Dungeon Defenders Review (XBLA)

Game Review: Dungeon Defenders
Release: October 18, 2011
Genre: Tower Defense
Developer: Trendy Entertainment
Available Platforms: XBLA / PSN
Players: 1-4
MSRP: 1200 Microsoft Points, $14.99
ESRB Rating: E for Everyone 
Website: Official Website
Note: Very special thanks to Chris Forbis (Mensadad), whose prowess and insights proved priceless in the writing of this review.
In the brink of nihilistic, self-centered single player behemoths lingering in the near future in the form of Skyrim and Uncharted 3, there comes something different. Something that requires you to work cooperatively with other individuals in order to protect an Eternia Crystal at all costs, namely by carefully placing defenses based on your class or using your weapons to slaughter endless and restless hordes of brainless enemies. Dungeon Defenders is at its best, an average albeit admittedly fun attempt at a hardcore party game. At its worst, though, its something that suffers from trying to take itself way too serious.
If you have played current generation offerings like PixelJunk Monsters or Crystal Defenders, in theory you know what to expect from a Tower Defense title like Dungeon Defenders. Basically there’s a core that needs to be defended, and you have limited resources to build traps, weapons and barriers in order to stop a number of enemy waves. The twist here sets this game apart, is the ability to move freely through the stage during the waves, and actually fight the upcoming monsters. Perhaps more important than that, the game allows you to play with up to 3 more people cooperatively, which is not only a lot more fun, but also almost necessary. You see, the game throws at you insane amounts of enemies quite early in the title’s levels, so it’s practically impossible to beat the game’s various stages by yourself; the game was designed with co-op in mind and it should (read: must) be played as such.
To make things significantly more interesting, there are four classes to choose from: The Apprentice, which is the quintessential “mage”, able to build towers that deal damage from a long distance, The Squire who’s basically a “knight” who creates barricades and various artifacts to slow down and weaken enemies. In addition, you can choose less archetypical classes like The Huntress, who acts like a “thief” and deploys various traps (like proximity mines), and our friend Aang who makes an unofficial cameo in the form of The Monk, who creates fields that can damage, heal and slow down. On the bright side, these classes were designed for co-op play, and they work; Apprentices and Squires deal the primary contention while Huntresses and Monks give valuable support. The problem resides in how unbalanced they are on their own; a Huntress statistics at the end of a match are always going to be slower than a Squire due to the more passive nature of their character, which could lead to frustration if you want to level up quickly and at the same pace as your comrades.
Besides the unique defense abilities the four classes feature, they’re able to level-up and get customized in RPG fashion. Throughout every match, you’re going to come across lots of loot to retrieve and either sell or equip. In addition, you gain experience and you can strengthen your character the way you see fit. To be quite honest, the options were varied and detailed, but unnecessary. Both the loot and the leveling up are more complex than they need to be. For instance, you’re given a certain amount of points to spend on bumping up your character abilities, and these are divided in your actual character and your character’s defense. There are too many categories to spend your points on, and most of them don’t really make any difference at all.

Yup, that's what I'm talking about

All of that is just technical gibberish if it’s not implemented in intuitive mechanics, and for the most part, Dungeon Defenders delivers. Each match is composed of 6 progressively difficult waves of enemies, and those waves are divided into a build phase (where you strategically summon your defenses) and a combat phase, where basically everyone fights, and no one quits. Everytime you summon a defense, you lose mana, which can be found on treasure chests or by viciously slaughtering goblins. In addition, there’s a limit in how many defenses you can build and how much mana you can gather up (which will increase as your character levels up). The matches tend to start simple enough but at the end you are bound to fight thousands of enemies at once, not counting special little and annoying things like Wyverns and Trolls (which are a royal pain in the ass), which will require you not only being extremely effective with your weaponry, but also working as a team. You see, considering there’s a limit of defenses that can be deployed on the stage, it’s smart to plan ahead with your fellow comrades in order to increase effectivity.

You can also purchase "pets" to help you in battle

And that’s probably Dungeon Defenders’ strongest point: co-op play. Quite frankly, the game doesn’t make a lot of sense playing it solo. It’s just too difficult and the enemy hordes too overwhelming. With three more people, the game becomes really, really fun. Four players, specially when they boast different classes can play seamlessly and without getting in each other’s way. The level designs are appropriate and, must I say, pretty to look at. This is not Skyrim we’re talking about, but Dungeon Defenders features more than adequate graphics that get the work done and give a nice atmosphere that enhances the whole experience.

Julian’s Final Say

In the end, Dungeon Defenders serves as an entry point for Tower Defense amateurs. It’s an interesting and welcome addition to the genre, but one that quite often suffers from identity crisis, forcing you to over-micro-manage your stuff and keep way too many useless stuff in mind instead of making everything else simpler and more fun. The game is still highly recommended if you are into co-op gaming; it’s a blast to play with people, and despite it’s difficulty, there’s a guilty pleasure to be had in losing. If you’re a lone wolf, go away and never look back.

  • Interesting Tower Defense gameplay
  • Four somewhat unbalanced classes to choose from
  • Enough content to keep you entertained for weeks, but it needs to be played with more people
  • Each account can create multiple characters
  • Extremely difficult
  • Playing solo is pretty pointless
  • After a point, the game becomes a grinding fest of sorts

Final Score: 7 out of 10

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