PAX 08: Defense Grid: The Awakening
Tower defense is a genre that doesn’t generally get much attention from many people, gamers and developers alike. Hidden Path is out to change that however, and Defense Grid: The Awakening has been lavished with love an attention to detail. The developers felt that tower defense, on the whole, was still an unrefined genre, and said they wanted to really polish it up, take it to the next level, and make a tower defense game completely lacking all the flaws they had observed. In this, I have to say, they were pretty successful.
To start with, the controls are slick. Even with no explanation (when I started the demo, I was still being told about their goals with this project and how they had been trying to make that happen) the controls were immediately obvious. It’s a game that can be played one handed if you want, the controls are extremely simple. Towers are built with a simple click, scroll and click. The simple controls belie the complexity of the game, however, and give you much more time to think about how to build your gauntlet of death instead.
The basic structure of the genre hasn’t changed, tower defense being a fairly rigid definition. Aliens enter the map, and you have to kill them before they get somewhere, in this case your power core. In order to do this, you build fixed towers, which have a radius of attack and various other statistics. Where the strategy comes in is in positioning your towers to your advantage and steering enemies around the map in order to give them the longest possible route to their goal while they march through your salvos of death. A lot of detail has gone into the towers in The Awakening, with many types available. If you zoom in when a tower is built or upgraded, you can even see fuel tanks and ammo boxes getting changed out. As you progress you’ll unlock more towers, as well as airstrikes and other things meant as a last resort. I didn’t see this last part in action, but I was told that it would be in the full build.
When I played I started out on a little more advanced level, with many paths to steer enemies around. After playing through most of the waves, I’d upgraded my tesla towers and formed a hallway of death, chain lightning flying everywhere followed by massive gouts from my flamethrower array. However, even with all this concentrated destruction, it was getting frantic, enemies pouring in everywhere, sheer numbers overwhelming my defenses and tanks pushing through. Intense is the word I’m going for here. It’s a good thing they had two stations for Bart and I to play on, because with how addicted we were there’s no way we would have been sharing.
Those looking for a casual game to exercise their mind a bit will have a good time playing this, but gamers going for a bit more depth will appreciate The Awakening as well. The large levels afford a lot of replayablity, for those of us who love the feeling of a perfect run with no damage taken. In short, anyone who’s been wanting for a tower defense game with a bit of depth will be very interested, and the rest of you should check it out too.