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Defense Grid: The Awakening is a tower defense game developed by Hidden Path Entertainment using the Gamebyro Engine. The game has both single player and multiplayer (via Xbox Live) and players must defend military bases from invading aliens.

The Plot
The story is based on alien invasion of a planet that has a dormant defense grid.As the player is re-activating the defense system with the assistance of a computer to control the machinery and with only limited resources, the aliens attempt to steal power cores. Power cores are “tiny floating orbs” that provide vital power to the defense grid. Once all power cores have been stolen the game is over. Only one power core need be remaining when the last wave of aliens is killed to complete a level.

Defense Grid is set in the distant future. Most levels feature ancient ruins with defensive military bases built amongst the decaying structures. The game was originally planned to be set amongst an urban environment which has been ravaged by war but that was changed to something more original. The main character in the game, which is called the Entity, is a computer with human-like qualities that wants to protect his homeworld from destruction.

Gameplay
In Defense Grid, there are 10 different towers, of each which has multiple upgrade levels (denoted by colour; green, yellow, red), at the player’s disposal. Some are focused purely on damage output, while others have special effects.  Towers not only have a range but a line of sight as well, making tower placement one of the key strategies of the game. The towers themselves are built on specific platforms meaning they can’t be built just anywhere. They can be sold for extra resources if needed or the player wants to alter a path they’ve created. If there was one criticism I have for towers, is that once you have a firm grasp of placement, it’s entirely possible to finish nearly every level using the same two tower types (Gun towers and cannon towers). To supplement the towers, players also have access to an orbital laser (except in early missions) which destroys everything in the blast radius and takes time to recharge

In terms of opponents, there are 15 different types of aliens that will arrive in swarms to try and steal your power cores. They vary greatly in abilities and strategy, ranging from cannon fodder up to mighty bosses that can withstand an amazing amount of punishment. Some aliens will have personal shields, meaning you have to destroy the shield before you can attack their health, others give shields to unshielded aliens, some summon new aliens as the wander toward your power cores while others make aliens invisible. The two types of aliens I have found that can really take you off guard if you are unprepared are the speedy aliens (aliens that move really fast) and invisible ones (that can only be shot by a tower directly next to it – unless a command tower is present).

Aliens will always take the shortest path available, so as the player you must try and make that path as long as possible without blocking it. If there is no path to the power cores, aliens will just walk through your towers as they see fit. Once they pick up a power core, they’ll walk back with it toward a stage exit. If they are killed while holding a power core, it will slowly return to the power station unless another alien picks it up. So long as you kill the last swarm of aliens with at least one power core remaining, you will pass the stage and move onto the next level. For the achievers amongst us, the more power cores you save, the higher score and medal you’ll be awarded at the end of the stage.

Like the majority of tower defense games out there, Defense Grid: Awakening is no exception to the rule of resources. Resources are called just that, and are used to buy and upgrade new towers. They are earned primarily through killing the invading aliens or selling existing towers. Once you’ve built up a decent amount of resources, it starts to earn interest (unless you spend it) meaning it can be beneficial holding on to resources in order to get more towers and upgrades, but with reward is always risk – your existing towers might not be good enough to handle what the aliens throw at them.

The original game features a campaign mode that you progress through by completing the story level for each stage. There are plenty of levels for the player to cut their teeth on, with the story mode itself being a respectable five hours plus in game time (if memory serves correctly). Throw in trying to get platinum medals (the best result possible for a stage) and challenge modes that unlock once the story mode for that particular stage is completed and there’s quite a fair bit to do in Defense Grid: Awakening. Since it’s release, there has also been two DLC add-ons that add in several more stages each, each containing multiple challenge modes.

Thanks to the Gamebryo engine in part, Defense Grid: Awakening is a 3D Tower Defense game and there are three levels of zoom, allowing you to get a close up of the aliens or zooming out for a view of the whole stage. You can also see the range of towers and the paths aliens take with a button press, while it’s also possible to revert to a previous checkpoint if things go badly for you. Leaderboards are present both on the Xbox 360 and PC versions, as well as achievements, which is always a boon for the competitive achiever types.

Conclusion
Ultimately Defense Grid: Awakening is a solid outing. The stages are quite pleasing to the eye, although the towers and aliens don’t seem to have an immense level of detail (perhaps a good thing!) which, considering the game is well over a year old now it still holds up well in this department. The control scheme is simple and easy to use, not an easy thing to manage for a strategy-esque game (even a simple one like tower defense, sometimes). I’ve gotten a lot of value out of this to date, as I still occasionally play it (I’ll readily admit I haven’t perfected every stage and challenge mode yet either) and for so long as I have an itch to play a tower defense game, I’ll probably use Defense Grid: Awakening to scratch it.

For strategy and tower defense fans, Defense Grid: Awakening is a must have.

Defense Grid: Awakening Rating; 8.6/10

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