Tower defence is a tricky genre to get right: it must strike the perfect balance between simplicity and challenge to avoid any dullness. Add in a home console controller that allows less inputs than a mouse and keyboard combination, and you have yourself a disaster waiting to happen. Defense Grid 2 seems to get the formula just right, bundling in plenty of different challenges and modes to keep you protecting those towers – cores, in this case – way beyond the single player campaign, making it one of the best options to fill your strategic building needs on the PlayStation 4.
Still, if you’re looking for an immersive narrative with twists and turns that will reach an explosive climax – well, you may want to look elsewhere for that. Instead, you’ll have to be satisfied with a straightforward tale of a Commander and his witty computer AI’s trying to stop alien attacks with heavily armed high-rises. Most of the story is told through the AI banter and text right before each mission. Things quickly get convoluted, but it’s all so throwaway that it doesn’t really matter – even if listening to the back and forth conversations between the different personalities is somewhat entertaining.
Gameplay is pretty straightforward: build towers to derail waves of alien scum trying to take power cores. Different buildings do varying types of damage and cost differing amounts of resources; Gun towers are the weakest, for example, and are best used on early aliens as they are the cheapest to make. It’s these decisions that will shape how well you do. Luckily, you won’t have to fumble around with too many currencies as there is only one gained through killing aliens. You can also sell the towers to gain back some in-game cash in case you need to change your strategy.
The game really shines, though, when things get hectic. Having lasers and fire rockets all over the map is a sight to behold, and watching the resources stack up is a reward on its own. Of course, these situations can go south quickly, so it forces you to always be on your toes. Fortunately, for those that don’t have much experience with tower defence, there is a back button that takes you to the last action that you took, just in case you need a re-do. All of the maps are extremely detailed as well, allowing you to encourage the thieving aliens to take longer routes. These courses even change at times, forcing you to take immediate action to counteract the danger. Unfortunately, this doesn’t happen as often as it really should.
The campaign is broken up into chapters that consist of about five missions all posing a separate threat. Admittedly, the first few objectives can be a pain as they are simply tutorials for all of your weaponry, ultimately leading to some extremely dull encounters. This doesn’t last very long, though, so it shouldn’t be much of a concern, and there is also a fast-forward button just to make things speedier. Should you see your way through the entire single player mode, there are incentives to go back with different challenges added to each level, too. And, of course, there are Leaderboards for everything that you do, just in case you want to show off a bit.
If all of that is not enough to fulfil your alien mushing needs, there are multiplayer modes. DG Fighter, possibly the most impressive option, has two players build on separate maps and each alien killed gets sent to the opponent’s side. Meanwhile, Co-op Doubles has both players share one map, while DG Coordinate Defense forces each player to construct on his or her own build squares. Of these, the aforementioned DG Fighter is particularly fun.
Though not perfect, Defense Grid 2 presents one of the best tower defence options on the Japanese giant’s shiny black box. It has everything that a fan of the genre could want, loads of modes, challenges, and, at its core, is just plain fun. The back and forth between the excellently voiced characters is entertaining, even if the narrative is messy and the excellent dynamic maps are few and far between. Those willing to overlook these few flaws, though, are in for a good time.