimal and narrated by a salty AI recorded from a human consciousness. The narrator regales you with stories of the last war with his aliens and his impossible dream to once again taste raspberries. It kind of reminds me of the narrative style of Portal. While the narration is simple, it is also profound in it simplicity and as a result really stands out in the genre.

The general gist of the story, is a long time ago there was an alien invasion which was narrowly repelled and substantial defense grids were left behind for their inevitable return, shepherded over by the recorded personality of the hero of the last war. He gives you advice as you take control of the defense grid, and gradually recover schematics for more and more advanced towers.

Defense Grid: The Awakening

The game play is absolutely top of the line for the tower defense genre. The waves of enemies can follow either a single linear path or various branching paths. You can corral the enemies by building your defense towers to keep them from reaching your command center and stealing too many of your precious cores. There are many different sorts of ground based hordes; each counterable by one or more of the ten different towers at your disposal.

Each and every tower has a unique combat capability, from simple machine guns, sweeping flame throwers and long distance missile launchers for air based bombardment, to the far more exotic temporal distortion towers which slow mobs of enemies to a crawl so your other towers can pulverize them. My personal favorite is the Tesla, placed near the enemy exit, it will slowly build it up an enormous charge and can fry even bosses like an egg.

Defense Grid: The Awakening

The strategic placement of each tower is very important. Each tower has a specific maximum - and in some cases minimum - range. Towers also have trouble firing through each other. Also just as important, each tower can be upgraded twice to make its effects far more devastating to things normally resistant to its effects and/or making it the ultimate tool for slaughtering those already susceptible to it.

Each level is a massive puzzle that may need to be played several times to fully understand. As the waves are all preset, careful foreknowledge is more powerful than any tower you could ever lay. Repeat plays are made far less tedious by the option of pressing RB or LB on your 360 to speed time up. Even without that feature, watching your gauntlet of death in action rarely gets old.

The game graphics are definitely below that of a standard $60.00 Xbox 360 title, but the Gamebryo engine rarely disappoints. The use of the Scaleform GFx system has created very stylish flash powered menus which are easy to navigate. For a arcade title or an indie PC game this game delivers the goods in style.

Defense Grid: The Awakening

The game music is a suitable affair, nothing too overpowering to distract you from the goal at hand. It is very fitting for whatever setting one finds themselves in, be it the frozen arctic or the wreckage of a downed space craft.

There are few games which make me swear like a dock worker while also dancing with glee. This game is challenging and rewarding enough to be both.

The Review

Storyline: Any story at all in a Tower Defense game is going above and beyond, the narrator’s delightfully sadistic and neurotic nature is delightful. .

Gameplay:  Rock solid and almost masochistically strategic, the choices and repercussions are almost endless.

Music:  Well executed and not oppressive, they set a solid atmosphere, but no particular tunes stand out for me.

Graphics:  Not pretty in the mainstream sense, but definitely a looker for the indie market.

The Good: Probably the finest game yet produced by the genre.

The Bad: I want more. Right now.

The Ugly: Can probably be beaten in a single day. But for less than ten bucks, every single hour will be well worth the investment.

Overall: Hardly a better way to spend your hard earned eight bucks. Between this and Shadow Complex, DLC is stepping it up this year. More games like this will bring the indie market the credibility it so richly deserves.

Final Vote: 4.5 out of 5.

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