Tower defence videogames are a popular genre on PC: one of the most renown is the Defense Grid series from Hidden Path Entertainment and 505 Games. The most recent release was Defense Grid 2, and now the developers have created a virtual reality (VR) version for Oculus Rift, Defense Grid 2: Enhanced VR Edition, featuring tweaks that take advantage of the immersive capabilities the technology offers.
Essentially, the standard PC version and Oculus Rift version offer the same gameplay mechanics; you have a selection of towers that can be placed at specific points on each map. Through strategic placement the towers will engage wave after wave of enemies on a marked out route, and it’s your job to stop them getting to the core at the heart of your base and stealing the energy cubes.
There’s going to be a lot of fans from the previous versions who will be keen to see if Hidden Path Entertainment have managed to create a good conversion for VR. And, thankfully, the developers have. From the tutorial all the way through to the 26th level, Defense Grid 2: Enhanced VR Edition is a fantastic representation of VR taking a well worn genre and giving it some sparkle. The way you can lean into the levels to see the detailed rendering or dive into a tower view to get right there in the action just works so well.
Aware of how much you can look around and inspect the levels the studios have hidden golden power cores in amongst all the buildings and scenery. Hidden Path Entertainment want you to really inspect their work; the orbs aren’t in plain sight. You’ll need to duck, lean and stand up as you search for the five orbs placed around each level. This little feature really gets you involved with the level design, a fun addition that will keep you searching until they’re all found.
All the levels have small interactive elements to them. Buildings can be lit up, radar dishes can be switched on and so forth. If you’ve got a keen eye you’ll find the little red beacons hidden in some levels that activate additional platforms to place your defensive towers. On Defense Grid 2 this used to cost resources, now though it’s free, you just have to find them.
Once you’ve played though a few levels you’ll have started to unlock specific loadouts for your weapons as well as other characters to use. To begin with everyone starts out as General Kai who has an orbital laser as a special weapon. This can be charged up to release a massive blast on a designated area to take out a horde of enemies, the downside; it’s got a five minute recharge time so use it wisely. As your progression continues through the story mode you’ll get access to characters you meet, including General Briel and Advisor Zacara. They have their own special abilities: Briel’s reinforcement while Zacara has an overcharge special. While the weapons also have their own additional features, further deepening the strategy involved.
But this is the Defense Grid 2: Enhanced VR Edition, what other VR enhancements are there? The developers have added five extra VR specific levels at the end of the story mode campaign. The features of VR really show in these designs; most of the previous 21 are fairly flat in their appearance, while the VR levels go for a far more undulating design requiring you to plan your tower placement over several raised platforms.
While there’s no multiplayer to keep you coming back for more, Defense Grid 2: Enhanced VR Edition includes a range of modes to keep the gameplay varied and interesting. Choosing a specific level will bring up a bunch of options including story, fixed resources, no red towers, limited towers, out of bullets, frozen core and practice to select, giving players more incentive to come back.
Hidden Path Entertainment know what they’re doing with tower defence videogames. They’ve taken their tried-and-tested method, not messed too much with the core formula and come up with Defense Grid 2: Enhanced VR Edition. In doing so they’ve created an addictive title that continues to do the series proud.