Defense Grid 2 review – Serious tower defense for Xbox One

Defense Grid 2 is the sequel to Hidden Path Entertainment's 2009 critically-acclaimed Xbox Live Arcade tower defense strategy game. Having achieved so much with the first entry, Hidden Path still felt like they could outdo themselves with a next-gen version. And indeed Defense Grid 2 is easily the best tower defense game on Xbox One right now.

If you're someone that likes tower defense games, but feel as if most of them are too easy, perhaps this is the game you need to play. Defense Grid 2 has layers and layers of complexity. This isn't just "put down the towers at the beginning of the wave and watch it defeat your enemies." This is more of a scramble fast to build your towers and put them in the right spots early, or watch your enemy easily pick you apart. Check out our detailed review to learn how it all works.

Protect your cores

Defense Grid 2's story is relatively straight to the point. Humanity has long left earth and has spread itself over the vast universe while settling on exotic planets. Nevertheless, we are not alone. Aliens have begun to attack us with hopes of stealing our power cores to cripple humanity. Now it's up to you to stop the aliens by taking on the role of Commander to lead humanity to yet another victory.

The story doesn't have beautiful cut-scenes, or a deep character-driven narrative. Instead, the story is told by short stories on loading screens and witty satirical exchanges from your AI allies. After a while, I didn't even bother to read the cut-scenes, and I often found myself ignoring the AI banter.

Can you build it? Yes you can.

The gameplay of DG2 is simple, yet deep. As you progress, it becomes insanely difficult. Aliens enter the map in waves, taking the shortest route available to your base's cores. Your job is to choose where you want to place your towers on the highlighted grid to protect your cores from the alien scum. That's where things start to become complex.

Most levels already have a chosen path for the aliens to follow, while some allow you to place a tower on the path and make aliens choose a slightly longer one. Some of the more challenging and rewarding levels have a completely open grid for you to place your towers on. This essentially forces you on a mad scramble in the early waves to get the right path going before the aliens takeover your cores.

Here's the challenging bit. In order to build towers, you need currency. To earn this so-called currency, you must kill aliens. What makes it even more challenging though is that if you want to survive the later waves on a level you're going to have to upgrade these towers. Once upgraded these towers output more damage and some even extend their range. So, not only are you trying to destroy your foe, you're trying to build the most self-efficient grid possible to farm your currency.

Alien versus tower

Your towers are your arsenal in DG2, but this is no firing squad. Each tower must be methodically placed as they all have their own unique range and ability. The Inferno tower smothers your enemies in flames when in range and is relatively cheap to upgrade. The Meteor is like an artillery that has the biggest range in the game, but is costs an arm and a leg to upgrade. There are seven other towers in the game for you to choose from, but you have to advance through the game a bit to unlock them all.

To make your towers efficient killing machines, not only can you upgrade them, you can also earn alternate special abilities selected before the level begins. These special abilities can only be activated if the tower is placed on a boost. The boost allows you to place a tower higher than others so that it can fire over them instead of holding its fire when another tower blocks its shot.

As many as there are towers, there are aliens. Each alien comes in different varieties, so you never know what's going to come at you next. For example, they have speedy aliens that can just zoom past your defenses. However, sometimes the little speedy guys also have shields on them which make them even harder to attack. As you progress through the game, they start introducing more and more aliens which is awesome for replayability, and it constantly keeps you on your toes.

Two commanders are mostly better than one

Unlike the first Defense Grid, this time around you are allowed to have a fellow friend join you in your fight against the aliens. However, this doesn't make the game easier at all. That can be a pro to some and a con to others. The other multiplayer type is head-to-head. In this game type, you and a friend play on separate maps and keep the aliens from stealing your cores. There is a catch though. Whatever aliens you kill on your map will appear on your friend's map and vice-versa, but with stronger abilities. As intense and engaging as it sounds, I still prefer just playing the story co-op with a friend.

When playing co-op multiplayer in DG2, you share the currency that's gained, and you can't resell towers to put a new tower in its place. This makes for constant communication and negotiation to decide as a team what goes where and what's spent on what. This bugged me for a bit because it wasn't explained before the game started, but overall I do understand why they chose to make it like this.

Less understandably, you have to recreate your co-op game every time you beat a level. You can't just progress through the whole game with a friend in a single session. Also, there's no reason this game couldn't support local co-op.


If you're an Achievement hunter, this game is for you! Defense Grid 2 has a whopping 65 achievements for you to chase down for the usual 1,000 gamerscore. During the first couple of levels, you'll notice that achievements are handed out almost as if they don't mean anything. Don't think you get them all for free though.

There are some crazy hard achievements in there for you to nab. For example, the Untouchable Achievement nets you 30 Gamerscore for beating a chapter 4 mission with zero cores captured. The Gun Crazy achievement unlocks once you beat a chapter 4 mission using only guns. Yes, guns are the cheapest weapon in the game, but these things are cheap for a reason. It's a real challenge, but I'm sure the Achievement community will eventually work out strategies for everyone else to follow.

Overall Impression

Defense Grid 2 is the best tower defense game I've ever played. There are just so many layers to this game that it is hard to put down. The irony of it, however, is that some of the most fun in DG2 was when the controller wasn't in my hand. I would just simply watch, my towers destroy the enemies in a perfectly built corner or just before they reached my cores on the last wave. The game does a great job at pacing while at the same time not letting you get too comfortable. It really challenges you in later waves by unleashing stronger enemies that can only be taken care of by fully upgraded towers.

That being said, the clumsy multiplayer setup and lack of multiplayer-specific tutorial information got on my nerves. Also, I found the AI allies to be rather overkill compared to the first Defense Grid's more laid-back narrator. Still, I thoroughly enjoyed Defense Grid 2, and I strongly believe that other tower defense fans will as well. So if you're a fan of the genre or strategy in general, I highly recommend you get this game now.

  • Defense Grid 2 – Xbox One – 1.44 GB – $24.99 – Link
Jonathan Dollison