Tower defense has been a much beloved sub-genre of real-time strategy (RTS) games since the late 1990s. This RTS off-shoot has truly made its way into the mainstream through the easily accessible “flash game” medium, which took their cue from its original popularization by the innovative player-created maps of RTS games like StarCraft, Age of Empires II, and, Warcraft III. Defense Grid Gold is a game that continues the legacy in the form of a fully-featured 3D game created from the ground up to be a tower defense game.
First off, it is important to note what exactly the OnLive version of this game includes, as the “gold” moniker can easily be confused to mean something it does not. As it stands, this version contains the original campaign, The Awakening, and, included with the main story and all its assorted challenge modes are the first two DLC packs, Borderlands and Resurgence. Altogether, there are 30+ story-driven missions, plus all the challenge modes that vary with each mission. These challenge modes include things like Story Challenge, Tower Limit, Green Towers Only, Poison Core, and these are only a few examples as there are just too many variants to list. The extra objectives can be as simple as ‘Story Challenge’ which just raises the difficulty level of the mission or as creative as the ‘Poison Core’ mode in which only one core is given to protect, but any aliens that succeed in taking it are instantly killed with the catch being that these kills do not give the player any resources.
With that settled and speaking of story-driven missions, how is the story? Well, unsurprisingly, it is nothing to write home about. The story revolves around the player being thrown into a planet’s fight against alien invaders with the task being to reactivate this mystery planet’s defense grid with the help of an AI that seems to be the only thing attached to this poorly-designed defense system that is working. Honestly, there is not much to the story and virtually no multiplayer elements, but, this is a tower defense game, so how much could realistically be expected?
The bulk of what makes this game worth playing is the tower defense action. The gameplay is easily accessible to newcomers and veterans alike. There are a multitude of different tower variants that range from the simple gun turret to the more specialized “Tesla Towers.” The player begins with a varying sum of resources/money to purchase available defense towers. Once the first towers are placed, the objective is to kill and destroy the waves of “insectoid” alien attackers along the (mostly) set path that leads to the energy cores that players are designated to defend. As players progress through the main campaign, they unlock new towers that all have certain advantages and disadvantages against specific alien variants. Obviously, the deeper one gets into the game, the more challenging it gets. Strategic placement of one’s towers becomes crucial to a player’s success. Though, if and when the defense grid fails there is a last resort, panic button in the shape of an orbital laser that destroys all aliens within its attack radius. The better defenders safe-guard their energy cores the better they are at producing resources, but, in the end, killing aliens is what means more resources and more resources mean more (or upgraded) towers. With all the different tower types and upgrade capabilities there is no definitive way to beat each mission; equally, the variety of aliens will keep players on their toes and coming back for more. A person who cannot find this game addictive is someone who just despises a good strategy game experience.
Building on top of the restricted story and the impressive gameplay, the visuals and sound of this game are actually quite decent; looking at its predecessors and contemporaries the game’s presentation is comparatively amazing for a tower defense game. The game has some detailed environments that set the scene well enough and watching the set defenses destroy alien war machines is equally satisfying. The AI voice acting is quality work and the music score is of a decent quality. Furthermore, the game looks very decent on OnLive. Personally, I have noticed some noticeable hiccups every now and then, but, otherwise, the game looks great.
The controls of the game actually manage to outshine many of the other aspects of this game, as they are very well-implemented and offer a variety of ways to play the game. The regular keyboard-and-mouse controls work fine and the gamepad is utilized just as well. All the buttons are sensibly mapped and are easily picked up. The game also has touch-screen support, but, sadly, this reviewer has not gotten a chance to try it out.
Defense Grid Gold is a rock solid Playpack title and, even on its own, is worth a purchase. The gameplay is addictive and the game is extremely accessible with its varied controls and its general replayability value. Though it suffers from a mediocre story, the negatives just do not come close to outweighing the positives this game boasts. So, go erect those towers and pound those aliens into submission…err…or just go play some Defense Grid!