Reviewed: October 31, 2011
Released: October 19, 2011
If I had to describe Dungeon Defenders to anyone, which I'm doing here, I would say that that it is a wonderful hybrid of a challenging tower defense meets hack’n’slash action RPG set in a fantasy setting. While my tower defense skills are, shall we say, far from perfect, I love a challenge and my love of all things RPG have made the newly released Xbox Live Arcade title Dungeon Defenders a must have for my collection. |
The story follows the children of four legendary heroes who have been called away to help in a crusade. The kids soon grew bored of their menial chores around the castle and accidentally unleash a great number of evils sealed away in Eternia Crystals by their parents when horsing around. The four younger kin have to grow up quick as they must defend their castle and the remaining crystals from hordes of enemies. I love the fact that there is an actual story to follow since the tower defense genre generally doesn’t touch this area much.
Thanks to the integrated Action-RPG elements, players not only get to place varied sorts of towers, traps and barricades but get into the fight by controlling one of the four unique hero classes. Each character specializes in ranged and/or melee attacks to compliment their defenses and is listed with their level of player skill required to utilize them to their fullest. The characters gain experience with every enemy they dispatch and gain skill points at every level to use to raise the characters individual stats and/or those of their defenses.
You can choose from the “Novice” Apprentice who can set up fire and lightning towers as well as spam magic attacks from a distance. If you’re more of a brawler you can choose the mighty heart boxer clad “Medium” Squire and set up a cannon ball turret as well as various blockades to slow down and injure the advancing enemy. There is my personal favorite, the “Veteran” Huntress, another ranged hero, who utilizes traps such as gas and proximity mines, as well as being skilled with crossbows and other firearms. The “Master” Monk is easily one of the most balanced heroes at your disposal but does take some time to get used to as he uses stat-altering auras and a spear to take out his attackers.
Dungeon Defenders story takes place over 13 levels as well as several game modes that will test your skills as you strategically place your defenses in wonderfully created dungeon maps. As the title would suggest, Dungeon Defenders is an adventure best played co-op with friends or players via Xbox Live or 4-player local co-op. Though you can get pretty far by yourself, I found it considerably tougher and nearly impossible to defeat the ever growing number of enemies as you complete each wave solo. It doesn’t help that the initial waves seem to give you a false sense of confidence only to have it shattered in the later waves, especially when the bosses show up. There are a few features in place to give you a slight edge as you progress.
One of the more noticeable features is that you can bank any unused mana, the stuff that lets you do practically everything, into a shared bank across all your created characters. Mana is primarily required to set up defenses and use abilities like healing, but it can also be used to upgrade your weapons and armor if you bank it via the Forges found in each level between waves and in the safe Tavern. By upgrading you weapons you can do considerably more damage, but it doesn’t hurt to be on the lookout for better base stated equipment as you play. Some the really good stuff can only be found in the challenge mode available after beating a level though. You can also purchase better gear and even stat-altering pets in the Tavern’s shop if you’ve got the mana to spend. If you don’t then you can use the nifty lock item feature to keep that desired gear in the store for purchase later as the items will change periodically.
As I mentioned there are several modes to try in Dungeon Defenders, which adds hours of gameplay to the already additive story levels. Players can take on enemies in the three additional Survival, Pure Strategy and Mixed Modes as well as the special challenge mode. In the challenge mode, you must complete the level but under different requirements like doing them without the use of towers. Survival mode is pretty basic fare though Mixed mode is interesting as it pits you against a randomized array of enemies. The Pure Strategy mode is for the purest of tower defense fans, as you can only use your ability to create defenses to stop your enemies.
Graphically, Dungeon Defenders looks pretty good though it may be a bit cartoony for some people’s taste. I actually liked it primarily because it is nice to see the Unreal 3 engine used in a totally different way than the customary and often dark tones that we’re used to seeing. The water effects are some of the best visuals in the game and the locales are varied enough that you don’t reel like you’ve been there once or twice already. The coolest detail about Dungeon Defenders is that you can instantly tell what enemies are headed your way on sight by their distinct designs and coloring. The music for Dungeon Defenders is equally impressive though I did stop paying attention to it when in the heat of battle. All I was concentrating on was the twang of my crossbow or the sound of what trap just got destroyed off camera. I did notice that you never really hear any noise out of the enemies though except when they are trying to tear down your defenses or are defeated.
Dungeon Defenders is definitely a title that I recommend you play with friends either locally or over Live as it can get brutally tough. The best way to play is with a vocal team that knows how to strategize and work as a team. Even with a full team, the game doesn’t have any mercy and only a team with a plan will stand a chance. I have to admit that I had no trouble finding good and often exceptional teams over Live, but occasionally you will find the usual loot whores as well as those that don’t really play well with others to ruin the fun so it’s probably best to play with close friends.
Even after burying several hours, in the double digits, Dungeon Defenders is a title that will still ensnare me long after I’ve finished writing this review. With all the different modes available there is more than enough the keep you occupied for months to come if you’re a fan of the Tower Defense and RPG genres. Dungeon Defenders is easily AAA material at a quarter of the cost, which we don’t see with Arcade titles that often. If you’re in the mood for a great strategy RPG then look no further than Dungeon Defenders.