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Dungeon Defenders (PC) Review - Co-op Till You Drop!

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Updated Thu, Oct 20, 2011 by Stow

Every now and then a game comes along and makes you think, “why aren’t all the other developers making games like this?” I got that chill down my spine when I was playing Trendy Entertainment’s Dungeon Defenders, their first title being a seven-course meal of MMO Tower Defense. I mean, I’m no stranger to this genre, I play every game under the sun that has me destroying waves upon waves of oncoming retarded AI NPCs, and I even had a week with a great entry in the genre in Orcs Must Die! last week, but like all tower defense games, it started to get stale after a while.

With Dungeon Defenders though, 30 hours of gameplay later and I’ve only scratched the surface, and it costs about as much as a large pizza. How’s that for value in this era of gaming?

Cautions

Your dungeon is rated E for everyone as far as I’m concerned. The violence has no limbs flying, very little blood if any, and monsters just fall to the ground in a heap when impaled by ballistae. Of course, you are playing a team game online, so you don’t know what obscenities will be yelled at you into the headset.

Gameplay

87Very Good

Dungeon Defenders has more meat on its bones than any other title this year.  First you have to pick from four classes that each play completely differently

  • The Apprentice is your typical mage, with a variety of basic ranged towers, and his combat spells can be charged up for much greater damage and effects.  Also sports the fastest repair and placement rate of the four, and can jack it up further in times of need.   If things are looking extremely dire, the Apprentice can blow everything to holy hell with a high cost nuke.
  • The Squire is a melee powerhouse, with high health and the abiliy to go berserk for more damage later on.  He can block with his alternate attack, but I hope you have some backup for flying foes, as you have no ranged attack whatsoever.  Most of the Squire’s towers are melee range, and those that aren’t require precise placement for either impalement in the case of the Ballista, or working downstairs physics in the case of the Bowling Ball Launcher.
  • The Huntress is your typical ranged badass, but her towers aren’t towers at all, but traps.  Anyone on your team can trigger them for maximum effect... or minimum if they’re clueless and knock a single opponent into a giant proximity bomb.  She has a clip of sorts that she needs to reload in her weapon, which is capable of rapid fire and piercing arrows that devastate everyone in a line.  She’s also capable of invisibility to get into or out of danger.
  • The Monk is a bit of a strange one—he’s considered the hardest to play for good reason.  His towers aren’t even towers, but large auras that damage, confuse, slow, heal, and more.  His abilities are just that as well, for heroes or towers respectively.  He’s both melee and ranged combat capable, so you have a ton of flexibility on how to build a Monk. This class is also your only healer and debuffer, so he’s absolutely essential for tackling difficult bosses.  Much like the MMORPG classes of this type, they’re always in demand and never in your party when you need them.

So once you’ve got a hero in mind, you need to decide if you’re going for the top in Open or Ranked play.  It’s just like Diablo 2’s battle.net style.   Open can be used with local and modified characters, and Ranked is all saved on their secure servers and the only way to get your name on those sexy leaderboards that are placed in each stage.  You want your name there as people have to stare at it every time they want to change gear in the middle of a stage.  Just don’t think you’re besting my score!

As it should be.

Now imagine tens of thousands of players who have to stare at this every time they play.  I've left my mark on the game.  Can you leave yours?

Finally when it gets down to the action, we’ve got your typical tower defense formula—you’ve got some time to place towers, then you trigger the oncoming hordes.   There’s a good variety of enemies, and each one will get upgraded over time to nastier versions over the course of a stage.  Take the Mages for instance.  They’ll sit at a distance, casting wide area heals, summoning mean skeletons, and eventually they reach critical mass if left alone where they have so many skeletons running around that they overwhelm your tower setup.

That’s where you come in.  You’ve got a weapon, and you know how to use it.   Each class can beat some ass when necessary, and with the level up system giving you full control over how your stats increase, you can build a hero to do nothing BUT annihilate in toe to toe combat.  Of course, you can also build for maximum damage or durability towers.  I say durability because if the monsters spot something that’s in their way, they will remove it with force!  Don’t worry, you can repair mid-fight, but getting hit by archers will interrupt it and there are plenty of them.

The enemies move towards a goal, but eventually you’ll run into stages with multiple goals, and there’s even a challenge stage where the goal moves!  This is where your buddies come in.   All facets of the game can be played with up to 3 others.  Defending most maps solo will be a huge pain, but when you have multiple allies, builds, and tower types, you can build some sick defenses and slug it out with the ever increasing hordes.  Unlike most games of this nature, there isn’t some artificial % based increase in health or damage for having more players in your game.  In Dungeon Defenders, the only thing that changes is the number of enemies that spawn.  You have to have enough kobold guts to go around, you see?  The one exception is boss health, which I'll forgive, because the boss fights are awesome.



A quick sample of the second boss.  You have to deal with monsters continually spawning while the boss is alive, so it can quickly become a do or die scenario, and someone has to keep repairing and maintaining your tower setups. As a Squire like I am, my job is to get in there, dish it out, and block damage where I can to halt the boss's advance and keep it in range of all of our death dealing towers.

Each wave is split into a build phase of setup, repair, currency collection, and also item scavenging.  You have equipment in this game.  Equipment has base stats, but also can have a great effect on your hero’s stats as well, much like precious sets in Diablo or WoW.  Most equipment can be upgraded, which functions as a big currency sink in the economy but offers one interesting reward—a maxed out item can be renamed to your liking or style.  You can even drop and trade any gear in the game, there is no silly ‘bind on equip’ nonsense in this game.  Anything you acquire has value to a vendor or someone else!

So with the gear factor, it’s time to talk about how deep this game really is.  You’ve got 13 campaign maps, 1 bonus map, and 13 respective challenge maps with crazy variety like goblins raining from the sky, or mobile goals as mentioned before.  Each of these has four difficulty settings, ranging from new to the veteran, and of course the insane.  I’m no stranger to Tower Defense and Medium has given my team a run for their money several times.  If you just want to go nuts, infinite survival is available on all maps, as is strategic survival, which is a more traditional tower defense with no blocking and no interaction with the enemies.

Now throw in a transparent developer who lets people know of future events as free dlc, is releasing a SDK and will be supporting mods and total conversions, and adding campaign and challenge maps regularly, and we’ve got a game that is not going to get stale anytime soon.  The heart and soul of a quality TD game is variety, and Dungeon Defenders has all of the tools to keep people up until 5 AM on a regular basis.

Such a stellar set of gameplay tools is not without a few minor flaws, though.  For those of you coming from other action tower games, your character moves rather anemically until you get some hero points in Speed.  This is especially prevalent if you're playing singleplayer, which I do not advise at all. There’s also the fact that each class only has 5 towers and 2 special abilities.  While they can be used in multiple ways, and built for in hero stats differently, it would be nice to have some more toys.  The developers might have anticipated this though, and have added all kinds of unique effects to weapons such as multiple projectiles per attack, chainsaw sound effects, and more to keep you interested in getting in the action personally.

Graphics

87Very Good

You’ve got an awfully pretty game on your hands here.  If you’re not sold on the smooth animation, just take a look at each stage.  Each stage is built on an entirely different tileset from the looks of it, and has details all over rather than just being a series of corridors and choke points.  Spell and tower impact effects are rather subdued, but it’s better to be able to see what is going on in a game as challenging as this.  In addition, Dungeon Defenders is not a hardware intensive game if you need to run it on an old laptop.  Just lower your settings and you'll be kililng with the best of them, albeit at lower resolution and detail.

But maxed out, it's hard to argue with a bright and beautiful shot like this.

Sound

70OkayOne of the weak spots in this game is in the sound effects department. Some effects ring true, like a sword cutting through tens of monsters at once. Others sound pitiful, like the gatling gun, which sounds like a crappy paintball gun rather than a lead dispenser. There is some music repetition, but the music in the game definitely does a good job of trying to make your combat feel epic—if you can hear it over the death and destruction! Voice work is very rare though aside from the occasional cutscene, but spot on when you hear it.

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