I recently reviewed an action-RPG game that not only let me down, but broke my spirit. A little part of me died as I played that game, thinking this was the evolution of classic games such as Secret of Mana or Musashi. Even newer games like X-Men Legends and Baldurs game: Dark Alliance shook their head with disappointment. But then this new, magical game came out, twisting in elements of tower defense strategy games, and saved the action-RPG genre for both future games and future gamers. Behold, Dungeon Defenders.
When you purchase a PSN game, even for $15, you don’t expect to a game as deep and involving as Dungeon Defenders. Yes, it happens, but it’s so rare, it really catches you off guard. And while, yes, it has strong tower defense elements infused into it, I know some people first-hand that are both not good at tower defense games nor do they like them, but they have fallen in love with this game.
Dungeon Defenders was developed by Trendy Entertainment, and starts you off by creating a hero. The four classes play very differently, and have their own unique place within the game. The Apprentice acts as your magic class, with towers that outright destroy the enemies. The Squire is your knight in shining armor, and a master of close combat. The Huntress (my hero of choice) is the ranger, with both a deadly bow and powerful traps like proximity mines. And the Monk handles boosts for his team, and debuffs the foes. While the first two are pretty powerful from the get go, it takes some serious time and work to get the Huntress and Monk up to par.
After dressing up your hero and customizing the crystal you will be protecting, your off to the tutorial which runs you through the basics. The game flow is set up in two phases per wave; a build phase and an attack phase. They both work exactly as they sound, with you being allowed to build your traps in peace (sometimes with a timer), and then unleashing the horde to meet their demise.
The maps get progressively difficult, with more intricate mazes and more gems to protect. Loot and mana (your currency) become more prevalent, and enemies become tougher. The fun doesn’t end when you beat a map, that’s for sure, as I have probably played the first map dozens of times. Just beating it on normal is not good enough, as the game features four difficulty levels. And beating your first stage on Insane is just as satisfying as you can imagine. On Insane, you also have a timer for your build phase, so there really is no room for error.
Loot is really what this game is all about. The strong character development is accompanied by an equally-strong equipment system. Not only are there loads of equipment with various statistics (all of which are easy to read and compare, mind you), but you can spend mana to upgrade your equipment. Each upgrade level grants you the ability to increase an attribute. Again, this is easy to compare because the new value is in green, so there is no guessing what the new value is going to be. You may find that trivial, but if you knew how many games I have played that DON’T have an intuitive loot system, you would appreciate this as much as I do.
Single player is a blast. You can swap out heroes to mix up the towers and defenses during the build phase, and have your powerhouse do all the physical work, but you are going to want to invest more time developing these characters if that is the case. The true strength of this game is the multiplayer. It’s easy, it’s fun, and it works. Hopping into a game is as easy as finding one, and if you decide to quit, there is no harm to anyone, because the game continues for everyone else playing. You will progress much faster, and find more loot. Mana, though, is not shared, so you have the decision to make on whether to be greedy and grab as much as you can or share and only take a portion of the mana.
One of my absolute favorite things about this game (as someone who loves loot games like Diablo, Champions of Norrath, Sacred, etc.) is that weapons look different. While some of the styles are similiar, after using a certain bow for so long, it is cool to have even a different color of the same style, if not a new looking bow all together. I LOVE it when weapons are unique, and not just a stat, and Dungeon Defenders delivers.
I played this game for a week, and am still only knee deep into it. I mean that in a good way. There is SO much to do. There are challenges with specific goals to complete. Each map has a survival mode, which runs until you get defeated. There’s also a Pure Strategy mode for each map, which is traps only. You can’t use your physical attacks at all. So there is SO much replayability here, and with the deep character progression and loot system, the same maps never get old. For trophy/achievement kids, the game has the same amount as a full retail release, with a platinum trophy to top it off. All for $15, mind you.
Even if you don’t like tower defense games, this game deserves a shot. And even if you don’t like action RPG games, this game deserves your time. I know people in both of those camps, and they both love the game. I really cannot find anything I don’t like about it. It has a steep learning curve in the beginning, but once it clicks, all of the pieces fit together like a well-oiled machine. Don’t waste any more time, you could be leveling up in Dungeon Defenders instead of browsing the web.
Pros: deep character progression, tons of loot, amazing replayability, awesome multiplayer experience.
Cons: steep learning curve