Dungeon Defenders; where does one even begin when trying to describe this game?
Take one part tower defense game, one part RPG and one part action game, throw them in a blender and you will get… Well, you will get a mess, but you get my point, I’m sure. Dungeon Defenders combines elements from these popular genres in an attempt to bring us something that stands above most games in these genres. Dungeon Defenders had its humble beginnings on the iPhone and was announced to be released on the PS3, 360 and PC on August 25th, 2010 and was released on October 18th, 2011. 14 months after the announcement. Was the long wait worth it? Continue reading this review to find out.
The story revolves around 4, somewhat unlikely heroes. They are the younger siblings of 4 legendary heroes whom are called away for important matters and leave their younger siblings in charge of defending (Well, I wouldn’t say leaving them in charge per se. It’s more along the lines of: “Ok, we have a new quest. Peace!”) the Etheria crystals which house evil spirits. One day, while horse playing, the young apprentices “accidentally” knock one of the Etheria crystals over and summons a horde of evil monsters. These evil monsters are tasked with destroying the remaining crystals to unleash those evil spirits captive inside.
To begin with you have the single player campaign that takes you through many different levels which you must defend the Etheria crystals. Each level alternates between a build phase and a battle phase. In the build phase, you have limited resources to build towers to protect the crystal. In early stages, you have primitive towers such as a spiked barricade or a Bouncer, a round tower with spikes surrounding it that thrusts itself outwards and shoves the enemy away whenever they get to close to it. The further your character progresses, the more powerful and advanced towers you will have access to.
In addition to the single player campaign, you have the 4 player co-op campaign, which is essentially identical to the single player mode. The only difference is that you actually have other people helping you out. Which brings me to a critical point in this review: This game is blatantly made for co-op. Playing this game solo, can be brutal and in later levels, especially on harder difficulties, can seem to be impossible. That’s not to say that it isn’t still fun or that it’s impossible, but there isn’t much room at all for error.
Dungeon Defenders also provides a robust challenge mode with quite a variety of different challenges, which can also be played with friends. The challenges range from “No Towers” to “No Heroes”
There are challenges where the crystal you are suppose to be guarding warps to different places on the map which effectively blows out any of your chances at strategizing a defense of towers. Completing these challenges successfully provides you with powerful loot which brings me to the game’s item system.
Dungeon Defenders has an immense inventory of items and an extremely deep customization factor. Upon selecting one of the character classes (Squire, Mage, Monk or Huntress I know, it sounds like the start of a dirty joke) you are allowed to decide on the color palette your character’s armor is made of. You have to choose a primary color, secondary color and a detail color. (The PC version of the game gives you the ability to change your character’s outfit) Each class has their own specialties and they are designed to suit the individual player’s style, although you are allowed to swap from class to class whenever you are in the build phase of the battle. There is a down fall to the game at this particular point, however…
While you are building up experience in the main class that you picked, the class that you chose because it suits your playing style, the experience points is not localized to your character; it is localized to your class. So with that said, your level 27 Squire may have a somewhat easy time in some later stages. But your level 1 mage will be to weak and pretty much screwed when it comes to those same stages. The mage will not have access to the same towers that the squire has unlocked. The mage will be stuck with the very basic towers. With that said, your mage’s special abilities will be very weak, just as if you started the game from the beginning. So this adds to the level boosting grind. (You’ll find out why I say that a little later.)
The customization doesn’t end there, there are tons of weapons that you can collect and upgrade to suit your needs. Everything can be upgraded from the lowliest leather boots to the most powerful sword. In addition to those features, you can also have a pet to take in battle with you, that’s right… A PET. The game refers to these pets as “familiars”. These familiars can also be upgraded by pouring the same mana that you use to upgrade your equipment. You never really have to worry about staring at the items status to figure out if one is better than the other. Dungeon Defenders borrows what some RPGs have, a color coded equipment optimization feature. The game utilizes several different types of visual clues to let you know an item is more beneficial. If an item that you find is better than the one you have equipped of a similar kind, the game will display a green outline box around the weapon before you pick it up. When you get close to the item, its stats are visible to you. Not only are the color coded stats visible, there is also either a thumbs up or thumbs down to let you know if that item is better.
Another cool aspect to this game is that when you are not in a mission, you are in a tavern where you can buy and sell items to the tavern keeper, set up your equipment the way you want and all of the in-game trophies that you collect will be displayed around this tavern.
(Gameplay & AI)
Dungeon Defenders is exactly what you would expect from the genres that it takes its inspiration from. You walk around dungeons placing your traps and towers where you think they will be the most effective against the onslaught of monsters in the battle phase. You have to play it smart and think about ways the traps could be used. One of my personal favorite set ups is to have a Bouncer knock an enemy into another trap, like a spiked barricade for example. Once the battle begins, you need to think about potential weak spots in your defense. The squire can either protect the holes in the defense or go Rambo and charge the horde head on. The Huntress can lay down traps to catch the enemies in them or focus on taking down the most powerful monster in the mob. The choice in how you play is ultimately up to you.
The game’s AI is pretty straight forward. Seek out and destroy the Etheria Crystal. It doesn’t particularly care whether you are there or not. I’ve had enemies walk past me just to proceed to its goal. I have not noticed any strategy on the enemies’ behalf.
(Sound & Visuals)
There is a lot of voice acting in this game; a huge part of it is sunk into the tutorial. This is needed because the learning curve on this game is enormous. It’s also important to have these voice-overs in the tutorial because depending on whether you have an HDTV or not, you may not be able to read the in game text. Graphically speaking, this game looks like a full retail game. You can tell that they didn’t skimp on the art of this game.
(Conclusion & Thoughts)
A little earlier in this review I stated that there was a level grind to this game, the maximum level each class can reach is 70. There are 4 classes, so that is 280 levels to grind out if you are a “completionist”.
With that said, that brings me to this game’s trophies. If you are looking for an easy platinum to add to your trophy count, be warned: THIS GAME IS NOT ONE OF THEM. Dungeon Defenders boasts perhaps the largest amount of trophies for a core downloadable game. It provides you with a whopping 57 trophies to gain. And of which, requires you to play on the hardest difficulty or level up all 4 classes to level 70.
The bottom line is this: If you are looking for a new tower defense game, Dungeon Defenders is the logical choice, especially for the challenge it possess. If you are looking for a simple tower defense game like Plants vs. Zombies or any other casual game, this game is not for you. It will tear you up and devour you. In all honesty, this hybrid tower defense action RPG is perhaps the most compelling and engaging game in its genre(s) that I have played in a long time.
4.75 out of 5
A PSN must have for strategy and tower defense enthusiasts!
Endless replay value
A crap ton of content for the price tag
Tons of co-op fun
No global leveling for your character.