Wednesday, February 20

Review: Defense Grid 2 [Nintendo Switch eShop]

Tower defense games have been around for quite awhile but I think their popularity really surged with the mobile and tablet space with the availability of touchscreens making them easier than ever to control. The principle behind them is pretty well self-explanatory, your objective is to stop an onslaught of varied units by setting up a varied set of defensive units that will counter a variety of enemy threats. Whether they’re fast, shielded, stealthy, or damage sponges you’ll typically be given specific towers that, if placed wisely, can thwart the enemy offensive.

For the most part following that mold down to the letter Defense Grid 2 is certainly a very competent and well-presented, traditional, example from the genre. You’ll be walked through the basics pretty quickly, begin accumulating your choices for structures, and then be challenged to arrange them in a way that will help you defend your power core from having its crystals stolen. Which towers you choose won’t be your only concern, as you progress you’ll often have the opportunity to use your units to create longer paths for your enemies, forcing them to take longer and spend more time under attack, giving your defenses time to do their thing. It’s sometimes wise when you’re in a rush to lay down lower-cost base structures that don’t have any weaponry of their own but that can help you get an idea of the path you’re looking to build set. From there you’ll just want to maximize your level of control over the speed of the enemy units and be sure to maximize your opportunities in slow areas or big turns to hammer them mercilessly.

Perhaps the most shocking thing about the game is the lack of touchscreen support, which really seems like an opportunity missed on the Switch. While the controls do work well enough, and are sensible, there’s just nothing about the game that seems to be complicated enough to justify this not being an option. I make particular note of it only because I was so surprised when I realized this fact. The enemy units sort of slogging on through in seemingly endless waves where as long as you set up a decently-varied defense you’ll come through is also a bit disappointing. It was rare that I felt forced to take real notice of the specific alien units I was facing, a tried and true blend of units and savvy upgrades saved the day far more often than not and this robbed the experience from feeling more engaging.

Outside of the polish fn the game’s presentation, choosing which commander’s special power you want to help yourself out of jams, and some incremental modifiers that you can enable (and eventually choose from) to add some extra oomph to you units there’s not much deviation from the norm here. If you’re a genre fan the lack of traditional options with this degree of quality should make it of some interest, but at the same time very honestly you’ll likely feel that you’ve played some other form of this core gameplay many times before. Competent, but lacking in originality, Defense Grid 2 is a decent tower defense title just in no way a very remarkable one.

Score: 7

  • In general the presentation and voice acting are well done
  • Nails the majority of what you’d be looking for if you enjoy this sort of strategic play

  • Generally lacking in originality and excitement
  • Lack of an option to play with touchscreen controls