Defense Grid: The Awakening

Defense Grid

by Jon Michael May

I downloaded Defense Grid: The Awakening on a whim, when offered free to Xbox Live Gold members and had few expectations. Ultimately it was a decision I’m glad I made. I’ve sunk well over a hundred hours into the tower defense game, purchased three map packs, (including the Portal inspired pack), and come right back to it when I need a good distraction.

I won’t bore you with the finer details, except to say Defense Grid follows the basic concept of placing towers while trying to halt an advancing alien threat. While it certainly doesn’t push the tower defense genre into any new or interesting areas, it doesn’t need to change what already works. Solid gameplay with a wide assortment of tower and enemy types, offer you the chance to play a number of ways and experiment with a variety of play styles. Combined with a variety of game modes and medals to achieve and it quickly becomes easy to replay favorite maps multiple times.

Defense Grid: The Awakening has a sliver of story woven through the initial twenty levels that come with the game, though it’s hardly a selling point. When you get down to brass tacks, if you’re playing a tower defense game, you’re in it for the strategic problem solving nature of the gameplay, not a deep and meaningful story. It would be nice to see a game that has both, but that isn’t the case here and shouldn’t dissuade you giving the game a try.

The game is no longer free on XBLA, so you’ll have to part with $9.99 for the chance to lose countless hours of your life destroying as many aliens as possible. If you enjoy tower defense games, Defense Grid: The Awakening is worth that price, because let’s be honest; those aliens have it coming.



The Electronic Entertainment Expo is happening this week.  Here are some hastily composed thoughts about what I saw online Monday.

I missed the end of the Sony conference because my internet was down, so I’m catching up now.  That Destiny game play on the PS4 looks sick.
Also, Beyond Two Souls looks cool and I really want to see more of The Division.
I love this move towards large persistent open world games that can continue to grow and change, not only while I’m not playing, but months or perhaps even years after they’re released. In the demo for The Crew, it was implied that you could drive across the United States.  So forget cities, we’re talking about roaming across entire continents now.  GTA VI: America! Or Europe.  I’d take either one.

I was also pleased to see what Respawn had been working for so long.  For those that don’t know, Respawn is the company created by the developers that left Infinity Ward, who are credited with making Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare…arguably the best iteration of that particular series. So Titanfall is multiplayer, with single player aspects…it’s not strictly deathmatch, with more team based and story driven elements…also giant ass mechs.  And from the look of it, they’ve spent a lot of time and effort getting the look, feel, and usability of the mechs to work well with FPS controls, all the while there are people running around on foot shooting at you.  You can kill people just by stepping on them.  I’m sold.

The Halo 5 tease was nice as was the Star Wars Battlefront tease.  I’m surprised we didn’t see anything at all from Epic, which has been a long time supporter of Microsoft.  I know the new Gears game is still fairly recent, but they have that other game, Fortnite.  The could have also padded Microsofts fanbase by showing Shadow Complex 2.  I want that game.  Also, with all the talk of new game engines, it was sort of strange that no one mentioned the Unreal Engine which powered a large percentage of current gen games and will likely continue to do so in the future.
Also, I want Fallout 4.  I don’t care about The Evil Within, that Bethesda is working on.  It could be amazing, but I want a next gen, persistent massively open world Fallout game.  Not an MMO, though there can be some co-op elements.  I want a proper single player story driven Fallout game developed by Bethesda, not Obsidian.  They’ve finished Skyrim, they need to put what they learned there to use and get on it.

Also, at this point they can stop showing clips for the Last of Us and Watchdogs.  If you haven’t made up your mind to play those games already, then you’re likely not going to based on anything else they show you.  I need to buy a PS3.  How much blood can I sell?  A kidney maybe?

As for the larger issue…

Both companies are taking steps to move towards an all digital marketplace where there will likely be no used games at all.  We’re caught in the middle of a bad transition right now and Microsoft is taking much of the brunt of the bad press, which may allow Sony to come out a head because they look like the alternative right up until the time they quietely mention they’re doing the same thing.  So in the end, Microsoft may benefit from leading the charge if they can recover from all the bad press…much of which I don’t agree with or care about.  If they can deliver on their promises and have no major problems, like Xbox Live going down for several months, they should be fine.

Nothing Microsoft has said, has been a deal breaker for me.  Yes, servers go down and internet service goes out, but its not like playing games is the only thing I do all day.  I think I can manage to weather a bit of occasional down time.  As for the DRM and used games, like I said, digital is coming and they’re likely to get rid of used games completely rather than allowing you to resell a digital copy, so people may as well get used to it now.
They could have certainly handled it better, but in the end, both systems have games I want to play…and will do other stuff to that is sort of nice.
As for the Kinect being required to use the console, I’ve heard it can be turned off or you can just turn the thing towards a wall, so the sensor/camera can’t see you.  And if they want to watch me sit in my underwear while I play games, go for it.  Whatever rocks your jollies.

The thing that annoys me about the whole argument, is the appearance online that it’s over right now and that Sony has won.  They’ve made a big splash by countering Microsoft, but the consoles aren’t even out yet.  Compare the 360 that we’re using today, to the one that came out originally and what you can do with them.  At the time, DLC and game update/patches weren’t even a thing that existed on consoles.  Now they both rely on them.
Both consoles will have a long life span and continue to evolve and develop new features to meet the changing market.

I also think that the always online feature (and I would be surprised if the PS4 doesn’t slip this in quietly and not tell anyone….you’re online anyway, so what’s the harm?) is in part, a push to make ISP’s upgrade the infrastructure, at least in America.  Streaming is available through moderate broadband as it is, so there is no real push to improve things, but if there was suddenly a spike in demand for higher speeds brought on by tech that could only thrive on high speed internet, then the ISP’s might be forced to get their butts in gear and upgrade their services.  It would take a huge corporation with a lot of capital and weight to make that happen, which Microsoft has in spade.  So if Microsoft can make that happen, I’m all for it.
Ideally, I would like to see Microsoft partner with Google to make Google Fiber available nationwide.  If they could lock up a deal like that with some sort of exclusive contract, where you get the Xbox and Google Fiber, which also brings in a digital cable stream, all for one monthly price…sign me up.  I doubt that will ever happen, but I can dream.