Dungeon Defenders Review

by on November 17, 2011

Dungeon-Defenders-ReviewGame: Dungeon Defenders

Developer: Trendy Entertainment

Publisher: D3Publisher

Available: Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, PC and Mac (Reviewed on Xbox 360)

When you hear the name Dungeon Defenders, you would be forgiven for thinking that you were about to play a game similar to Overlord 1 or 2, where you have a legion of minions that must defeat the good guys. Instead, you have a selection of 4 heroes and you must defeat legions of enemies that range from little Goblins, larger Orcs, giant Ogre’s, all the way up to almighty dragons and other such monstrosities, with a host of other enemies that fill in the gaps along the way.

So what is Dungeon Defenders?

Well, it’s a four player co-op tower defence action RPG! To break that down slightly; up to four players can play at once. You must set up defences at key points to help defeat wave after wave of enemies that will get harder and stronger. Lastly, your player can take part in the fight once you have set your defences with free roam in the arena. Each round gains your player experience which will level them up allowing you to place points into the skill you feel will aid the battle. This is for things like defence health, damage and range, or you can apply the same points to your player.

No story line can be set without some form of epic voice over to portray the scene and draw you in. When you load up you are given such a voice over which tells you a little about who you are and why you will be fending off destruction. The characters you get to play as are the pupils of legendary heroes that saved the land of Eternia from evil once before. After locking it away using Eternia Crystals, these heroes became victims of there own success and were called off to another adventure leaving you to hold the fort. After an accident during a restless afternoon, the pupils unleashed some of the evil and must now protect the Eternia Crystals that hold everything together.

Dungeon Defenders - Forest Dungeon Defenders can seem pretty daunting at first so if you are thinking about a purchase, bare in mind that you will need to allow a couple of hours to familiarise yourself with controls, layout and general mechanics. Once this is done you can start to judge the game on it’s merits.

If you are a perfectionist, you can find yourself spending hours in the character creation. Don’t worry too much about which class you are going to be. When you play the single player you will need them all so you may want to set up one of each character right at the beginning.

Character customisation is a full on process, you can flick through different colour schemes and settle for that, or you can pick a colour scheme and then tweak individual colours to suit you better. You can then chose random names like Borimor, Glorois, Merlin (original, right?) or you can create your own name. After creating one class and jumping in you can create a new character whilst in-game at what is called the Forge. This is handy as a shortcut but you do not have the full character customisation freedom when you do so.

Customisation in general is a big factor to this game. As you gather items you can invest in upgrading their on-board stats. This is a great way to buff certain stats that will effect your hero (like health boosts) as well as creating an awesome weapon which at some stage you may want to trade with another player. Sadly though, the look of each item will only differ in the weapon so make sure you love the skin you’re in. As you progress you can also unlock different Eternia Crystal designs. This is a nice touch because you may just find that you work harder for a Crystal that you chose yourself.

Dungeon Defenders - GameplayAny items you don’t want can be sold to give you Mana.You then then spend that on other items or pets in the Tavern (which is the hub world that you can go to in-order to join other games, sell items, or generally take a well deserved break). To save you the arduous task of selling items individually, you can “lock” any that you wish to keep and then choose to sell them all. If you do this with the Tavern shop keeper, he may amusingly tell you that he’ll “just sell it back yo you later.” A lovely touch that can lighten the mood after what may have been a poor round.

Items are all very well and good but they would be nothing without a character to own them. The 4 classes to chose from are;

  • Apprentice: This can equate to a Mage. The defences from an Apprentice focus on ranged damage. They can place small barriers but these are not something to pin all your hopes on against the little nasties trying to smash your Eternia Crystals. When in Battle Mode the Apprentice uses a magic staff to do ranged damage, this will target one enemy at a time but you can run in and use a knock down ability that is stronger the more you charge it.
  • Squire: A young Knight in training. This is a warrior/tanking class. Defences range from Barriers that can also cause damage to a few ranged turrets that have slow firing rates but bring the pain. When in Battle mode the Squire is a good choice because its attack range will hit multiple targets at once. You can literally get stuck into the heart of battle and reduce enemy numbers before your defences have to do anything. This is a very popular class.
  • Huntress: Their focus is on ranged damage and sneaking behind enemies to place trap style defences such as proximity mines. The Huntress could be classed as a rogue/hunter cross breed.
  • The Monk’s: His defence is placing an “Aura” down that does different effects. The first Aura you are able to use slows enemies that pass through it. When you level up a bit you can place Aura’s that cause damage which are very useful. One thing to bare in mind for all Monks out there; place an aura at the end of your build phase because once they are on the battle ground, they will begin to deteriorate. Aura’s may only last for a while but you can use collected mana to re-build them…or perhaps refresh is a better word.
Dungeon Defenders - Walls

As you may have noticed I mentioned build phase and mana in the last couple of paragraphs so lets clear these up. Between each wave of enemies you enter the build phase. This allows you to repair any defences that have taken a pounding as well as placing others. You can also use this time to check out some of the items you have picked up. When you are happy, you interact with the Eternia Crystal and begin the combat phase, which is self explanatory.

Mana, as you may have guessed, is your currency. You spend it on building/repairing defences and as mentioned before, at the tavern on items. To get mana, kill enemies or sell items; it is that simple.

Playing on your own is potentially where this game will lose some followers. At first it feels great, you plan your defence, focus on the main choke points and build defences accordingly. You think you’re ready, so begin the wave, everything goes well. You repeat this process and reach the final wave. Wonderful! This is when things get tricky. As early as the second level and the final wave, everything is going well until an almighty Ogre rocks up and ruins everything, a good hour of work wiped away in a matter of minutes. With no saving between the waves you must learn from your mistakes and start all over again. By yourself this is can be very disheartening but on the plus side, any loot that is dropped, or experience gained, stays with you.

To counter these giant pain in the backsides, you need to level your characters because each one will bring something to the fight that can be extremely useful. If they are lower levels then you may not be able to use certain abilities. This is a very tedious task but if you have other players with you, Dungeon Defenders becomes something else entirely.

Knowing that a friend is dealing damage whilst you run off to repair a turret brings an amazing sense of teamwork, it may also be the difference between a victory and a loss. Until you invest in your casting rate, repairing  and deploying new defences can take a while whilst in the combat phase. This can also be interrupted if you are hit, so take a buddy with you, to take the enemy aggravation is very useful.

Dungeon Defenders

A slight annoyance is that mana is drawn to you. If you are perhaps on build/repair duty, you need the mana. If you have the time, you can drop collected mana which will then not allow you to pick it up for a while but in the heat of battle this may not be so simple.

Dungeon Defenders does well to up the tempo just when you may find that it is getting slightly repetitive, or that the levels seem a bit too simple. As soon as you delve deeper into the game the levels get more complex and require you to defend multiple crystals. It almost makes you rethink your entire game plan. Again for the solo player this can be a momentous task. You have to rely heavily on your defences and when the waves start throwing hundreds of enemies at you, it is not easy to keep them standing. Getting stronger defences, as mentioned earlier, requires you to keep leveling all of your characters which is very time consuming.

You will easily find yourself lost in this game for a good couple of hours when you sit down to play it. However, a prolonged gaming session doesn’t seem like an avenue you can take by yourself (unless you really enjoy a challenge). Losing on the final wave is very frustrating. Each level has a huge learning curve, getting to the final wave can be simple enough but beating it can prove to be utter chaos. With that in mind, until you are strong enough to complete a level on your own, the repetitive nature may turn you away.

Where you may not sit for hours in one go, I am almost certain you will keep going back. The blend between setting up defences and leveling characters has been achieved in a great way. When coupled with the multiplayer, you will find it very hard to put down.

VERDICT: The trick to enjoying Dungeon Defenders is perseverance. Multiplayer can be achieved locally or by jumping into a game online so you never need to feel alone, or even entertain the idea of protecting your Eternia Crystal alone. There are certain aspects that at first may make you feel overwhelmed, such as the volume of items you pick up. It can also be hugely frustrating when you invest in one only to find that the next one you pick up is 10 times better. Persevere however and you will find that each wave you face is not only a challenge but a thrill too. It is almost as though for every moment that causes frustration, there is another to leave you feeling satisfied and rewarded for your hard work.

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