Defense Grid: Dead World

The environments in Defense Grid: The Awakening are all brown and barren, rocky deserts with old and crumbling structures on them. There isn’t a lot of in-game information about the world and its history, but you know that the “aliens” have attacked in the past — long enough ago for the defense grid to need awakening. The sole speaking role belongs to an AI, the uploaded mind of a human who was involved in the defense the last time. He talks like a stereotypical British colonial officer and enthuses about how beautiful things used to be. At times he gets confused and addresses you by the name of his dead son, who he failed to protect during the first invasion. In other words, there’s every sign that the human presence is long wiped out, and this is a dead planet, with nothing worth defending.

This would be a familiar twist from a certain other tower defense game, but I don’t think that’s the only reason I think of it. I can believe I’m unduly influenced by the degree to which this game feels like a RTS game, though. All tower defense games are of course descendants of the RTS, but I’m talking here mostly about superficial matters like the mere presence of voice acting and the measured pace at which it introduces new elements. (For a while, it felt like the entire game, like the single-player campaign in many a RTS, was an extended tutorial.) In a typical Warcraft/Command & Conquer-influenced RTS, your base is a hive of activity, with autonomous worker units harvesting resources and repairing buildings, but here, it’s just a repository for power cores. So even the things you’re defending aren’t alive (even if they are the only things on your side capable of moving under their own power).

It all makes me speculate that this scenario is the most natural fit for a tower defense, this defense of the dead from the living (which would make Plants vs Zombies a clever inversion). It’s part of the genre’s definition that the enemy is active and your tools are passive, waiting for something to kill. Perhaps you could make a satisfying tower defense set in an Egyptian tomb, placing curses to foil looters and acheologists.

But then, I seem to be a bit obsessed with finding themes relating to death and mortality in games recently, so take it as you will.

2 Comments so far

  1. Starmaker on 30 Sep 2011

    For all that’s good and shiny, edit or cheat your way to 100% success in “a certain other tower defense game” and play Campaign 7.

  2. Carl Muckenhoupt on 30 Sep 2011

    Starmaker: Bah, it looks like I lost my game data in my last system upgrade. I’m usually pretty careful about that. But I’ll take this as an excuse to replay the game from the beginning.

    FWIW, I actually managed to get to 100% success some time last year, and played the bonus chapter for a while, but found the level where you only get to place love nodes impossibly difficult.

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