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Defense Grid 2 review: Still the best tower defense game, but the magic's missing

Hayden Dingman | Dec. 4, 2014
I don't know how many tower defense games I've played at this point. "A lot" would be a fair estimate, spanning everything from Warcraft III mods to tiny Flash games to full-blown productions. But the original Defense Grid is without doubt one of the best (maybe the best) tower defense games ever released.

And there are some parts of Defense Grid II that I think are actually weaker than the original, particularly when it comes to split-second judgments. Tower defense is, at its core, a strategy genre. Strategy relies on information — on knowing the right information at the right time.

Defense Grid II is remarkably bad at conveying information to the player. Tower types are hard to distinguish from each other and alien types are even harder to decipher. When you're looking at a mass of twenty oncoming mobs and trying to figure out "Are these the fast ones? Are these the ones that turn invisible?" then there's a problem. That information should be immediately apparent. The same goes for "Is this my cannon tower? Oh wait, no, it's this one over here."

I don't know what the problem is, because I don't feel like I had the same issue with the original Defense Grid. There's something about the way it's laid out though, or how far out the camera is, that makes the game less playable than its forebear — even though it's ninety percent the same game.

Bottom line

Defense Grid II isn't bad. It's actually really good!

But do you understand how a game can garner a good score and still feel sort-of mediocre? Or not mediocre, but familiar. Familiar doesn't cut it in the tower defense genre anymore — especially considering that the tower defense genre isn't lighting a fire under anyone's ass these days. The days of that craze are mostly behind us.

The original Defense Grid managed to get people momentarily excited about tower defense again by being something unique and different from the crowd. Fair or not, Defense Grid II needed to pull off the same magic. It doesn't. It's just another (excellent) tower defense game.


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