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Video Game / Defense Grid: The Awakening

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"The invasion began without warning. After a thousand of years of peace, the aliens have returned. The planet's survival depends on activating the ancient Defense Grid... If it still functions at all."

Defense Grid: The Awakening is a Tower Defense game developed and published by Hidden Path Entertainment. It was released for the PC in December 2008 and Xbox Live Arcade in September 2009.

Over a thousand years ago, an Alien Invasion on your planet was beaten back. Now, the aliens are invading again, and your world is in peril. They've besieged your city, cutting you off from your home. In the nearby ruins of an old military base, you find a dusty terminal and reawaken an ancient Artificial Intelligence—who, in reality, is the very general of the previous war! After the war his brain was uploaded into the planetary defense grid, in case the aliens ever returned.

With the help of General Fletcher, you've jumped into the command chair to re-awaken the grid and Save the World.

Hidden Path gave the sequel, Defense Grid 2, the Kickstarter treatment. Though they didn't get enough money to fund it, the project was funded by Ascended Fanboy Steven Dengler, who also helped co-produce various Double Fine projects. It was finally released on September 2014, with 505 Games as the publisher.

Defense Grid provides examples of:

  • Airborne Mook: Darts and Mantas. Both of which do not take the usual route which the other mooks do, and instead travel another fixed path and if they manage to steal one of the cores, they're considered to be lost immediately and can't be recovered even if you manage to shoot them down before they escape. The second game doesn't have them, however.
  • Alternate Reality Game: Is one of the 13 indie games that form the bulk of the material of Valve's "PotatoFoolsDay" Portal 2 ARG.
  • And the Adventure Continues: The end of the Containment campaign, presumably to set up a Sequel Hook for Defense Grid 2.
  • Anti-Air: Missile towers can only attack air units, but they do a very good job at it and have a large radius.
  • Arbitrary Weapon Range: Cannon and Meteor towers cannot target enemies next to themselves.
  • Arc Words: Defense Grid 2 give us a rather silly one: "Raspberries". But it turns out to be a lot more significant than it seems.
  • Arrange Mode: Both games have alternate modes available for each stage, such as:
    • Green Towers Only: You cannot upgrade your towers past level 1 (green-colored).
    • Grinder: Face 99 waves of enemies.
    • Story Reversed: The aliens' paths through the level is reversed.
    • Poison Core: You get only one core, but it damages whatever alien holds on to it. You don't get any resources from core-killed enemies, however.
    • Fully Loaded: All tower types are available if the standard Story mode for this level doesn't have them all available.
    • Out of Bullets: You can't use Gun or Cannon towers.
  • Ascended Fanboy: Steve Dengler, see above.
  • Beware the Nice Ones: General Fletcher is overall nice, optimistic and lively, but can be quite threatening if angered.
    General Fletcher: Bastards! I only wish there were more of you to kill!
  • Big Bad: Advisor Zacara in the sequel.
  • Big Damn Heroes:
    • General Cai saves your back with the orbital laser in the Containment DLC of the first game when you have to face Crashers and Juggernauts much earlier than expected.
    • Later you repay the favor by saving the entire population of a planet by stalling the aliens while they flee in space shuttles.
      Simon Ritter: Commander, Fletcher, thanks for all the hard work. If it wasn't for the two of you...
      General Fletcher: You would have been fine... Probably. Possibly. Well, actually... You're welcome.
  • Big Good: General Fletcher.
  • Blood Knight: General Fletcher in the sequel who's a bit too eager into blasting aliens to oblivion, even more so if they anger him.
    General Fletcher: I'm ready! The Commander is ready! Let's kill them all!
  • Bond One-Liner: General Fletcher has a surprising amount of them for specific towers when they kill a boss level alien.
    [If a boss is killed by a Gun tower] General Fletcher: Raw firepower has its uses.
    [If a boss is killed by an Inferno tower] General Fletcher: I believe the proper word is "toast".
    [If a boss is killed by a Laser tower] General Fletcher: I think the poor devil has seen the light... A bit too much of it.
    [If a boss is killed by a Cannon tower] General Fletcher: He's way beyond shell-shocked I think.
    [If a boss is killed by a Meteor tower] General Fletcher: Unfortunate for them that they didn't look up first, isn't it?
    [If a boss is killed by a Tesla tower] General Fletcher: Is it raining? I saw lightning...
    [If a boss is killed by a Concussion tower] General Fletcher: That fellow went boom-boom.
  • Boring, but Practical:
    • Doubles as Simple, yet Awesome. Once they're fully upgraded, Gun Towers are one of the best damage-dealing towers available. They're also the cheapest tower to buy and upgrade, and they're effective against nearly everything, working against both flying and ground enemies and rapidly destroying shields. Even more so in the sequel where Gun towers can have one passive upgrade that ranges from damage over time, to shield piercing rounds, or even area damage, giving it more flexibility to adapt Guns for your strategies.
    • Temporal towers. Aside from a nice lightning effect, all they do is slow down enemies... Which helps immensely when dealing with anything but flyers. They also have a stable, constant, upgrade cost rather than getting more expensive as it levels up.
    • In the first game, Command towers. They don't do anything fancy or flashy, but they do reveal stealthed aliens and give an increase to your much needed resource gaining if anything dies in their (rather generous) range.
    • In the sequel you have Boost towers. Cheap, but they don't do anything besides blocking aliens' path on their own, but a tower built on top of a Boost can have a number of other bonuses on them ranging from damage, to invisibility and shield disruptor, to score booster.
    • Admiral Phillips' skill in Defense Grid 2, it's no death laser, tower buffing or resource gaining ray, but it allows the player to pick a priority target so all towers will focus fire on it. Particularly useful against troublesome targets like Landing Pods and Rumblers.
  • Bottomless Magazines: Gun towers are explicitly stated to have infinite ammo, yet the last step of their unfolding animation when you build or upgrade one involves audibly reloading their guns.
  • Brain Uploading:
    • General Fletcher, who stopped the previous invasion, is now the AI running the defense grid. He often talks about things he would do if he was still in his body. Mostly eating raspberries.
    • The Containment campaign introduces Cai, in control of a different planet's defense grid.
  • Canon Immigrant: Guess who stars in the expansion Defense Grid: You Monster? Hint: Not Chell.
  • Cloudcuckoolander:
    • Spending over a thousand years uploaded inside a defense computer network has left General Fletcher a little... Odd, but he realizes how he's acting and resolves to stay focused on repelling the invasion.
    • In Defense Grid 2, General Cai becomes one after being kidnapped by the aliens to have parts of her code removed. Professor Briel and Colonel Rissler all share the same oddity saying weird things every now and then.
      General Cai: I'm still 149% peach frosting!
  • Competitive Balance:
    • Gun towers are Jack of All Stats. Cheap and reliable with good damage against every type of alien. Flexibility and low-cost are the best traits of Gun towers.
    • Inferno are Skill Gate Towers. It's the first tower available to do damage to groups of aliens, but can be easily outclassed by Concussion or Meteor towers.
    • Laser towers are Jack of All Stats. Its heat beam can easily destroy fast enemies via burning caused by its ray, but it's a bit weaker than the Gun tower and practically useless against shields.
    • Cannon and Meteor are Long-Range Fighters. Very high damage at high distances, but can't shoot anything very close to them.
    • Concussion serves as Close-Range Combatant dealing constant damage to anything withing its range, extremely effective against large groups of small enemies that can diverge the attention of other towers. However, it fares poorly against heavily armored enemies like the Crasher.
    • Command towers act as a counter Stealth Expert revealing Invisible Monsters within its range allowing towers to attack them earlier and also increases the resource income.
    • Tesla towers have Mighty Glacier properties: it can attack constantly with low power, however it takes a while to charge to full power, but if it does it will deal massive damage on the next hit. Teslas are also very effective against shielded aliens. In the sequel, Teslas end up being Master of None, good damage against single targets which will chain to another giving it some crowd control properties, but it is easily outclassed by any other tower that focus on that specific role. Even its shield-breaking ability is easily replaced by a Boost tower upgrade (Disruptor) which also disables stealthed enemies.
    • Missiles have the highest damage output in the first game but suffers from Crippling Overspecialization since it can only target airborne aliens. In the sequel, they become Mighty Glaciers, being able to target ground enemies with powerful, single target (without an upgrade) missiles, but with a pretty slow fire rate.
  • Crossover: The You Monster expansion crosses over with the Portal series.
  • Damn You, Muscle Memory!:
    • If you are playing versions of Defense Grid 1 and 2 on PC and are used to the numerical shortcut to create the towers, you might build something you didn't intend to when swapping to another game.
    • For Tower Defense genre in general, especially in Defense Grid 1. You might want to spend your resources as soon as you can and build as many towers as you can, but if you do it there you probably won't earn a Gold medal even if you win with all cores in the base. The game encourages the player to use as few resources as possible and play conservatively using them only when really necessary; the more resources you have, the more you will earn via interest, and in the end it might be the difference between a Silver or Gold medal in the rank. Both games also have "rewind" button which allows players to go back to a previous checkpoint, encouraging even further players to test tactics using as few towers as possible.
  • Death from Above:
    • The Meteor tower; incredible range and deals area-of-effect damage.
    • In the sequel, characters can use a satellite to fire a beam with varying effects. General Cai sometimes even says "Death from above!" word by word when selecting her as commander.
  • Deflector Shields: The Bulwark uses these to protect itself. The Spire's can protect other aliens. The already unfair Crasher is given these to make The Juggernaut. Inferno and Laser towers can barely scratch them, while Tesla towers are the Armor-Piercing Attack for this.
  • Disaster Dominoes: The most common cause of core loss- once an enemy grabs a core from the housing and begins to carry it towards the exit, you have to bring it down well before the next incoming wave gets up to it, otherwise the fresh enemies from the new wave will pick it up when the first enemy drops it and immediately turn back, taking it further out of your reach, possibly into the next wave and so on. A core dropped in the middle of a pack of enemies is all but lost unless you can nuke the entire pack with the orbital laser, as it gets passed from enemy to enemy in a relay. It can be catastrophic when a Racer picks up a core and carries it back at high speed, being brought down to drop the core right in front of a fresh Crasher, which would normally require the firepower of your entire Grid to destroy.
  • Do Well, But Not Perfect:
    • If you are having problems getting a gold medal, sometimes it's better to go easy on the final enemies and let them live a little longer with a softer defense while the interests rack up your resources towards the gold score.
    • In the sequel, it's best to kill enemies as late as possible as you'll be gathering resources meanwhile. The more resources you have when you kill something the more points you'll earn.
  • Downloadable Content: In the form of map packs. The Resurgence series is four packs of two maps each, Containment is a short campaign of eight maps, and You Monster is a crossover with Portal.
  • Draw Aggro: The Decoy enemies draw attention from your towers by providing an Invisibility Cloak to other enemies around them.
  • Dungeon Bypass: Later levels have you build The Maze yourself using towers. Flying enemies go right over it, and instantly leave the map when they reach your power cores. The Landing Pods are even worse, they're dropped in front of your cores and spawn enemies right there and then.
  • Early Game Hell: Some maps in both games would be a whole lot easier if you had access to the final upgrade level or a certain tower in your possession.
  • Elemental Rock-Paper-Scissors: Sort of. Gun and Cannon towers (Projectile damage) do well against whereas Inferno and Laser (Fire damage) is inefficient against shields, but is effective against speedy enemies. Tesla (Energy damage) is very effective against shields, but has only average damage against anything else.
  • Elite Mook: The description for the Rhino states that it is the basic elite unit of the alien army.
  • Energy Weapon: Laser towers, which are good against the two fast enemies, the Racer and the Rumbler, both because the said enemies keep taking damage from being set on fire by the laser after they're out of their range and because lasers don't have to waste any time pivoting to aim at an enemy when it enters its range.
  • Expansion Pack:
    • Borderlands; four extra levels included as free DLC.
    • Resurgence; four smaller DLCs with two new levels apiece.
    • You Monster; a Portal-themed campaign.
    • Containment; an eight-level campaign funded by the Defense Grid 2 Kickstarter which ties the game to the sequel, and some community-made levels included for no extra cost.
  • Exposition Fairy: General Fletcher himself.
  • Face–Heel Turn: Advisor Zacara near the end of Defense Grid 2.
  • Flaming Meteor: both games feature the "meteor tower" - it's a meteor In Name Only though, as it is launched from the ground as a fiery ball which arcs to its impact zone, dealing massive amounts of damage.
  • Fragile Speedster: Racers can only take about as much damage as a regular walker, but they are a lot faster.
  • Gatling Good: The level 2 gun tower swaps out the chain gun with a tri-barreled gatling gun. The level 3 gun tower adds a second one.
  • The Goomba: Training drones in the first stage are very weak and can only carry one core. That's the only time you will fight them, though.
  • Hell Is That Noise:
    • You'll learn to fear and hate that "zap" sound whenever aliens get a hold of your cores. If one of them runs with your core General Fletcher will leave a distressed commentary.
      General Fletcher: No, no, NO! Not another core gone!
    • If the aliens grab all cores from your base (but doesn't leave it) General Fletcher will comment the power is low, thus indicating your interest is basically nonexistent.
    • The high-pitch alarm that sounds when flying enemies enter in the map will make you go Oh, Crap! if you forgot to arm defenses against them.
    • The subtle sound indicating Landing Pods are about to drop in Defense Grid 2 will make you double-check your defenses quite fast.
    • In Defense Grid 2 Suppressors make a high-pitch zapping sound when they die, something you learn to hate quickly as it also jams your towers.
  • Harder Than Hard: Defense Grid 2 gives us the Elite difficulty with faster and stronger aliens.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: Cai attempts one in the first game in a Taking You with Me maneuver. Fletcher and the Commander are having none of this, though.
  • Intercompany Crossover: The You Monster DLC features GLaDOS.
  • Invisible Monsters: Stealthed enemies can only be detected by nearby towers, or if they're within the range of a Command tower.
  • Kill It with Fire: Inferno and Meteor towers are strong against Swarmers.
  • Kill Sat: The orbital laser obliterates anything, but is slow to charge and enemies killed by it give no metal to build and upgrade towers with.
  • Level in Reverse: Story Reversed mode reverse the path of the aliens throughout the level.
  • Lighter and Softer: Defense Grid 2 is far less depressing than the first game.
  • Lightning Bruiser: Rumblers have a lot of health, move very quickly, and carry 3 cores.
  • Lightning Gun: The Tesla tower. Its attack is stronger if given time to charge up, and it can chain enemies.
  • Like a Son to Me: General Fletcher treats you like his surrogate child and looks out for you, and expresses concern when your hometown gets attacked. In the final mission he offers to meet your family after everything is said and done. He lost his own son during The Great Offscreen War, so his paternal attitude makes a lot of sense.
  • Long-Range Fighter: Cannon, Meteor, and Missile towers all do lots of burst damage and a very wide attack radius, however they cannot target enemies close to themselves.
  • Low-Level Run: invokedThe "Green Towers Only" Arrange Mode available on some missions prevents you from leveling your towers up.
  • Marathon Level:
    • The Grinder and Super Grinder challenges pit you against 99 waves. And yes, you still must finish to obtain medals. The score requirements are quite low in proportion (ideally, you'll hit at least one million on these sorts of challenges out of the 100,000-200,000 needed for gold), but if you so much as lose a single core, there goes about an entire hour of your efforts.
    • Adrenaline and Shredder challenges are not as long, but still far longer than any level in the game, they can have 50 waves to fight.
  • The Maze: Making them with towers is necessary to slow down alien progress long enough to keep them continuously exposed to your attacks. The DLC map Height of Confusion is nothing but one big grid of tower slots, requiring you to structure the level yourself.
  • Meaningful Name: Almost all the Mooks overlaps with Shaped Like Itself.
    • Swarmers always appear in swarms, unless they're periodically released from a Seeker.
    • Rhinos are heavily armoured and can take more damage, similar to how the real life rhinoceros has a thick armour. In the sequel, Rhinos can charge much like a real rhinoceros. They do have to slow down to turn, though.
    • Racers are very fast enemies.
    • Darts have a dart-like appearance, and they can fly like one too.
    • Mantas look kind of like manta rays, and also fly through the air in the same fashion the manta ray glides underwater.
    • A bulwark is a protection against external attacks. Bulwarks have Deflector Shields that protects them from damage.
    • A spire in real life is a pointed structure. Spires in this game are shielded aliens that have a pointed head.
    • Lurkers have the ability of stealth protection and can "lurk" away from your towers.
    • Decoys give stealth to units around them, but do not have stealth themselves. Thus, they act as a decoy and attract attacks from your towers towards it, instead of the enemies it gives stealth to.
    • Turtles have heavily armored shells, like a real life turtle.
    • The Crasher tends to inexorably crash its way straight through whatever you throw at it, while its shielded counterpart The Juggernaut is, well, nigh unstoppable unless you have strong weapons.
  • Memory Gambit: Fletcher deliberately omitted certain memories when he was uploaded, to ensure the aliens wouldn't find out about them— namely, the existence of other human colony worlds and the portal that led to one of them.
  • Meta Power-Up:
    • Command Towers are these—they don't add any extra power for your towers, but they will reveal Stealth units and also allow you to gain more resources from any enemies killed in its range.
    • Professor Briel's skill. It transfers resources instantly on the use, increases the more aliens you hit with it, which is quite useful especially early on.
  • Mighty Glacier: Crashers and Juggernauts. These guys can make off with three power cores at once, and they're as durable as a planet, but due to their size and weight, they are slooooow (in fact, they are the slowest of all the aliens).
  • Minimalist Cast: Just the unnamed player character and Fletcher. Containment adds two more, Cai and Simon Ritter. Averted in the sequel which adds a fair bunch of new characters.
  • Mood Whiplash: If you lose all of your cores, you get to hear Fletcher's melancholic last words as the grid shuts down. Right afterwards, the post-battle menu screen shows up and Fletcher cheerfully encourages you to try again.
  • Mook Maker:
    • Seekers periodically open a portal to the enemy aliens' home planet, allowing (usually) smaller but weaker aliens to join the fray. In the final campaign level, there are Seekers that will generate nigh-endless waves of Crashers and Rumblers if they aren't dealt with.
    • Turtles are heavily armored boss enemies that carry weaker Mooks inside, which are released when the Turtle is defeated. In later levels, they carry even the Rumblers boss!
    • Landing Pods, which are spawned right next to your cores and start spawning mooks from there, effectively allowing them to traverse half your defences!
  • Multi-Mook Melee: The standard gameplay, taken to the extreme in the Grinder and Super Grinder modes.
  • No Fair Cheating:
    • If you completely block the aliens' path to the cores, they'll simply walk right past the offending tower. Depending on your tower composition, this will result in a shorter path than you planned for the aliens, which is very, very bad.
    • The sequel prevents this from happening by simply prohibiting the player from building anything that would completely block the aliens' path, this also prevents the player from accidentally placing a tower where it would completely block their path and thus, inadvertently creating a "shortcut" for the aliens.
  • No-Gear Level:
    • In the Containment DLC, the level Foothold has you with only your basic towers (Gun, Inferno and Laser). Since you went through the portals aliens were using to try another invasion, after you thwarted their first, Fletcher still needs to re-power the new grid for the other towers.
    • In Defense Grid 2, Double Take deprives you of any special ability. Justified by the fact the abilities are modified versions of a satellite beam and you're defending an orbital elevator.
  • Officially Shortened Title: The sequel is abbreviated simply to DG2.
  • Oh, Crap!: In the sequel, Simon has a pretty big one upon seeing a giant alien space ship stationed close to the cores.
    Commander Simon: Area looks clear. You know, clear except for that GIANT MONSTROUS ALIEN SPACESHIP OVER THERE. You know. Clear.
  • One-Hit-Point Wonder: Some stages have challenges that give you only a single core.
  • Pyrrhic Victory: The first game has an achievement by the same name, which is earned by killing a flying alien who has taken a core. Since cores snatched by flying enemies are permanently lost even if they are destroyed, the name of the achievement is pretty fitting.
  • Random Drop: In an odd fashion in Defense Grid 2: Every time you finish a map you have a chance of earning a tower item which varies from 01 to 05, you may earn an item of 01 or sometimes, in very rare cases, an item at grade 05. Playing on higher difficulties and longer maps significantly increases the chance of earning better, and rarer, tower items, though.
  • Regenerating Health: The appropriately-named Regenerator has this- but only when it's not being damaged. Keep it hurt at all times with the Concussion tower if you don't want them to heal themselves.
  • Ridiculously Fast Construction: Towers rise up almost fully assembled from hatches in the ground. Justified in that you are re-activating an existing defense grid, and the resources you are gathering are effectively repair parts for existing components.
  • Scoring Points: At the end of a mission, you're given points based on how many Resources you have, the sell value of your towers (which is always less than the buy value, ensuring that buying and upgrading towers will reduce your score), and how many Cores you have intact. You're also given medals for hitting point milestones. Thus, maximizing score and getting those gold medals is based around efficient Resource use while preventing your Cores from being stolen.
  • Sequel Hook: Defense Grid 2's ending. After foiling Advisor Zacara's plan to use Mind Control on the aliens to create her own army, she is possessed by the aliens and they leave an ominous message about they will return and this time they won't underestimate Fletcher.
  • Shell-Shocked Veteran: General Fletcher is often overcome with the tragedies he's experienced a thousand years ago. At one point he briefly thinks he's still fighting the previous war.
  • Shout-Out: Once more into the breach!
  • Stealthy Mook:
    • Lurkers will avoid detection from most towers until they're in close range, or unless a command tower is nearby.
    • The Decoys turn other aliens around them into these by giving them similar stealth to the Lurker, but the Decoys themselves lack stealth capability.
  • Sturdy and Steady Turtles: One of the enemies is actually called the "Turtle". It has a lot of health, and just like a turtle, contains stuff inside its hard shell.
  • Talkative Loon: Professor Briel is this in Defense Grid 2 thanks to the aliens messing with her AI code. Lampshaded by General Cai later on.
    Colonel Rissler: This is quite the mining facility. I don't know that I've ever seen anything like it.
    Professor Briel: Indeed. It curb friend will be stationary plume decadent responding.
    General Cai: There goes Briel's vocabulary again. Time for a reset.
  • Took a Level in Cheerfulness: General Fletcher grew to be a lot more lively and snarky in the sequel.
  • Trademark Favorite Food: General Fletcher really loves raspberries, although he also enjoys blueberries too.
  • Unexpected Gameplay Change: In Defense Grid 2, Power Outage challenges force the player either to keep their cursor close to the towers or build them close to the core housing, otherwise they won't even activate and shoot aliens.
  • The Unreveal: None of the games actually reveal why the aliens are invading and what they are really after, or even why they want the cores you go through hell to protect.
  • Unstable Equilibrium: If you design a very efficient layout minimizing cost, the unused energy generates interests, in turn making the game easier as you'll eventually reach a Money for Nothing point. If however, your defense is hard-pressed, you won't have much help from the interest rate. In addition, unreturned cores (which also lower said rate) are harder to defend so the next wave of enemies gets more dangerous than it should be with a static defense, relay-races with cores are common and pestering in that scenario.
  • Wake-Up Call Boss:
    • Ancient Research in Defense Grid 1 is the first map to feature boss-level aliens, the Crashers which are tough and very resilient and can carry up to three cores. The game only gets harder from that point on.
    • 07 - Split Decision on Defense Grid 2. It's the first map with two core housing which forces you to learn to balance your resources to protect both and it's the first level to feature Crashers and Juggernauts.
  • Wham Episode:
    • In the first game, Containment, when the aliens launch an attack to your home city.
    • In Defense Grid 2, Mission 19 - Out of Control explains who's behind the kidnappings of AIs and the cause of their loss of memories.
  • With This Herring:
    • Justified by the fact General Fletcher has to slowly reactivate the towers since they've been offline for who knows how long.
    • The sequel starts with Simon, Fletcher and Cai investigating a distress signal, but not quite expecting another alien invasion, thus the grid can only activate few types of towers.
  • You Require More Vespene Gas: Towers are built and upgraded with a single Gold-type resource from killing aliens which doubles as your score, along with the remaining cores and total sell value of your towers at the end of the level. The game encourages minimal use of resources through interest.
  • Zerg Rush:
    • Swarmers. Weak health, but damn, they come in large swarms!
    • The Grinder game mode is exclusively Walkers, just barely above the weakest creature in the game, but increasing in intensity for 99 waves. Playing it in the very last level can crash the game (it is the biggest level with a large number of options for path placement, meaning you could have 10 or so waves of 40+ walkers each on the screen at the same time, plus all the tower actions). Super Grinder is also 99 waves but with fewer enemies and more enemy variety, including some bosses, which is ironically easier to beat.