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Found 8 results

  1. Take a journey with us back to the ye olden days of 2009 when the war between casual and hardcore gamers raged. While it would take many years for the conflict to settle to a low simmer, one game seemed to unite the two sides in harmony; a tower defense game with retro roots, a sunny disposition, and a quirky sense of humor. Plants vs. Zombies catapulted developer PopCap Games to indie stardom and became their fastest selling game to date, leveraging a position in the then-curated Steam store to appeal to the hardcore crowd and its inherent lightheartedness to bring in the more casually oriented gamers. Almost ten years later, should Plants vs. Zombies be considered one of the best games of all-time? Each week we will be tackling a video game, old or new, that at least one of us believes deserves to stand as one of the greatest games of all time. We'll dive into its history, development, and gameplay, while trying to argue for or against the game of the week. Sometimes we will be in harmonious agreement, other times we might be fighting a bitter battle to the very end. However each episode shakes out, we hope that everyone who listens will find the show entertaining and informative. Outro music: The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past 'Fushigina Forest' by Laura Shigihara (http://ocremix.org/remix/OCR02329) You can download or listen to the podcast over on Soundcloud, our hosting site, and iTunes. A YouTube version is available as well, so you can watch what we are talking about while we talk about it! If you want to have your opinion heard on air, share your opinion in the comments, follow the show on Twitter, and participate in the weekly polls: @BestGamesPeriod New episodes of The Best Games Period will be released every Monday Don't forget to sign up for Extra Life to help sick and injured kids in hospitals around the US and Canada by playing games!
  2. Take a journey with us back to the ye olden days of 2009 when the war between casual and hardcore gamers raged. While it would take many years for the conflict to settle to a low simmer, one game seemed to unite the two sides in harmony; a tower defense game with retro roots, a sunny disposition, and a quirky sense of humor. Plants vs. Zombies catapulted developer PopCap Games to indie stardom and became their fastest selling game to date, leveraging a position in the then-curated Steam store to appeal to the hardcore crowd and its inherent lightheartedness to bring in the more casually oriented gamers. Almost ten years later, should Plants vs. Zombies be considered one of the best games of all-time? Each week we will be tackling a video game, old or new, that at least one of us believes deserves to stand as one of the greatest games of all time. We'll dive into its history, development, and gameplay, while trying to argue for or against the game of the week. Sometimes we will be in harmonious agreement, other times we might be fighting a bitter battle to the very end. However each episode shakes out, we hope that everyone who listens will find the show entertaining and informative. Outro music: The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past 'Fushigina Forest' by Laura Shigihara (http://ocremix.org/remix/OCR02329) You can download or listen to the podcast over on Soundcloud, our hosting site, and iTunes. A YouTube version is available as well, so you can watch what we are talking about while we talk about it! If you want to have your opinion heard on air, share your opinion in the comments, follow the show on Twitter, and participate in the weekly polls: @BestGamesPeriod New episodes of The Best Games Period will be released every Monday Don't forget to sign up for Extra Life to help sick and injured kids in hospitals around the US and Canada by playing games! View full article
  3. Naomi N. Lugo

    Review: Lock's Quest

    That last wave of Clockwork horrors has left me exhausted with my defeat looming imminent. The enemy infiltrated my barriers, and have begun their final push toward their objective. The stronghold will be destroyed within seconds once they break through, but I’ve got the next round planned. I’ve assessed my strategy and know how to hold the oncoming Clockwork army back until I can regroup. This round my plan will surely... wait, no! How did they get through there that fast? Wait! Lock’s Quest immerses players in tower defense gameplay with RPG elements sprinkled in. The game first hit the scene in 2008 when THQ released it on the Nintendo DS. At release, it enjoyed a bit of a cult status with mixed reviews from critics. On May 30, 2017, the remaster released on consoles with updated music, controls, and graphics, as well as the addition of extra content. The new graphics slap a new coat of paint on Lock's Quest that looks like an isometric mash-up of Pokémon and Stardew Valley. While music and UI got the remaster treatment, combat saw expansion. A new progression system, strategy elements, map, endless mode and other features were added to appeal to old fans of the series as well as "sophisticated gamers" according to the new features listed on the game's website. This beefing up affects build and combat gameplay (more on those modes later). The progression system now aligns with the plot, unlocking relevant goodies for build-mode. And the remaster also boasts speedier build/combat cycles so players can assess their strategy if necessary to tackle the next wave more effectively. While I did get frustrated when I failed a stage, I did appreciate the ability to reset and tackle the challenge with new knowledge. However, I did occasionally have issues with crashing when attempting to do so. Speaking of building and combat, 5th Cell structured gameplay around tower defense into two distinct modes: Build Mode and Battle Mode. Players have a time limit on their barricade planning in Build Mode. This barricade protects an objective and must withstand a barrage of enemies within the combat time limit. The tools and resources at your disposal correspond to progress as the enemies get more diverse and stronger. Structure options include walls, turrets, land mines, soldiers, and more. The currency you'll use to construct your barricade comes from defeating enemies and adds a depth to the difficulty. If you're not doing well in your planning it will carry over to the next level. During the battle phase you have control of Lock, and depending on your progress, he has different abilities. At the very beginning of the game though he has a vital skill called ratcheting where he repairs the damage done to structures. His other abilities range from attacks and energy drains to more advanced repair and money drops. The enemy, the Clockwork focus on attacking your infrastructure during this stage. Guiding Lock will help you save your defenses for future rounds and help earn some currency. The foundation for the civilization of the Kingdom where Lock's Quest takes place surrounds the discovery of an element called Source, aka that currency we were talking about earlier. Source doesn't really have an explanation, but people who have been dubbed Archineers found a way to manipulate it. The magical stuff powers defense items, like what Lock builds and uses. Conflict came when one Archineer found that Source could replicate life and utilized this ability. The king banished this Archineer. This Archineer then became Lord Agony and created the Clockwork, "living" machines, in retaliation. Lord Agony disappeared seemingly defeated, but the details of the battle remain unclear to the world's inhabitants. This all happened before the events of the game. One thing is clear, however, the Clockwork have returned. Players participate in the current, battle-ridden world as the titular Lock, a young hero with an unclear past but a determination to pave his future. Lock lives with his sister Emi and grandfather Tobias. One day while making repairs to structures on the shore Lock and Emi come across a wounded Archineer who fled from a battle against the Clockwork. The wounded Archineer enlists Lock to help fend off an upcoming attack. In the chaos of the attack, Emi is lost, the town falls under the attack and Lock gets determined to defeat the Clockwork. What I could really get behind in terms of the story was the fact that it explained the gameplay. Lock's Quest's use of story makes it unique. Rather than arbitrarily running alongside the gameplay, the story seeks to explain the presence of the RTS gameplay. Lock has Archineer abilities and can manipulate source making him able to build turrets. This makes sense with this context. Rather than expecting players to just accept the mechanics of the game, the devs did a good job of weaving it into the story. Not a small feat for a tower defense. While Lock's Quest's strength shines in its storytelling, its weaknesses lie in combat. Isometric view is standard in games like this, but I found myself fighting with it during the battle sequences. Moving Lock around was painful. The slow movement became especially noticeable while fighting under the constraints of a time limit on a battlefield swarmed with enemies. I also had some issues with crashing and having to restart. I wasn't a happy gamer when I discovered that the cutscenes were unskippable. Conclusion: While frustrating at times, Lock's Quest provides engaging mechanics that makes you want to progress. I found it a little addicting to see how the enemy would interact with my builds, and the degree to which they would be successful. And like a good little gamer I was driven by the need to unlock new gear to fortify. Crashes and trouble finding Lock during a stressful attack sequence definitely detracted from my initial experiences, but overall this title had me pushing my left brain during combat and engaged my right with the world it managed to create. Lock's Quest was reviewed on Xbox One and is also available on PC, PlayStation 4, and Nintendo DS.
  4. Naomi N. Lugo

    Feature: Review: Lock's Quest

    That last wave of Clockwork horrors has left me exhausted with my defeat looming imminent. The enemy infiltrated my barriers, and have begun their final push toward their objective. The stronghold will be destroyed within seconds once they break through, but I’ve got the next round planned. I’ve assessed my strategy and know how to hold the oncoming Clockwork army back until I can regroup. This round my plan will surely... wait, no! How did they get through there that fast? Wait! Lock’s Quest immerses players in tower defense gameplay with RPG elements sprinkled in. The game first hit the scene in 2008 when THQ released it on the Nintendo DS. At release, it enjoyed a bit of a cult status with mixed reviews from critics. On May 30, 2017, the remaster released on consoles with updated music, controls, and graphics, as well as the addition of extra content. The new graphics slap a new coat of paint on Lock's Quest that looks like an isometric mash-up of Pokémon and Stardew Valley. While music and UI got the remaster treatment, combat saw expansion. A new progression system, strategy elements, map, endless mode and other features were added to appeal to old fans of the series as well as "sophisticated gamers" according to the new features listed on the game's website. This beefing up affects build and combat gameplay (more on those modes later). The progression system now aligns with the plot, unlocking relevant goodies for build-mode. And the remaster also boasts speedier build/combat cycles so players can assess their strategy if necessary to tackle the next wave more effectively. While I did get frustrated when I failed a stage, I did appreciate the ability to reset and tackle the challenge with new knowledge. However, I did occasionally have issues with crashing when attempting to do so. Speaking of building and combat, 5th Cell structured gameplay around tower defense into two distinct modes: Build Mode and Battle Mode. Players have a time limit on their barricade planning in Build Mode. This barricade protects an objective and must withstand a barrage of enemies within the combat time limit. The tools and resources at your disposal correspond to progress as the enemies get more diverse and stronger. Structure options include walls, turrets, land mines, soldiers, and more. The currency you'll use to construct your barricade comes from defeating enemies and adds a depth to the difficulty. If you're not doing well in your planning it will carry over to the next level. During the battle phase you have control of Lock, and depending on your progress, he has different abilities. At the very beginning of the game though he has a vital skill called ratcheting where he repairs the damage done to structures. His other abilities range from attacks and energy drains to more advanced repair and money drops. The enemy, the Clockwork focus on attacking your infrastructure during this stage. Guiding Lock will help you save your defenses for future rounds and help earn some currency. The foundation for the civilization of the Kingdom where Lock's Quest takes place surrounds the discovery of an element called Source, aka that currency we were talking about earlier. Source doesn't really have an explanation, but people who have been dubbed Archineers found a way to manipulate it. The magical stuff powers defense items, like what Lock builds and uses. Conflict came when one Archineer found that Source could replicate life and utilized this ability. The king banished this Archineer. This Archineer then became Lord Agony and created the Clockwork, "living" machines, in retaliation. Lord Agony disappeared seemingly defeated, but the details of the battle remain unclear to the world's inhabitants. This all happened before the events of the game. One thing is clear, however, the Clockwork have returned. Players participate in the current, battle-ridden world as the titular Lock, a young hero with an unclear past but a determination to pave his future. Lock lives with his sister Emi and grandfather Tobias. One day while making repairs to structures on the shore Lock and Emi come across a wounded Archineer who fled from a battle against the Clockwork. The wounded Archineer enlists Lock to help fend off an upcoming attack. In the chaos of the attack, Emi is lost, the town falls under the attack and Lock gets determined to defeat the Clockwork. What I could really get behind in terms of the story was the fact that it explained the gameplay. Lock's Quest's use of story makes it unique. Rather than arbitrarily running alongside the gameplay, the story seeks to explain the presence of the RTS gameplay. Lock has Archineer abilities and can manipulate source making him able to build turrets. This makes sense with this context. Rather than expecting players to just accept the mechanics of the game, the devs did a good job of weaving it into the story. Not a small feat for a tower defense. While Lock's Quest's strength shines in its storytelling, its weaknesses lie in combat. Isometric view is standard in games like this, but I found myself fighting with it during the battle sequences. Moving Lock around was painful. The slow movement became especially noticeable while fighting under the constraints of a time limit on a battlefield swarmed with enemies. I also had some issues with crashing and having to restart. I wasn't a happy gamer when I discovered that the cutscenes were unskippable. Conclusion: While frustrating at times, Lock's Quest provides engaging mechanics that makes you want to progress. I found it a little addicting to see how the enemy would interact with my builds, and the degree to which they would be successful. And like a good little gamer I was driven by the need to unlock new gear to fortify. Crashes and trouble finding Lock during a stressful attack sequence definitely detracted from my initial experiences, but overall this title had me pushing my left brain during combat and engaged my right with the world it managed to create. Lock's Quest was reviewed on Xbox One and is also available on PC, PlayStation 4, and Nintendo DS. View full article
  5. Tower Defense. The very words evoke some deep-seated emotions in countless gamers. For fans of the genre, it’s always a joy taking your time to determine where to lay your chess pieces for optimal damage, cerebral, and calm in the same breath. For many others, it’s a nerve-wracking experience best left to the cluttered battleground of mobile gaming. While the genre is still largely dominated by mobile giants like Kingdom Rush, the occasional console and PC variant (Orcs Must Die! and Defense Grid) have come along to throw new blood into the mix in recent years. Oddly enough, however, the world of board gaming has been suspiciously devoid of standout tower defense experiences. Enter Defense Grid: The Board Game. After a warmly received sequel (the original’s development is a long and sordid tale) and even a virtual reality edition for Oculus Rift and Gear VR, developer Hidden Path was approached by the two-man team at Forged by Geeks with the idea to turn the franchise into a co-op tabletop game. “I’ve been addicted to tower defense [since Defense Grid],” says board game developer and Forged by Geeks co-founder Anthony Hanses. “I cannot get enough of tower defense games. If you name it, I’ve probably played it, whether it’s on mobile, console, Steam, whatever. On top of that, I’m a pretty heavy board game enthusiast. One of the frustrations I’ve had being a tower defense enthusiast has been that there just really isn’t an amazing tower defense board game. There’s been a few attempts. One I’ll give a lot of credit is “Castle Panic.” But to me, that’s not tower defense. It doesn’t have lanes. You’re not constructing the classic towers people are familiar with. I like having that feeling, and that’s why we said this is something we want to do.” (Note: Game assets shown are not final. Prototype materials were used for demo purposes) But adopting a well-known franchise for tabletop isn’t an easy process, from a development or legal standpoint. It makes sense that a huge fan of tower defense like Hanses would channel his own sense of determination to get the product off the ground, and convince Hidden Path to endorse it and provide support. Having grown up on the dangerous streets of south Chicago, worked as a firefighter, and worked at Microsoft, Hanses is no stranger to determination. “[Those careers were] a great growing experience, it was about about saving up money, and then finally being able to say ‘hey, let’s try this out,’” Hanses says. “I was advised by a bunch of people to make a simple card game – but ultimately, giving back to the gaming community is taking what I’ve learned, my passion, and doing something no one else could do. That’s where tower defense came in. Even if I never make another board game again after this, I’ll have possibly given something back to the community I love.” While certainly not the first tower defense board game of its kind (Orcs Must Die’s similarly Kickstarted tabletop edition is also still on its way to a public release), Defense Grid’s incarnation might be the first to really nail the various aspects of the genre that make it so appealing, particularly with its own unique brand of gameplay. I got the chance to experience it firsthand at PAX West 2016 in Seattle. Like most tower defense experiences, Defense Grid: The Board Game is played against ever growing waves of various enemy types. “Walkers” serve as your generic meat shield grunts, while tougher types like “Bulwarks” and “Swarmers” employ shields and armor to detract from your weapons’ attack points. Enemies walk in a single line from one end of the grid (made of flippable tiles for maximum replayability) to the other, where your power core awaits. If the aliens manage to walk back to the end of the map with all your cores, that’s game over. The only thing standing between them is a wealth of towers, like the all-purpose machine gun, area-of-effect Inferno, a concentrated laser beam, or a hard-hitting cannon, among plenty others. Strictly a co-op experience, up to four players must manage individual card decks to determine their available strategies. Cards are divided up into three basic categories. Attack commands for towers that are exhausted for the entire turn once used, support cards like “shrapnel bullets” that boost or alter attacks, and special cards that allow you to upgrade towers, temporarily boost their damage, or activate any tower you don’t already have a card for. Playing with friends, it becomes integral to coordinate and combine your strategies, as each player is only allowed to have four cards in their hand. When a card appears to be useless during the current wave, it can either be saved for the next (meaning you draw only enough cards to get back to four) or it can be scrapped for extra points to build and upgrade additional towers. Make no mistake. Despite the hand-holding a more seasoned friend might give you during gameplay, careful strategy is an omnipresent force in Defense Grid. Enemies move shockingly fast down the path towards their objective, making smart tower placement crucial to exploiting choke points and line of sight. Towers can’t shoot through one another, so spreading them out between various angles quickly became our favored strategy. While Walkers proved to be of little issue, the stouter Bulwarks, with their dense shields and armor, were particularly difficult to dispatch of. In true tower defense fashion, you’re at least guaranteed that your attack will strike its target. Unfortunately, an entire shot will need to be wasted to destroy one layer of the Bulwark’s shielding before any damage can be applied to its bug-like exterior. Thankfully, each player also has one special ability that can only be activated once per game. Did you guess giant laser? Because it was a giant bloody laser, that thankfully wiped an entire hex of aliens from the board. Like most enthusiast board games, the rules can be a bit tricky to wrap your head around at first. You’re managing both the mathematics of an enemy force’s health and your meager resources over a fairly lengthy playtime. For someone who nearly flunked high school math, it’s certainly a daunting idea, but as Hanses led me through the process, the game started to take on that pick-up-and-play nature that some of the best games have. I began to worry less about how many cards were left in my hand and devoted my attention to acquiring resource points. I also worried less about the armored Bulwarks, knowing they had to walk through my gauntlet twice. There’s nothing quite like seeing a bit of your future self in whichever player is currently holding a newbie’s hand through the process, invested and excited all around for more. Thankfully, if you’re the kind of board gamer that really enjoys investing in a particular playstyle or alternate game types, Defense Grid features multiple missions, with increasingly tougher enemies and more varied weaponry, all on differently choreographed grid maps. This means replayability not only comes from a normal game’s element of chance, but also as a built in feature to those who invest more time into the game. On top of that, players can individually level up their player character to increase their stats for the next game. For Hidden Path’s part, the support they’ve provided Hanses and fellow Forged by Geeks co-founder Rico Hall has been invaluable. After successful playtesting sessions with the team, the company provided the actual in-game models so Forged by Geeks could produce incredibly accurate miniatures of weapon tower and aliens. An entirely new alien will also make its debut in the board game. Perhaps most surprisingly, Forged by Geeks is taking their time producing a near-final game before debuting it on Kickstarter. Whereas many board (and video) games often showcase a minor amount of concept art and pre-alpha footage during their campaigns, Forged by Geeks want to leave players with a sense that they’re approaching this as true fans of the genre and franchise, rather than looking to make a quick buck. The funds acquired through Kickstarter will go towards production of the physical product, not the initial design and development costs that most Kickstarters ask for. “Ultimately, we decided that, being a first time Kickstarter studio, there’s a bunch of other risks,” Hanses said. “We haven’t proven our ability to get a game into consumers’ hands. With promising 23 unique miniature designs, 55 to 60 in the box, it’s a high risk to swallow. We’ve seen lots of Kickstarters fail that are now promising minis that just have renders. For us, we needed to get everything sculpted. We’re going to have the game done. When we go to Kickstarter, the rest of the game will just be done.” For Hanses and his colleague, whatever support they receive from genre fans could make or break their careers. Their minimum goal sits at $35,000 to cover production costs, while a stretch goal of $150,000 would cover the previous few years of work put into the game. An even higher stretch goal of $250,000 would allow Hanses and Hall to go into game design full time. Even if they just manage to break even, Hanses will leave happy. The Defense Grid: The Board Game Kickstarter is scheduled to launch on January 17, 2017.
  6. Tower Defense. The very words evoke some deep-seated emotions in countless gamers. For fans of the genre, it’s always a joy taking your time to determine where to lay your chess pieces for optimal damage, cerebral, and calm in the same breath. For many others, it’s a nerve-wracking experience best left to the cluttered battleground of mobile gaming. While the genre is still largely dominated by mobile giants like Kingdom Rush, the occasional console and PC variant (Orcs Must Die! and Defense Grid) have come along to throw new blood into the mix in recent years. Oddly enough, however, the world of board gaming has been suspiciously devoid of standout tower defense experiences. Enter Defense Grid: The Board Game. After a warmly received sequel (the original’s development is a long and sordid tale) and even a virtual reality edition for Oculus Rift and Gear VR, developer Hidden Path was approached by the two-man team at Forged by Geeks with the idea to turn the franchise into a co-op tabletop game. “I’ve been addicted to tower defense [since Defense Grid],” says board game developer and Forged by Geeks co-founder Anthony Hanses. “I cannot get enough of tower defense games. If you name it, I’ve probably played it, whether it’s on mobile, console, Steam, whatever. On top of that, I’m a pretty heavy board game enthusiast. One of the frustrations I’ve had being a tower defense enthusiast has been that there just really isn’t an amazing tower defense board game. There’s been a few attempts. One I’ll give a lot of credit is “Castle Panic.” But to me, that’s not tower defense. It doesn’t have lanes. You’re not constructing the classic towers people are familiar with. I like having that feeling, and that’s why we said this is something we want to do.” (Note: Game assets shown are not final. Prototype materials were used for demo purposes) But adopting a well-known franchise for tabletop isn’t an easy process, from a development or legal standpoint. It makes sense that a huge fan of tower defense like Hanses would channel his own sense of determination to get the product off the ground, and convince Hidden Path to endorse it and provide support. Having grown up on the dangerous streets of south Chicago, worked as a firefighter, and worked at Microsoft, Hanses is no stranger to determination. “[Those careers were] a great growing experience, it was about about saving up money, and then finally being able to say ‘hey, let’s try this out,’” Hanses says. “I was advised by a bunch of people to make a simple card game – but ultimately, giving back to the gaming community is taking what I’ve learned, my passion, and doing something no one else could do. That’s where tower defense came in. Even if I never make another board game again after this, I’ll have possibly given something back to the community I love.” While certainly not the first tower defense board game of its kind (Orcs Must Die’s similarly Kickstarted tabletop edition is also still on its way to a public release), Defense Grid’s incarnation might be the first to really nail the various aspects of the genre that make it so appealing, particularly with its own unique brand of gameplay. I got the chance to experience it firsthand at PAX West 2016 in Seattle. Like most tower defense experiences, Defense Grid: The Board Game is played against ever growing waves of various enemy types. “Walkers” serve as your generic meat shield grunts, while tougher types like “Bulwarks” and “Swarmers” employ shields and armor to detract from your weapons’ attack points. Enemies walk in a single line from one end of the grid (made of flippable tiles for maximum replayability) to the other, where your power core awaits. If the aliens manage to walk back to the end of the map with all your cores, that’s game over. The only thing standing between them is a wealth of towers, like the all-purpose machine gun, area-of-effect Inferno, a concentrated laser beam, or a hard-hitting cannon, among plenty others. Strictly a co-op experience, up to four players must manage individual card decks to determine their available strategies. Cards are divided up into three basic categories. Attack commands for towers that are exhausted for the entire turn once used, support cards like “shrapnel bullets” that boost or alter attacks, and special cards that allow you to upgrade towers, temporarily boost their damage, or activate any tower you don’t already have a card for. Playing with friends, it becomes integral to coordinate and combine your strategies, as each player is only allowed to have four cards in their hand. When a card appears to be useless during the current wave, it can either be saved for the next (meaning you draw only enough cards to get back to four) or it can be scrapped for extra points to build and upgrade additional towers. Make no mistake. Despite the hand-holding a more seasoned friend might give you during gameplay, careful strategy is an omnipresent force in Defense Grid. Enemies move shockingly fast down the path towards their objective, making smart tower placement crucial to exploiting choke points and line of sight. Towers can’t shoot through one another, so spreading them out between various angles quickly became our favored strategy. While Walkers proved to be of little issue, the stouter Bulwarks, with their dense shields and armor, were particularly difficult to dispatch of. In true tower defense fashion, you’re at least guaranteed that your attack will strike its target. Unfortunately, an entire shot will need to be wasted to destroy one layer of the Bulwark’s shielding before any damage can be applied to its bug-like exterior. Thankfully, each player also has one special ability that can only be activated once per game. Did you guess giant laser? Because it was a giant bloody laser, that thankfully wiped an entire hex of aliens from the board. Like most enthusiast board games, the rules can be a bit tricky to wrap your head around at first. You’re managing both the mathematics of an enemy force’s health and your meager resources over a fairly lengthy playtime. For someone who nearly flunked high school math, it’s certainly a daunting idea, but as Hanses led me through the process, the game started to take on that pick-up-and-play nature that some of the best games have. I began to worry less about how many cards were left in my hand and devoted my attention to acquiring resource points. I also worried less about the armored Bulwarks, knowing they had to walk through my gauntlet twice. There’s nothing quite like seeing a bit of your future self in whichever player is currently holding a newbie’s hand through the process, invested and excited all around for more. Thankfully, if you’re the kind of board gamer that really enjoys investing in a particular playstyle or alternate game types, Defense Grid features multiple missions, with increasingly tougher enemies and more varied weaponry, all on differently choreographed grid maps. This means replayability not only comes from a normal game’s element of chance, but also as a built in feature to those who invest more time into the game. On top of that, players can individually level up their player character to increase their stats for the next game. For Hidden Path’s part, the support they’ve provided Hanses and fellow Forged by Geeks co-founder Rico Hall has been invaluable. After successful playtesting sessions with the team, the company provided the actual in-game models so Forged by Geeks could produce incredibly accurate miniatures of weapon tower and aliens. An entirely new alien will also make its debut in the board game. Perhaps most surprisingly, Forged by Geeks is taking their time producing a near-final game before debuting it on Kickstarter. Whereas many board (and video) games often showcase a minor amount of concept art and pre-alpha footage during their campaigns, Forged by Geeks want to leave players with a sense that they’re approaching this as true fans of the genre and franchise, rather than looking to make a quick buck. The funds acquired through Kickstarter will go towards production of the physical product, not the initial design and development costs that most Kickstarters ask for. “Ultimately, we decided that, being a first time Kickstarter studio, there’s a bunch of other risks,” Hanses said. “We haven’t proven our ability to get a game into consumers’ hands. With promising 23 unique miniature designs, 55 to 60 in the box, it’s a high risk to swallow. We’ve seen lots of Kickstarters fail that are now promising minis that just have renders. For us, we needed to get everything sculpted. We’re going to have the game done. When we go to Kickstarter, the rest of the game will just be done.” For Hanses and his colleague, whatever support they receive from genre fans could make or break their careers. Their minimum goal sits at $35,000 to cover production costs, while a stretch goal of $150,000 would cover the previous few years of work put into the game. An even higher stretch goal of $250,000 would allow Hanses and Hall to go into game design full time. Even if they just manage to break even, Hanses will leave happy. The Defense Grid: The Board Game Kickstarter is scheduled to launch on January 17, 2017. View full article
  7. Jack Gardner

    Feature: Review: Defense Grid 2

    Following a partially successful Kickstarter campaign two years ago, Hidden Path Entertainment has released their eagerly awaited tower defense title to the public. Does the sequel live up to the expectations created by the success of Defense Grid: The Awakening? Given the pedigree of Hidden Path, a studio made up of industry veterans behind titles like Age of Empires II and Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, it should come as no surprise that Defense Grid 2 is a very enjoyable game. However, I know there might be a few of you out there thinking something along the lines of, “It might be fun, but there are a lot of fun tower defense games out there on the internet for free.” And that’s true. I’m not a stranger to freely available tower defense titles. I remember a period of several days doing nothing but playing Kingdom Rush when I should have been writing my thesis. With games like Desktop Tower Defense or Kingdom Rush: Frontiers existing in the wilds of the web and the cheap mobile game space, the question we need to ask about Defense Grid 2 is if it is worth the $24.99 price of admission. Upon first booting up Defense Grid 2, players can dive into either the campaign or multiplayer. Choosing either will open a dazzlingly vast array of options, game modes, and ways to play. The campaign contains a prologue/tutorial and twenty missions spread out over five chapters. Each mission takes place on a unique map with the option to play through them in either story mode or in any one of the eleven other modes that place differing restrictions or conditions on gameplay. There are also four levels of difficulty to tailor how much of a challenge a player might desire. None of the missions are locked, meaning a player frustrated with a particularly irritating level can simply proceed to the next one. The multiplayer options are equally as diverse. Players can battle each other online in a mode called “DG Fighter” where aliens destroyed on one player’s side of the map appear on the other player’s side and vice versa. There is also the option to team up and tackle the campaign missions and their various game modes in co-op. Finally, players work together to defend against aliens on maps that restrict where each player can build towers. Leaderboards are integrated throughout the game, so you’ll always know who did better in multiplayer and can strive to achieve higher and higher scores. There is also a meatier story than one might expect from a tower defense game. Set in a future where advanced AIs control the defense grids of various planets, Defense Grid 2 tasks players with activating the various towers that can be built on the grids in order to fend off alien invasions. As players progress through the story missions, the various AI characters will interact with each other, arguing, cracking wise, and generally being a pleasant distraction after you’ve set up the perfect defense and can watch wave after wave of alien forces crash into your impenetrable wall of towers. The voice acting for the various characters is well done and their accented dialogue is delightful. I appreciated the additional context and sense of urgency that they story provided, but I was never entirely clear on what was happening or why. Luckily, tower defense games typically rely on the strength of their gameplay rather than their narratives, so this never really became an issue. When it comes to the actual gameplay, Defense Grid 2 is a well-oiled machine. There are ten different tower types to choose from, each with unique abilities and upgrades. There is even a tower you can build that allows you to build a different tower on top of it! In order to progress through the campaign, players are required to learn how to place their towers to efficiently funnel alien invaders. Before every mission abilities can be equipped to their towers on top of the other upgrades available while in-game. I was able to play both the PC and PlayStation 4 versions of Defense Grid 2 and I have to say that I immensely prefer a gamepad to a mouse and keyboard control scheme. The screen is locked to wherever the cursor is pointing regardless of whether you are using a controller or a mouse. It feels unnatural with a mouse, but makes complete sense with a controller. The weakest parts of Defense Grid 2 lie in the soundtrack and aesthetic choices. Much of the music is on a short loop and can get repetitive during long gameplay sessions. I would recommend that players go into the settings and turning off the music and listening to some of their own groovy tunes. As for the aesthetic, Defense Grid 2 has a lot of great enemy designs and the maps have an interesting architecture to them, but the camera is zoomed so far away that I could rarely tell what aliens my towers were fighting unless they was very large. Even then I still had no idea what these things looked like until I went into the Alien Encyclopedia contained in the extras menu. The other problem is harder to pinpoint, but I think it boils down to most of the maps containing a preponderance of grey. It makes all of the different layouts blend together into a visually boring lump. The graphical quality on each of these maps is very high and clearly a lot of work went into making them the most detailed maps that the tower defense genre has to offer, but it is undermined by the decision to have so many grey surfaces. I understand that it was a decision made for the sake of clarity, but it was a choice that ultimately led to a game full of detailed environments that make use of an uninteresting color palate. The camera is never this close during gameplay. Conclusion: Is Defense Grid 2 a fun game? Absolutely. It stands well above its free competitors in every respect. The core mechanics are rock solid and the numerous game modes are enough to keep the most avid tower defense fans engrossed for weeks. I had a great time playing through its campaign and messing around with the multiplayer. That being said, I find it hard to recommend with a price tag of $24.99. If you love tower defense games or enjoyed the first Defense Grid, Defense Grid 2 is a must buy, but for a general audience I would recommend picking it up when it hits $10 or less. Defense Grid 2 was reviewed on PlayStation 4 and is currently available for PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One. View full article
  8. Jack Gardner

    Review: Defense Grid 2

    Following a partially successful Kickstarter campaign two years ago, Hidden Path Entertainment has released their eagerly awaited tower defense title to the public. Does the sequel live up to the expectations created by the success of Defense Grid: The Awakening? Given the pedigree of Hidden Path, a studio made up of industry veterans behind titles like Age of Empires II and Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, it should come as no surprise that Defense Grid 2 is a very enjoyable game. However, I know there might be a few of you out there thinking something along the lines of, “It might be fun, but there are a lot of fun tower defense games out there on the internet for free.” And that’s true. I’m not a stranger to freely available tower defense titles. I remember a period of several days doing nothing but playing Kingdom Rush when I should have been writing my thesis. With games like Desktop Tower Defense or Kingdom Rush: Frontiers existing in the wilds of the web and the cheap mobile game space, the question we need to ask about Defense Grid 2 is if it is worth the $24.99 price of admission. Upon first booting up Defense Grid 2, players can dive into either the campaign or multiplayer. Choosing either will open a dazzlingly vast array of options, game modes, and ways to play. The campaign contains a prologue/tutorial and twenty missions spread out over five chapters. Each mission takes place on a unique map with the option to play through them in either story mode or in any one of the eleven other modes that place differing restrictions or conditions on gameplay. There are also four levels of difficulty to tailor how much of a challenge a player might desire. None of the missions are locked, meaning a player frustrated with a particularly irritating level can simply proceed to the next one. The multiplayer options are equally as diverse. Players can battle each other online in a mode called “DG Fighter” where aliens destroyed on one player’s side of the map appear on the other player’s side and vice versa. There is also the option to team up and tackle the campaign missions and their various game modes in co-op. Finally, players work together to defend against aliens on maps that restrict where each player can build towers. Leaderboards are integrated throughout the game, so you’ll always know who did better in multiplayer and can strive to achieve higher and higher scores. There is also a meatier story than one might expect from a tower defense game. Set in a future where advanced AIs control the defense grids of various planets, Defense Grid 2 tasks players with activating the various towers that can be built on the grids in order to fend off alien invasions. As players progress through the story missions, the various AI characters will interact with each other, arguing, cracking wise, and generally being a pleasant distraction after you’ve set up the perfect defense and can watch wave after wave of alien forces crash into your impenetrable wall of towers. The voice acting for the various characters is well done and their accented dialogue is delightful. I appreciated the additional context and sense of urgency that they story provided, but I was never entirely clear on what was happening or why. Luckily, tower defense games typically rely on the strength of their gameplay rather than their narratives, so this never really became an issue. When it comes to the actual gameplay, Defense Grid 2 is a well-oiled machine. There are ten different tower types to choose from, each with unique abilities and upgrades. There is even a tower you can build that allows you to build a different tower on top of it! In order to progress through the campaign, players are required to learn how to place their towers to efficiently funnel alien invaders. Before every mission abilities can be equipped to their towers on top of the other upgrades available while in-game. I was able to play both the PC and PlayStation 4 versions of Defense Grid 2 and I have to say that I immensely prefer a gamepad to a mouse and keyboard control scheme. The screen is locked to wherever the cursor is pointing regardless of whether you are using a controller or a mouse. It feels unnatural with a mouse, but makes complete sense with a controller. The weakest parts of Defense Grid 2 lie in the soundtrack and aesthetic choices. Much of the music is on a short loop and can get repetitive during long gameplay sessions. I would recommend that players go into the settings and turning off the music and listening to some of their own groovy tunes. As for the aesthetic, Defense Grid 2 has a lot of great enemy designs and the maps have an interesting architecture to them, but the camera is zoomed so far away that I could rarely tell what aliens my towers were fighting unless they was very large. Even then I still had no idea what these things looked like until I went into the Alien Encyclopedia contained in the extras menu. The other problem is harder to pinpoint, but I think it boils down to most of the maps containing a preponderance of grey. It makes all of the different layouts blend together into a visually boring lump. The graphical quality on each of these maps is very high and clearly a lot of work went into making them the most detailed maps that the tower defense genre has to offer, but it is undermined by the decision to have so many grey surfaces. I understand that it was a decision made for the sake of clarity, but it was a choice that ultimately led to a game full of detailed environments that make use of an uninteresting color palate. The camera is never this close during gameplay. Conclusion: Is Defense Grid 2 a fun game? Absolutely. It stands well above its free competitors in every respect. The core mechanics are rock solid and the numerous game modes are enough to keep the most avid tower defense fans engrossed for weeks. I had a great time playing through its campaign and messing around with the multiplayer. That being said, I find it hard to recommend with a price tag of $24.99. If you love tower defense games or enjoyed the first Defense Grid, Defense Grid 2 is a must buy, but for a general audience I would recommend picking it up when it hits $10 or less. Defense Grid 2 was reviewed on PlayStation 4 and is currently available for PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One.
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