As genres go, tower defense gaming has actually taken off in interesting way. Many gamer got their addiction started from Warcraft III's “Defense of the Ancients” gameplay mode, (which was just a game mod inspired by a Starcraft map), though the style has been around before that. Since then, we have had a bevy of choices for “Tower Defense” games. What's also noteworthy of the genre though, is that its basic formula can easily accommodate both the casual and hardcore gaming circles without much hassle. While the same can be said about other games types as well, it seems to really shine here.
Case in point, let’s takes a hack at Dungeon Defenders. Now this game is available on the iOS, Android, console, and PC markets. For this review, keep in mind I am only voicing my views for the PC side.
Dungeon Defenders is great mix of two formulas that makes an interesting and tasty flavor.
On the one hand you have the tried and true “kill all the monsters, everywhere, ever!” gameplay found in games like Diablo and Gauntlet, and on the other you find the strategic elements of a border defense. Throw in a nice helping of loot to find and buy and you have yourself one mighty fun game.
The game starts you off with a light and fluffy story about a land that must defend itself against a terrible evil that threatens all life. Four heroes rose to the call and seemingly pummeled the hell out of the evil and sealed it off. Though [suddenly] another evil summons the heroes off to pummel it elsewhere. This leaves the hero's young students behind to maintain peace.
As you would imagine the first order of business for these young wards is to screw around and break open an orb that unleashes all matter of crap across the land. Now they have to defend crystals in dungeons from the hordes of baddies that want to break them open and revive a supremely unkind set of evil ones. So yeah, the story seems cookie cutter through and through. Though the game seems to accept it and doesn't take itself too seriously.
Dungeon Defenders is a very smooth game to get started with. For a first time player the first 10 minutes should have rolled out all the game features.
[Although, in my opinion, it's best to read the loading screens too as they have a few nuggets of useful information as well.]
The controls accommodate standard WASD and mouse control scheme, as well as the use of the directional keys. I actually did not have to tinker with the control scheme at all, everything seemed to feel right. Characters move easily and responsively throughout he levels. The auto aim could at times be off due to perspective, or design, nothing game breaking though. Left and right mouse buttons preform primary attacks and specials respectively. Moving the cursor over the world will highlight options when available.
One thing I did find a tad off for me personally, is that the game's design seems very much made for the console market. And while bearing in mind that it is, I still felt that the UI, mainly the inventory, could have been “fitted” a bit more for the PC version. Like a great pair of pants; if they were a bit smaller you could still use them fine, but you would feel constrained at times.
Graphically the game isn't demanding much from your machine. Using the Unreal engine allows the game to give a world effect without have to push a lot, but to be honest the game doesn't anyways. That said, the cartoonish and colorful design fits the game well. You can’t really change settings too much, aside from resolution and a hand full of other options. Though again, the game isn't asking much in the first place.
Dungeon Defenders features 4 basic classes to choose from, with others available for DLC as well.
The staples are the Apprentice, the Huntress, the Squire, and the Monk. Each class is fun to play with and brings its own role to the tower defense game. There are four tower types that each class can build. Each class also gets a couple of special abilities later on in the game after you packed some levels onto the characters.
Here's a quick break down of my experience with them.
Consider him your long range specialist. Playing as the Apprentice you will find yourself popping enemies with blast from your staff while under the cover of your own deadly shooting towers and magic blockades.
The Huntress is like a recon/saboteur/sniper muffin with sprinkles on it. She uses crossbows and “trap towers” Particular favorites were the Ethereal Spike Trap and the Piercing Shot. Not to mention she can turn invisible as well...useful for gathering and repairing amidst the battle.
The quintessential Tank of the game. This guy is a straight up whirlwind of pain and carnage. His towers are mix of offense and defense, with the emphasis on defense. Though it’s worthy to note one of his most powerful defenses [The Slice' n' Dice Blockade] is also a one of his most deadly.
Here's “stat-killer” of the team. From draining movement speed to making enemies kill their own, his towers are aimed to enfeeble the enemy in a multitude of way. Combined this with his boosting abilities and his worth is ever apparent.
As you can see, every member of the team has great strength and can complement each other in awesome ways. In one game I had my Apprentice aided by a Monk and a Huntress. Between the two, by the time the enemy got in rage of my Fireball Towers, they were a shambling mess of ailments and despair. Easy pickings for my molten blast of fiery death. This is where the hack and slash element gets reminded of the wonderful Tower Defense game packed alongside it. The interesting strategies you and your team mates can come up with are impressive and a lot of fun to try.
Now, the game does allow local play, so If you wanted you could play all by yourself, but you would have cut at least half of the game's fun out if you did. This game just screams and oozes for the multiplayer element to be embraced. With the game handling smoothly online without a heavy graphics demand, reasons for not playing online are short and few. Do note that without help, the later stages in the game can outright obliterate you like a wet paper towel against a flame thrower.
A few other noteworthy features include the ability to upgrade your weapons and armor and the inclusion of familiars, (or pets if you rather). The pets themselves are interesting, ranging from dragons and demons, to the (with Steam purchase) mini-gun wielding Heavy from Team Fortress 2.
So my final thoughts on the whole package. For its low price point and great replay factor, this game is a solid buy. It may not have the depth that some gamers are looking for to sink hours into and the premise is a bit silly. Though if you miss the heyday of hacking orcs in Gauntlet and were (or still are) a master of the Tower Defense, then pick this up. The online play will cement the joy for you.
Lighthearted and bite-sized, but totally satisfying.
Final Score: 9 out of 10