Review
Dungeon Defenders

By Jorge Figueiredo - November 3rd, 2011

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What it’s all about.

I enjoy a good game of tower defense. When that game of tower defense is enhanced by a third-person action element, I like it even more! What happens when you throw in an RPG element and the ability to play online with friends? My brain explodes from sheer joy. Luckily, I have a skull to contain those types of explosions; so when I play games like Trendy Entertainment’s Dungeon Defenders, I don’t have to hire professionals to pick brain matter out of my carpet.

In Dungeon Defenders*, your goal is to defend the crystal at the heart of your dungeon from a horde of monsters. This goal is achieved by spending mana to lay down traps and defensive structures; once these structures are in place, you activate the combat phase and the fun begins. In the combat phase, your towers will do their jobs; however, those are not the only line of defense – your powerful hero is another! You work alongside your towers, taking it to the baddies with ranged and melee attacks. As an aside, you can also have it so that your build phase is time-limited – in this case, when you run out time the combat phase is initiated for you – this adds another layer of challenge to the mix.

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Sometimes it can get frantically messy – which is amazing.

There are four classes of heroes in Dungeon Defenders; each class, aside from being unique, is associated with a difficulty level: The Apprentice (he is the spell-caster of the group); the Huntress (reconnaissance class with explosive traps and a deadly ranged attack); the Squire (a brave knight in training with some great physical melee attacks); and the Monk (the most difficult class to start off with because of inherent physical weakness; but once leveled up: a force to be reckoned with). Each class has their own attacks and defenses, as well as their own brand of traps; they can use different items (that can be found in chests, through combat, or purchased between campaigns at the Tavern). Due to this fact, it is usually a good idea to ensure that multi-player games are composed of different classes rather than having everyone be the same thing – variety is the spice of life, after all. Allowing for use of different classes also benefits the player in a singleton game; swapping items between different classes at the forge is a great way to ensure that you give your heroes the most bang for their buck in terms of equipment.

Defeating monsters gives your characters experience points (as well as mana and, sometimes, items). This experience will eventually push your character to the next level. When your character climbs to the next level, they also gain ability points that can be used to further enhance their own offensive and defensive powers, as well as their towers. You can use the mana to buy items in the Tavern and level up your own items as well. It is a really great currency system because it makes you really think about how to use the mana you collect. The more mana you have on hand, the better the items you can buy. One of the more practical purchases that you will make is a familiar, which will aid you in your quest to defend your dungeon by enhancing your status and helping out in a pinch. These critters can also be leveled up so you had best start contributing to your mana account!

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Almost everything can be leveled up!

Graphically, the game is cute (for lack of a better word). Characters and human-sized monsters have childish proportions (exaggerated heads, and so forth); even larger monsters look like they walked out of a child-friendly fantasy book. This is not to say that the visuals are bad, though . On the contrary, everything looks great – the water colour art style of the game plays on traditional RPG hero and monster archetypes, adding to the charm! The force behind the game is none other than the Unreal engine, so you know that it will be pleasing to the eye. Sound design is somewhat similar in that the developers leaned away from “scary” and more toward “fun”. A fairly lively score keeps things light between matches and the sound effects are pretty funny. One of my favourite sounds is the “aid” noise that each character can make to call for help – it makes me smile every time.

Ricky and I played a good amount of this game together. He chose to be the Squire while my character choice was the Monk. Ricky’s traps were all physical siege-type weapons. Even though we were using the for defense, Ricky somehow managed to use the offensively. The Monk, on the other hand, has field-based defenses (imagine a big half-sphere of energy placed on the ground). Our team strategy was usually sound, and involved me placing some snares and electrical fields in front of some of Ricky’s less refined (but more effective) weapons of war. We would study the entrances and the map (there are guides at each entrance that tell you what types of monsters to expect) to ensure that we know what was coming and could prepare our defenses accordingly. The passive chat function was instrumental in our communication, making it pretty easy to sync up ideas and get the job done.

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Hanging out in the tavern is a great way to kill time. There is so much to do!

Are there problems with the game? Of course – but they are minor annoyances at worst (and there are only three that I can think of off the top of my head). First of all, the chat function seemed to cut out just before the end of our sentences. This made it a bit difficult to get our points across on the first go. The second problem was the default camera – luckily you can actually change between zoom levels and angles to figure out what works best for you. The last thing that bugged me about the game was the Move control implementation: it was pretty difficult to use and I found it much more practical to use a DualShock.

For those of you that like great value and depth to your game, you can’t really go wrong with Dungeon Defenders. With RPG elements, Tower Defense and some third person action, your hands will be full with this game. Interestingly enough, just completing the campaign on any level of difficulty will nowhere near max out your character’s level – for that you will have to rely on different modes (Challenge Mode, Survival, Pure Strategy, and Mixed Mode!) to give you more experience and better items. Playing alone is a blast and playing with friends (locally or on the interwebz) is even more fun! So, if you haven’t figured it out, we wholeheartedly recommend this game – addictive action play with a deep RPG element; you can’t go wrong.

* – Ricky and I played the PS3 version.

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