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Defense Grid: The Awakening review

The best Tower Defense game ever?


  • Real layers of strategy
  • Full of charm
  • The best looking TD game


  • Pretty basic when it comes down to it
  • Not really original
  • Won't appeal to aggressive players

Somebody thought about this one. Tower Defense games are the easiest genre for a developer since Video Tennis; you build a road, some spaces to deploy guns, and then send a bunch of baddies down the path – game done.

Even bad Tower Defense is good Tower Defense. With more problems than a house built on a particularly swampy Indian burial ground, Square Enix’s awful Crystal Defenders was a still a solid title. But somebody really thought about Defense Grid, because it’s the best Tower Defense game ever.

Defense Grid has some pretty smart tricks, some borrowed from existing tower games and some of its own. The towers are simple and can only be placed in specific spots, so in early stages, killing the incoming horde is more about picking the right position than the right tower. The bad guys aren’t trying to just get across the playfield in Defense Grid, either; they’re trying to get in, retrieve power cells, and then get the hell out of there. Your guns get two chances to fire on the hordes, but placement becomes critical.

It keeps you from consolidating all your firepower on one early corner, which adds a unique strategic layer to your placement, gradually building an entire network of firepower more aggressively defensive than a man who’s just been caught with his genitals in a live chicken, rather than a big cluster in one choke point. In essence, it’s a strategic Tower Defense game rather than a memory test.

Most importantly, Defense Grid has charm – a snooty semi-senile English-voiced AI directs you through proceedings and tells the tale of an ancient civilisation wiped out by the hordes. As for the Defense Grid itself, the little turrets and deployment pods are beautifully rendered with an attention to detail nobody else has bothered to lavish on such a very basic format. It’s a million-dollar makeover on a fat tramp, but the old boy has scrubbed up very nicely.

Sep 14, 2009

More Info


Defense Grid is a deep, strategic puzzler infused with personality.

PlatformPC, Xbox 360
US censor ratingEveryone 10+
Release date8 December 2008 (US), 8 December 2008 (UK)
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