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With 21 maps and several modes and game types per map, Defense Grid 2 will feature literally thousands of leaderboards, offering players of all stripes the ability to show off their particular set of skills.

At PAX 2014, I got a near-final look at September’s most anticipated Tower Defense game, Defense Grid 2. If you’re a Tower Defense lover, you’ve got a lot to look forward to on September 23, when it launches on PC, Mac, Linux, Xbox One, and PS4. From new towers to configurable maps, and even map creation tools on Steam, DG2 is likely to scratch your tower building itch for a long time to come.

Across five campaign chapters, you’ll have 21 distinct maps to play through. With a focus on lane/plaza hybrid maps, which blend the two primary strategies into a single board, you’ll have to be quick on your feet to line the lanes while also diverting the alien stream through the plazas. Continuing the DG tradition, your enemies don’t just have to rush straight to an exit on the map, instead having to reach your base, grab a core, and then make their way back through your defenses to the exit.

Local co-op is prominently featured across platforms, allowing a friend to pick up a second controller and hop into the action. Whether you prefer to play competitively or cooperatively, there are options available for you. In co-op, you’ll share resources and tower positions, while in competitive co-op, you’ll each have your own resource count, and different colored tower tiles for each player. If you want a real challenge, though, you’ll want to check out the competitive online multiplayer.

In the online multiplayer mode, “DG Fighter,” you’ll both be playing the same map independently, with fewer aliens spawning in each wave. There’s a kicker, of course. Whenever you kill an alien, it spawns in the same location on your opponent’s map in a stronger form. There’s a 10-minute time limit to these matches, and the only way to “beat” the map is to survive until time expires, at which point the player with the most points wins. It seems hilarious and terrifying to focus your defenses near your base, so aliens are constantly spawning directly adjacent to your opponent’s base as you lay waste to the threats.

In addition to the new towers, you’ll also collect items throughout the campaign which give specific towers various boosts or special abilities. There are also heroes you’ll have access to for the campaign, which each come with their own cursor-based ability such as Orbital Strike, which does a huge amount of damage in an area around your cursor.
The new aliens are more threatening than ever as well. “Landing Pods” will land near your core and unload a squad of aliens, though you’ll have a few seconds to whittle down its health, which causes the aliens it spawns to appear with similarly depleted hit points. “Regenerators” require consistent damage to defeat, since they’ll regen health as soon as you stop hitting them. “Supressors” sound particularly nasty, as once you kill them, all towers in the vicinity get turned off for several seconds, allowing their companions to breeze through your defenses.

Finally, there’s the “command base” which is where you land on each of the maps to direct the defenses. Clicking your base will offer some information about the level, and comes with its own special abilities, like “Annex,” which allows you to actually reconfigure portions of the map while you play.

The team focused on a “lower skill floor and raised skill ceiling,” allowing players of all skill levels to find fun and challenge in the game. If you’re a tower defense fan, you’ll definitely want to check out Defense Grid 2 on September 23.

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