Defense Grid 2, the follow-up to 2008's Defense Grid: The Awakening, introduces multiplayer to the tower defense series. The original game debuted on Windows PC and later launched on Xbox Live Arcade, and its sequel is set for simultaneous release on PC and consoles later this year. Multiplayer modes in Defense Grid 2 include two-player co-op, and in a demo on PlayStation 4 during E3 2014, it seemed like a great way to play with a friend on the couch — whether you're looking for a relaxing time or a stiffer challenge.
As in the original Defense Grid, the focus of Defense Grid 2 is fending off invading aliens and preventing them from making off with your power cores. Hidden Path has designed the co-op in Defense Grid 2 to be very scalable: You have wide latitude in setting the difficulty of your experience. We played with Michael Meischeid, executive producer on the title at publisher 505 Games, on the easiest of four difficulty levels. He set up the round with separate scores and pools of resources for each of us; you can also play with a single pool of resources, which ups the challenge by forcing both players to be on their game if the team is to survive.
According to Meischeid, Defense Grid 2 scales up the difficulty somewhat if you're playing with two players instead of by yourself. So the most challenging way to play the game is cooperatively, with one pool of resources, on Elite difficulty. We had no problems on easy, but the slow-paced round gave Meischeid a chance to demonstrate all the towers and abilities available to us.
All the towers start out at level 1 and can be upgraded to level 3, with the cost doubling each time. One of the most valuable items isn't a weapon — it's the blocking tower, which serves two purposes: providing an elevated platform on which you can install offensive towers at a better angle, and closing off lanes to funnel the aliens to an area of your choosing. The temporal tower slows enemies down, which comes in handy in impeding some higher-level creatures who scamper across the map, and the laser tower deals damage that lingers and continues to run down its victims' health. Many more options are available, and as in any tower defense game, half the fun is figuring out the strategy for deploying them.
Defense Grid 2 is set for release this fall on Linux, Mac, PlayStation 4, Windows PC and Xbox One. The PC versions will be available on Steam and will include a map maker, so players will be able to create their own maps and distribute them via Steamworks. The developers are planning to curate the best of the community-created content and put it up for sale, and maybe even put some in bundles so that they can be sold as DLC for the console versions.
For an in-depth look at the development of Defense Grid 2, check out our multi-part feature series.