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Preview: Defense Grid 2: Enchanced VR Edition

‘Train set virtual reality’ will be providing some of the best experiences for the Oculus Rift launch next week. What VRFocus is referring to here is a set of VR titles that don’t immerse you in the body of another character, but instead pit the camera high up in the game world, allowing you to gaze down in god-like fashion. You don’t feel like you’ve taken on another role, but you do feel like you’re exploring a virtual train set, a meticulously crafted world that’s exciting to explore in its own right. Defense Grid 2 Enchanced VR Edition certainly fits that description.

Defense Grid 2 screenshot

Hidden Path Entertainment’s well-received tower defence title first launched back in 2014, but is now ready to launch on the Oculus Rift head-mounted display (HMD) tomorrow. VRFocus will have a full review of the title in the near future, then, but what was on offer at the 2016 Game Developers Conference (GDC) earlier in the month certainly suggested that this will be a release worthwhile investment for fans of the genre. That is if they don’t already own it.

With Defense Grid 2 Enhanced VR Edition, you get the full title, completely converted for use with the Oculus Rift, along with five VR exclusive missions that have been designed with the HMD in mind. There are also new additions to each level, like hidden collectables that you’ll have to discover by really leaning down into the environment and getting close to the action. These yellow orbs are hidden behind towers, under platforms and even behind you, and scouring the 26 levels for the five hidden in each is an amusing distraction from the main mission.

It also highlights just how much fun it is to simply observe Defence Grid 2 in VR. Each world within the videogame has been layered with detail, begging for you to come closer and admire the work Hidden Path Entertainment has put in. This is most true of the VR exclusive missions, which introduce verticality and more to tout the tech’s effects.

On the gameplay front, little has changed other than some minor tweaks. Finding switches to raise platforms with extra space to raise towers, for example, no longer has a penalty attached to it. Other than this, it’s a case of Defense Grid 2 not being broken, so not being fixed. You’re given a set of initial resources to build towers that will try to fend off bug-like enemies as they zip past on the way to collect power cores. Once they have a core, they’ll return to the entrance, giving you two opportunities to get rid of them. Any cores dropped, however, can be picked up by new enemies if they don’t roll back to their origin in time.

Defense Grid 2 screenshot

You’ll get more resources by defeating more enemies, and you can even adjust the opponent’s path by building towers to block off routes. This is a tower defence title that really puts the ball in your court and gives the player agency. It’s not the case that there’s a specific way to solving each level – a trap that many developers can fall into – and you’ll instead find freedom in how you set up in the massive areas. Genre staples such as upgradeable towers are also included, and you’ll unlock new types as you progress through the story. By the end, you’ll need to finely balance your modest laser towers with long range mortars and more.

Each level offers a lengthy challenge, though Defense Grid 2 Enhanced VR Edition can be sped up for those that want to progress quickly. That said, with only five extra levels over the original which arrive right at the end of the campaign, there doesn’t seem to be much reason for the many that have already played this title on PC, PlayStation 4 and beyond to pick it up again. So far there’s been no word on any kind of reduced price for players that already own the title on PC, which is a real shame given the amount of work Hidden Path Entertainment has put in here.

This looks to be a meaty Oculus Rift launch experience, which is why many probably won’t want to sit through it again. For anyone that hasn’t dived in yet, though, this could be one of the HMD’s better launch experiences.