No Unicorns Whatsoever

So, if past years are anything to go by, there’s a Steam Summer Sale coming soon, and if you like cheap games, it’s like a little Christmas in June.

It’s also a reason to pause and reflect on the games I bought in the last Steam Summer Sale and to think about how many I haven’t beaten yet.

That’s quite a few.


At least I did take a few days and play one of those previously-neglected titles – Hidden Path Entertainment’s “Defense Grid: The Awakening” – so I feel like I’m not just shoveling money into Steam’s coffers with nothing to show for it.

Anyway, “Defense Grid” is a tower defense game with all that implies.  You have towers, see, and you have hordes of ravening aliens, and you need to place towers in strategic ways so that they can shoot at the hordes of ravening aliens, and you can upgrade towers and use them to shape the flow of the incoming aliens and that’s all well and good but it’s not the reason to buy the game.

The reason, as I see it, is that your computer partner is one of the more fleshed out characters I’ve seen in a video game lately, which is quite a feat for a disembodied voice.  He’s been dead for over a thousand years – preserved as an AI in case his skills were needed to beat back aforementioned aliens, he misses his son and he really misses raspberries.  He cheers you on when you’re doing well, he has a fairly good set of witty comments he uses infrequently enough that they’re still usually funny, and he doesn’t judge you too harshly when you lose, which I did a lot.

The game keeps track of your stats, you see, and looking at my stats revealed that, over the course of playing through the game’s story missions, I had 114 losses to 20 wins, which is not a good ratio at all.

Simply put, I’m not at all surprised that the designers elected to have frequent autosaves and to let you step back through the autosave states by simply pressing “backspace”, because there were lots of times where I thought that I was doing great, that my towers were defending and so on and so forth and then I’d get curbstomped by a sudden invasion of something I wasn’t ready for.

The last level, in particular, was a test in perseverance.  It took me the better part of two hours to figure it out, and my final victory was, well, it relied on a completely unexpected quirk in alien pathing, where I accidentally added a tower and watched, gleefully, as the entire invading army switched to, basically, walking down one side of a row of towers, turning around, and walking down the other side of the row of towers before continuing on towards their goal.

It was pretty glorious.

With 114 losses, it took me 13 hours to finish the story mode, and – excepting certain frustration near the game’s end – I had fun the whole way.  There’s a certain joy in building up unassailable defenses and watching as your forces repel attack after attack, and there’s an equal near-adrenaline-rush feeling that comes on as you watch your defenses fail and need to figure out what you’re going to do next.

Oh, as noted, it features absolutely no unicorns whatsoever, so I get to salvage a few tattered shreds of the remnants of my masculinity.

And that’s always a good thing.


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