Tower defense is a genre that fits the mobile gaming space really well. You’re not relying on twitch reactions or precise controls. It’s all about strategy. When I saw that Defense Grid 2 (one of my favourite tower defense games on Xbox One) was coming to Switch, I jumped at the chance to review it. Nintendo’s hybrid console feels like the perfect place to play a game like this. So, how well has the game transferred over to Switch?
Defense Grid 2 is exactly what you would expect from a tower defense game. Unsurprisingly, you place different towers on a grid to wipe out numerous waves of alien enemies. Success or failure is all about your choice of towers and their positioning. Different aliens require different tactics. Aliens with shields need to be handled differently to ones without. Some enemies are particularly quick while others may be slow but heavily armoured. You need to bear all this in mind as you set up your defences.
One of the things that Defense Grid 2 nails is the towers. They are all balanced really well. A cannon tower may have a lot more kick than a gun tower, but it’s twice the price. A laser tower may cost the same as a cannon unit but it doesn’t have the same range. What it lacks in range, though, it makes up for with a damage-over-time effect. There are ten different towers to choose from and to the developer’s credit, they are all useful. While I clearly had my favourites by the end of the campaign, I did use all of them at some point.
The campaign has 25 levels: the original 20, plus 5 levels that were released as DLC. The story that links them is played out through voices and text at the beginning and end of each level. It’s not a particularly great plot, but it is functional. Fortunately, the levels have had a lot more thought put into them. It’s never just a case of being able to get away with the same old tactics over and over again. You might be restricted by where you can place towers. There may be multiple entry points for foes. Then there are the varying waves of aliens that you face. You need to think on your feet and figure out the best use of your resources.
Visually, Defense Grid 2 is a bit inconsistent. The frame rate seemed fine in both docked and handheld mode. However, it’s a title that could really have benefitted from more anti-aliasing. I also found it a little hard to see what was going on in handheld mode except on the highest zoom level. At this level of magnification, though, you are only able to see a fraction of the map. This isn’t usually an issue, but as you progress through the enemy waves, you’ll find yourself wanting to have more of a bird’s eye view of the battlefield. It can also be tricky to distinguish the different alien types when zoomed out. Fortunately, the contents of each enemy wave are listed on-screen.
I really like Defense Grid 2. The Switch version may not be the best, but it still provides a lot of fun for less than $20. And while the visuals are a little lacklustre, the core mechanics and level design are just as good as ever. This is a game that will keep you busy for hours as levels can take up to 40 minutes to complete. You can speed time up but you need to be careful as it’s possible to get overwhelmed before you know it. There are also twelve different ways to play each level, from two-player to having a fixed budget to limited upgrades.
If you’re a fan of tower defense titles, then Defense Grid 2 is a game that deserves some space on your Switch.
A review code was provided by the publisher.