Published on December 24th, 2011 | by Chris Hayes5
Dungeon Defenders: Defend the Dungeons, Get the Loot
Dungeon Defenders is certainly an interesting game. Trendy Entertainment has crafted something wholly unique. It’s a game that somehow blends Tower Defense, RPG, Hack ‘n Slash, and Third Person Shooter elements, and yet it all works beautifully. How beautifully? Let’s see.
The main plot pretty much revolves around the idea that the realm’s four greatest heroes (not you) set off to defeat evil in distant lands. In their stead, they’ve left four untested (and untrained) heroes-to-be (you) to defend the land of Etheria should things go wrong. As usual, things go downhill, and it’s up to you and your friends to save the day before the realm is overrun with Goblins, Orcs, Ogres, and other unsavory creatures. It’s not the deepest story in the world, but it’s not trying to be. It does however, do exactly what it’s supposed to; it provides plenty of excuses for defending your “dungeons”.
A couple of new recruits get lost in the Tavern.
With a name like Dungeon Defenders, it’s no surprise that the main point of the game is to defend some dungeons. However, what is surprising, is just how fun (and challenging) this can be. The game consists of a series of levels that are all accessed from a main hub (known as The Tavern). When you start a game, you will spawn in the Tavern. From here you can buy, sell, upgrade, and equip gear; create new heroes; party up with friends online; or setup a game. Essentially, the Tavern is your base of operations, providing a safe place for you and your buddies to spend some down time between missions. However, the real fun starts when you load up a level.
Things always start simple,…
Once you’ve loaded up a level, things get interesting. The goal of each level in Dungeon Defenders is to protect your Eternia Crystal(s). Early levels will start you with one, though later levels will require that you defend two, three, and even four. Things start off with a “Build” phase. During the build phase you and your team collect Mana (the game’s currency) from chests scattered through out the level. Once you have enough Mana, you can start building defenses (which is a quick and easy process). To build defenses you select one from the appropriate radial menu, maneuver it’s outline to where you want it, then rotate it to face the desired direction. This is all handled in a three step process, and quickly becomes second nature. For even quicker construction, your favorite abilities and/or defenses can be placed in a “hotbar” that allows you to forgo the slightly more time consuming radial menu system and skip straight to the placement steps.
Once you’ve placed your defenses, you need to activate the “Combat” phase. This is exactly what it sounds like. Enemies start pouring out of the spawn locations and testing your defenses. However, one of the strengths of Dungeon Defenders is that you get to do more than sit idly by and hope for victory. You actually get full control over your characters and their abilities! This allows players to actually make a difference in the tide of battle. You can do more than fight though, during the combat phase you can also heal damaged defenses, and even build new ones (it should be noted that defenses take longer to build during the “Combat” phase).
…but they can get out of hand really fast.
Enemies in Dungeon Defenders spawn in waves like virtually every other tower defense, and after a wave is completed, the game will activate the “Build” phase once again. As enemies are killed, they drop Mana, and occasionally loot (e.g. armor, weapons, etc). Chests also reappear during each build phase and will provide more Mana and loot. Mana is important as it’s needed for building towers, and buying or leveling gear back at the Tavern.
Something else you get from enemies is experience points (EXP). Like any good role-playing game, you need EXP to level. Once you’ve earned enough EXP, you can open your character panel and upgrade any one of each character’s ten statistics. Four stats are hero based (Health, Damage, Speed, and Cast Rate), four are tower based (Health, Damage, Area of Effect, and Attack Rate), and two are for character abilities (vary per character). As you level up your character gets stronger based on how you allot your points. If you put all your points into defenses, you’ll have strong defenses but a weak character, and vice versa.
Ah…loot. Wait! Page 2 of 6?!
Another one of the things that I love about Dungeon Defenders is that you can level up your gear. That’s right, if you have a cool looking weapon, and aren’t ready to part with it yet, you can talk to the Tavernkeep (who’s full of hilariously bad one liners) and put Mana into upgrading your weapons. Each upgrade gets exponentially more expensive, but gives you the ability to pick a stat to upgrade. You might give a weapon more pure damage, more elemental damage, a higher rate of fire, etc. If you throw enough Mana at it, and if the item is not already at it’s max level, you can probably make it better. Much of the loot does have level requirements, but that’s pretty standard fare.
Now that we’ve covered a little bit about the gameplay, let’s take a look at the cast. There are four semi-customizeable characters in the main game (there is a DLC pack that adds more): The Apprentice, The Squire, The Hunter, and The Monk. Each character brings a different skill set to the table.
The Apprentice is a mage-like character that uses staff weapons (as in magic staff), and summons magic towers to the defense. The Apprentice’s towers specialize in Attack power; they aren’t very durable, but they kill things quickly.
The Squire is a Knight of the realm the prefers swords, axes, and hammers. The Squire is a slow moving character that is basically the game’s Tank class. Even his towers seem to suggest this as they specialize in defense. They don’t always do a lot of damage, but they have a lot of health and can hold off hoards of enemies at need.
The Huntress is an Elven maid who prefers the use of distance weapons like pistols, cross-bows, and just about anything else with a trigger. She is a good support class and specializes in weakening the enemy hoard before it gets to the main line of defense. Her “towers” consists of a series of different traps that are quick to put down and work well as Area of Effect (AoE) damage dealers.
The Monk is a fast character who specializes in shaft weapons like poleaxes, halberds, maces, and the like. He also utilizes distance attacks by firing energy bolts garnered from his “Chi”. The Monk’s “towers” are actually different auras, that typically provide debuffs like weakness, slow movement, etc. There is a lightening aura for damage dealing, but mostly the monk is best utilized for supporting the Apprentice and Squire’s towers.
Did I mention the awesomeness of a 4-way splitscreen party yet?
One of the best things about Dungeon Defenders is the co-op experience. This is a game that supports any combination of 4 player local or online mayhem. You can play with three friends in the same room, three friends around the world, or any combination of the two. The general experience of the game doesn’t change, but it’s way more fun with friends. Each wave of enemies actually scales to the number of players; so, more players equals more (and tougher) enemies. While the game is really at it’s best when each player is using a different class, the game doesn’t force it on you. Do you want to have four Squires? You can! Trendy has given gamers total and complete control over how they want to co-op.
To their credit, Trendy has made Dungeon Defenders available on a wide array of platforms. However, each version plays just a little differently.
The PC version is my personal favorite, due to Steam’s openness with updates, Trendy is able to quickly push out small updates like seasonal decorations for the Tavern. This is just down right awesome and adds some great atmosphere to the game. It also allows Trendy to quickly release seasonal challenges, weapons, and costumes.
The biggest downside to the PC version is that it requires separate characters for Ranked, and Local/Unranked play. This isn’t a big deal if you know about it from the start, but the ranked play is where all the goodies are. For me, this meant leveling several characters in local play, then realizing that all the cool stuff was in the Ranked section, which required me to start over with my characters. I’m sure that the reason behind this is to prevent hacked characters from showing up in ranked play (which is a good thing).
Consoles (PS3, XBOX 360):
Based on the similarities of the two consoles, I am going to assume that the XBOX 360 and PS3 versions are identical (my experience is with the PS3 version).
While being nearly identical to the PC version, the console versions don’t get the cool holiday updates. I’m guessing this is due to the rigorous approval process that developers must go through to patch/update their games. It’s just not feasible given the way that Sony and Microsoft due business.
Still, the console version is probably the best one to play splitscreen on. The PC version does support splitscreen, but the consoles are more likely to be hooked up to a larger screen in a larger room (and it’s just plain easier to set up splitscreen on a console than on a PC).
There are a couple of downsides to the console version as well though. First, due to the limitations of controllers, you can only place four abilities in a hotbar (the PC places all ten abilities in a hotbar). This means that you really have to consider which abilities you use the most (and they may change from level to level). Second, the consoles feature an auto-lock system during the combat phase. Now, this is quite common in console games, but the auto-lock here is a little on the “sticky” side. It will lock on to the same enemy until you turn almost 180 degrees. It’s not a game breaker by any means, but it would be nice to have it be less insistent.
Mobile (iOS and Android):
I have only played the Android mobile version of Dungeon Defenders (which is Free 2 Play). I understand that the iOS version costs $2.99, so I’m not sure what all is different, but I’m sure there are some differences.
The mobile version plays well, but it’s not quite as easy on the controls as the “primary” versions. It’s still a solid entry and works well, but if you can play either of the other two versions, do it.
The Android version features gear that’s priced insanely high, but Mana can be bought in the game’s “store” for certain amounts of real cash. This isn’t really a deal breaker (as the game is free) due to the fact that you can still pick up some pretty good loot from enemy drops, but it’s sad to see. Still, if you’re looking for a quick fix on the go, the mobile version stands ready, and it’s not half bad.
Oh yeah? You and what ar…oh, that army.
One of the reasons I am so grateful for Dungeon Defenders is the content. There is no language in the game, and no real sexual content (the Huntress’ is on the busty side, and her primary outfit is a little revealing up top, but it’s not too much). There is some violence in the game, but it’s against cartoony, fantasy creatures. There’s no blood and no gore. When enemies die, they keel over and disappear.
There are some things that a few people may get hung up on though. One of the enemy types raises skeletons to fight for them, and there’s the whole issue of magic in general. One of the bosses is a “demon” of the classic devil stereotype (wings, horns, red, etc.), but again, I’m not particularly bothered by this. Most of these things are minor, and many people will simply overlook them, but I felt I should mention them just in case.
Dungeon Defenders may just be one of the best game of the year. Not just one of the best downloadable games, but one of the best games period. You get four customizable classes, twelve highly replayable levels, a series of unique challenges, and some fun modes like Survival and Pure Strategy to flesh out the package. There is plenty of variety in the enemies, the combat is entertaining and fun, and the many of the towers are inventive and fun to watch. In the end, the game feels like Tower Defense, Diablo, and Gears of War’s Hoard Mode rolled into one big beautiful mashup. Best of all? It’s only going to set you back $15! Now that’s value. If you like any of the games/genre’s mentioned above, you’ll definitely want to give Dungeon Defenders a try.
- Chris Hayes