I’m sure everyone out there has heard of tower defense games. They’re everywhere. You can’t help but to have seen or played one in the past three years. Some may say it’s a genre that is getting old. Some will try to throw in a gimmick or two to freshen up the experience. Truth be told, there are a ton of tower defense games out there, but there really is nothing quite like Dungeon Defenders. You see, there are tower defense games and then there’s Dungeon Defenders.
Dungeon Defenders (DD) is a tower defense game plus RPG, plus hack n slash, plus strategy game. Yeah, that’s a lot. You play as one of four young heroes tasked with the defense of their kingdom while their parents are away fighting a war. You have the Apprentice, a mage that uses magic projectiles as his standard attacks and that creates towers that use projectile magic to damage enemies. There is the Squire, a knight-in-training that wields a large sword and creates blockades that can hold off enemy waves by the dozen. The Huntress, a quick elf girl that uses ranged weapons like the crossbow or blunderbuss, specializes in traps that trigger when the enemies get close enough. These traps can explode, stun, and damage enemies over time. Finally, you have the Monk. He uses a combination of projectile attacks and a spear. He specializes in auras that can slow down enemies as well as debuff their attack and defenses while buffing his allies.
Each character is used in specific ways, and you can play as any of them as you like. When you create a character, that character will level up through play, earn mana and obtain new weapons and armor. Everything carries over from mode to mode, whether it is online play or single player. Keep in mind, some characters are a little more complex to use. The Monk and Huntress are the more challenging characters to utilize until you level their stats up.
You are tasked with protecting your Eternia Crystal that serves as your home base. The game play breaks down into two phases: the Build phase and the Combat phase. In the Build phase, you will use mana obtained by killing enemies or found in chests that respawn after each wave. You will use it to build character-specific defenses around the map. You can upgrade them for stronger attacks and health, and repair them if they have been damaged.
The Combat phase has you and your teammates holding off the hoard of goblins, orcs, trolls, wyverns, and other enemies until the wave ends. Your traps and defenses will only inflict damage until they are bypassed or destroyed. During this phase, you can attack with your character as well. Each class has their own attack type and, depending on your stats, level, and equipment, you will deal and take a certain amount of damage. If you begin to run low on health, you can sacrifice some mana to heal yourself. Each class has two unique special attacks that can be unlocked and used once you reach a certain level. These will come in handy when trying to take down the hoard in dire situations.
That’s the game in a nutshell: protect your crystal from the hoard by placing defenses and attacking them head on. That’s just half of the game. The other half is the full on RPG that is taking place while playing. You can equip your character with a weapon along with head, body, leg, and arm armor, and even equip a pet for better stat boosts. All of these items can be leveled up with your mana storage. Leveling up equipment will allow you to boost the stats of that item. Some equipment will only let you level them up to a certain amount, so finding the right item with the right amount of stats and potential growth is the key. Your character can level up as well. When this happens, you can use skill points to increase your character’s stats. It could be more health, stronger attack, or allowing you to upgrade the defenses you can lay down. It’s all up to the player.
There is a hub world in the game in the form of the Tavern. Here, you can choose what dungeon to play, what conditions to play in, upgrade your equipment, and purchase new equipment from the tavern owner. The tavern owner has some nice items for sale, but his biggest service is that you can purchase XP bonuses and respec your character. Almost every detail has been touched and refined.
The game was built around co-op. There’s no going around that. You will find this out in the later levels trying to take on the bigger dungeons. It’s almost impossible to do them alone. Luckily, joining or hosting a game is as easy as pie. It’s four-player drop in, drop out co-op. Anyone can join in at anytime and help out. There is even local play. Co-op is the bread and butter of DD. It really is a blast with 3 friends holding off a huge wave of enemies, while destroying everything they throw at you.
In addition to the main mode, there’s survival mode that gets increasingly harder and harder the more you go on, and Pure Strategy mode. This mode locks the ability to attack with your character and only rely on defenses, a pure tower defense game. If that’s not enough for you, there’s even PvP play as well. There’s a ton of things to do in this game. Almost everything is customizable.
The game is fantastic, but I do have a few small problems with it. First, the auto target feature can become bothersome. There were times I wanted to target a big group of enemies, but for some odd reason, the game had me targeting one lowly goblin off to the side. The only other thing is that the latter levels require cooperative play. I’m not talking 2 player either. You’re going to need 4 players to take on the last missions, but seeing as how much fun it is to play with other people, and how the game was built around it, I can see past it.
The art style is goofy, colorful, and cartoony. It reminds me a lot of Torchlight, but funnier. It fits the game perfectly. The music gives off this really epic feel too and you’ll have some of the tunes stuck in your head well after playing the game. The characters themselves are just as colorful and goofy as they look. Just look at the Squire. He’s in full body armor, but is wearing heart boxers.
Dungeon Defenders is deep. I don’t use that word lightly. RPG fans will be in heaven with this game. There’s always some new loot to gather, higher difficulties to play, new modes to try out, and grinding to be done. If you ever wanted to see the best that tower defense has to offer, Dungeon Defenders is it. It really is a blast to play. For only $15, I can see some players putting in well over 30 hours into just one character it’s that deep. RPG fans will love it, action fans will have a good time, and tower defense fans have no reason not to pick this game up. I can’t suggest it enough. You owe it to yourself to own this game.
Review copy provided by publisher. Primary play on Xbox 360.