I’ve loved Dungeon Defenders for well over a year now. Ever since former co-host Billybillblack caught wind of it and said something along the lines of “check out this game, this is a pete game all the way” I’ve been obsessed. In fact after reading the concept behind the game I went to Trendy Entertainment’s forums and started a thread titled “This is already my favorite game of all time.” And I was only half kidding.
Well over a year and a mobile (iOS/Android) release later, the game is finally out on the PSN/XBLA and Steam for $15. I do have a few issues with the game, which I’ll touch on in here, but as far as I’m concerned there isn’t a better $15 you can spend on the PSN/XBLA (i’ll leave steam out of it because $15 during a sale can get you an alltime great game like Civilization or $2 can get you KOTOR). The game is enormous, filled with tons of content that at minimum will take you 15 hours to beat if you just want to see it all… or upwards of 100 hours if you are an insane completionist like me. Trendy has also promised extensive post release support so the game is only going to get bigger.
With this guide I’m going to try to break down the core concepts of the game in a way that I hope makes sense for new players. The fact that this game is so complex also makes the barrier for entry high, and that’s exacerbated by some questionable UI decisions. But once you learn all the systems it will become second nature to you. So let’s rock this shit!
What system should I play it on?
All things being equal, the steam version is by far the best. This is a no brainer, of course, as the PC version of most games is the best. But beyond the obvious (ability to mod, improved graphics, more and faster patches, etc) the PC version is the easiest to control with a mouse and keyboard. You get more hotkeys, tower placement with a mouse is cake (though it does become quick and easy with a controller) and you get the ability to move the camera up and down (y axis) which is missing from the console versions for reasons I don’t understand. (Update: It’s not missing Y axis, it only works with the default control scheme, which I didn’t like… but have now adjusted to)
If it comes down to console versions I personally prefer the PS3 version for a couple of reasons, some of which may not matter to you. First off, it has more trophies (including a platinum) while the 360 version has only 200 points. Secondly it supports the Move (which the implementation is crap at present, but im hopeful it will be tweaked in upcoming patches). And thirdly… it’s in 3D. And, supposedly, there will be cross-platform play between the PC and PS3 versions in an upcoming patch.
If all you have access to is the 360 version, fret not, the game is still fantastic.
What class should I start with?
You can, of course, pick whatever class interests you the most. But for the sake of making life easier I will break down the classes based on what Trendy thinks is easiest to hardest.
Apprentice (mage) – According to Trendy this is the easiest class for beginners. I don’t agree, I would put them second behind the squire. The apprentice does ranged attacks, has a knockback ability, eventually gets abilities to summon defenses faster and do a giant AOE mana bomb. As for towers, the mage has arguably the strongest towers for speed and sustained damage. You get a shield tower, a single target lightning tower, a fire-ball tower, a AOE (well target jumping) lightning tower and a very powerful and long range sniper tower.
The apprentice is a great all around class with wonderful towers and the ability to dish out a large amount of damage once you start getting some better weapons. A tower defense expert will also be able to beat most of the levels early on with just strong tower placement. It’s also worth noting that the apprentice’s barrier has two purposes… one is to block the creeps (of course) but also the creeps that attack them lose their resistances.
Squire (warrior) – The squire, to me, is by far the easiest class in the game. They have the most HP, so you won’t die if you jump in the fray. Their weapons swing in an arc and hit multiple enemies. They have the ability to block, which not only mitigates damage but can act as a makeshift wall to contain a train of mobs while your co-op buddies burn them down. The also get a whirlwind attack hitting everything in a 360 degree radius and a blood rage ability to boost damage for a short period.
The squire also has very strong towers. Their barrier towers are not only stronger than the apprentice but they also deal damage to those who attack them. And then add to the fact that the rest of the towers, while may be a tad slow, deal substantial damage (and it’s all physical damage so there is no resistances… yet). High HP, AOE attacks, strong towers… um, yeah, if you are just starting and playing solo there is no stronger class in the early to mid game. The debate is still up as to whether their damage scales enough to be considered overpowered in the end game, but even if the damage doesn’t scale the ability to tank and strong barrier towers will always be needed.
Huntress (ranger) – The huntress is the first of the more advanced classes. The huntress has arguably the highest single target DPS in the game and her traps also do arguably the most burst damage. The drawbacks are that her traps (which basically are like putting mines down) are low in detonations and long in re-arm time during the early to mid game. A strong player will be able to overcome this with high dps and smart placement.
The huntress is very important the further you get in the game. Any group wants to have a skilled huntress for the ability to deal huge amounts of damage quickly. Later in the game the huntress can target more than one enemy at once and there is nothing more powerful for burst damage than her traps. It’s also worth noting that watching 20+ creeps go flying to their death after a proximity mine explodes is quite fantastic.
Monk (support/hybrid) – Monks are a very important class to have around because they can do everything, but they can be a bit frustrating because they don’t really excel at any of them. A monk has high HP but not as much as a squire. They can hit multiple enemies like a squire as well, but seemingly for less damage. The secondary attack for a monk is a ranged attack, but it does far less damage than the ranged attacks of the apprentice and the huntress. Lastly the monk places auras around the map, which are incredibly helpful (definitely the strength of the class) but none of them are as bombastic as the other classes (ie they are important but boring).
The one thing the Monk brings that is truly unique is the strength drain aura (slow + lightning is awesome as well, but *can* be replaced by other classes). This alone make a monk, even a poorly played one, worthwhile in a group. But the true strength of the class is becoming an expert. Even though none of the other abilities are as good as their counterparts, a skilled player using all of those skills at once can turn a certain defeat into a win. So much like the druid in World of Warcraft, if you put this class in the hands of someone willing to use every single aspect of the character you will be amazed at what the class is capable of. But, they certainly aren’t for beginners and can be tough to solo with as the only damage your auras does is lightning, so you will need to be everywhere at once to deal with lightning resistant foes.
Let’s get started (basic concepts)
If you are a bit overwhelmed by all the info thrown at you in the character class section… don’t be. All you need to do is choose which sounds the best to you on a basic level. I am writing this, however, assuming that a squire or apprentice was chosen. I will touch on the huntress and monk, but in general you will need a decent understanding of the game of and genres to excel with those.
The concept behind Dungeon Defenders is quite simple. On any given map there is an Eternia Crystal (or 2, or 3, or 4) and there are Creep Doors, and creeps pour through the doors and head for the crystals. It’s your job to stop them. How you do this up to you. As an action RPG you will get new and better weapons, equipment and you will level up your characters and bolster certain skills in the skill tree. You can even level up your gear to make it even more powerful (which I will get to in another section).
Deciding how you want to stop the creeps is the first step. There are basically three choices… do a build that makes your towers more powerful, do a build that makes your personal attacks more powerful or do a hybrid of the two. Now, you should know that no matter which route you take you will still need to do both (towers and personal DPS) but you are choosing which you are more reliant on. If you aren’t particularly good at strategy games or tower defense games you may want to go for higher HP, DPS and Speed so you can kill as many creeps as you can personally. Likewise, if you have a strategic mind, you may want to bolster your towers and then pick and choose where you help with your weaker (and more likely to die) character.
Death is not permanent by the way. You will respawn. The only death penalty is you will drop the mana you have on you.
Starting the game you only have one point to put into your skill tree so you won’t be turning the tide of your character in any major way. So choose your character, pick their colors, name them and then choose either “full tutorial” (which you will do each action, but is quite long) or “quick tutorial” which will show you a video chock full of stuff you will forget almost immediately. Don’t worry, I’m going to help parse this info.
The first level (The Deeper Well)
The game has two phases, the build phase and the combat phase. You start in the build phase, and as long as you aren’t playing on Insane the build phase has no timer, so take your time to get a feel for everything.
The first two things you need to figure out as you enter each level is where your Eternia Crystal is and where the Creep Doors are. From there you can use basic reasoning to figure out the paths the creeps will take to get to the crystal. Also, if you look at each door you will see a list with how many of what type of enemy is coming.
On this level on the first wave you will notice that there are three doors on the lower section with Creeps ready to come for you. You should then note there are only two stairwells up to the crystal. The stairwells are also kinda thin. Do i smell a choke points? Yes, yes I do. But to build you will need mana, so open the treasure chests near each door and grab the mana and get ready to build.
If you are a mage throw a lightning tower anywhere from halfway up each stairwell or higher (their range is short early on). If you are a squire build a blockade on each stairwell. If you have left over mana and want to build another lightning tower next to the ones you have… or another blockade further back – have at it.
Once your defenses are set run upstairs and click the crystal to hop into combat phase. And then go back downstairs and start wailing on the creeps as they come out of the door. You will probably notice quickly that if the creeps are in the purple circle near each door that they are invincible (except for creeps that do ranged damage). So it’s best to let them get a few steps outside and then give them the business. Chances are you will finish this wave with minimal help from your towers. Good job, so far you are awesome.
Gather up the mana (you can only hold a certain amount at a time so you may need to gather, build, gather more, build more, etc) and go make some more towers. There is a limit to how many towers you can put down in a map, which is up in the upper right hand corner… but you won’t need to worry about this yet. This second wave has more creeps coming, but once again it’s from the bottom three doors. But here’s a spoiler for you, the wave after this one has creeps that come from the doors upstairs, so if you have the extra mana it may be a good idea to start building towers up there to prepare for that.
Also, you will notice some loot on the ground. The basic rule is that if the box is green it’s an upgrade, if it’s red it’s not, if it’s grey it’s either too high a level or not for your class (if you are playing solo you won’t get loot for other classes). The tooltip will give you two buttons to push, one to equip the piece now and one to put it in your item box to look at/equip/sell later.
The problem is that green is not always better, unfortunately. The system in which trendy decides what is better is not dependent at all on what your current build is. If you rely on towers and you are wearing a hat that improves tower heath by two and then you see a hat on the ground that improves your personal health by 3, it will tell you the hat on the ground is better, even though you never are putting yourself in harm’s way and don’t need HP as much. So take a look at the stats. But you don’t really need to worry about this early on, in general if it says its better in the very early game, it probably is.
So once you sort what loot you are putting on and what you are throwing in your box, and you have all the new defenses up go and hit the crystal again. The second wave is like the first, but with more dudes. You will need to rely on your towers a bit more but with them and your own damage you should be able to clear this wave no problem.
The third wave, as I said before, has guys coming from the doors up top as well. It’s always a good idea to know where are the physical doors are on a map so you can check to see if any are coming so you don’t get some surprise visitors with a clear path to your crystal. Bringing up the map will also give you a bird’s eye view of this though getting your bearings with that map is a bit awkward at first.
If you have leveled up again (now to level 3) you will have opened up the second tower. For the apprentice this is the barrier, for the squire it is a spring-loaded barrier. Use these, they are both very helpful.
In the later waves watch the creep billboards as they tell you whats coming out of each door. You will see that guys will start coming out of the doors up top so set up defenses accordingly.
Other basic concepts:
The first thing to know is that you cannot level up during the battle phase. If you happen to level up during battle you will have to wait till the next build phase to apply it. Once you are in the build phase click R1/RB on the controller, or the middle mouse button on the mouse. Go over to hero in the upper right and hit X/A/LMB and then choose the top one called Hero Info. From here you will get two different boxes. The left is your skill tree, the right is your character with the gear he/she is wearing, weapon they are using the pet they have with them. Ignore the right box for now, its covered later, but in the left box you will have a number of points to put into your skill tree each time you level.
What you do with these points is up to you. There is no need to be perfect with your point distribution so don’t worry all that much about it. You just need to decide what you are going for. If you are playing with friends and are in charge of towers, then by all means dump all your points into towers. Likewise with personal damage. I don’t ever level the special attacks of each character, but maybe you use them a lot and would benefit from that. I will say that if you are playing primarily solo you will want a fairly even spread of points. Your towers need to be strong enough to defend the areas you aren’t at, and your personal DPS needs to be high enough to take down the ogres. So just spread those suckers out
Your Defender’s Forge (item box):
Whenever you pick something up that you don’t equip it goes to your item box. There is an item box on every level (only during the build phase) and in the tavern (actually there is two, but the other is hidden). Once you open your item box you are given three options:
We are going to ignore Hero Info and Swap Hero for now, but click on item box (or the corresponding controller button if you are playing with a controller). This is where all your stuff is stored. From here you can sell pieces for mana (you need this mana to upgrade your equipment, so selling gear is very important), you can equip it, you can lock it (so it won’t be accidentally sold) or you can just leave it be. Basically after every game I go into my item box and put on whatever upgrades are in there, lock whatever stuff I want to keep for later (if im leveling) or for another character, and then I sell the rest.
Leveling up your items:
Back at the forge this time we are going to click on Hero Info. You will see the same two boxes as before with the skill tree and the inventory. This time we are going to pay attention to the inventory. Once you are wearing gear that isn’t what you started the game with (which should be after you finish the level I did a walkthrough of above) you can upgrade what you are wearing. And move the cursor over to your weapon and hit X/A/LMB. You will see all the stats for the weapon and a half circle meter at the bottom. On the PS3/360 you will need to hold down R2/RT to fill that half circle – on the PC just click “invest all.” Once it is fully invested you have leveled it up once and you can then go up and pick which stat you want to upgrade. With weapons this is almost universally weapon damage (though if you can add extra projectiles to a mage staff for instance, that’s even better).
You can do the same stuff with the gear you are wearing. This is where you will level up the other stats, like jacking up your tower damage or run speed. Don’t be afraid to level your equipment up, even early. Believe me, what seems like a lot of mana early in the game can be made in seconds later on. So, at the very least, try to level up whatever weapon you are using a few times to get a big boost to your DPS.
There is only a certain number of times a piece of equipment can be upgraded, as shown in the bottom right. Early/crappy gear tends to have a lower number (and in fact some gear can’t be upgraded at all, though its rare) but as you get deeper into the game you will start finding pieces that can be upgraded 20 to 50 times. And this is when you will start the mana hording grind.
Pets in this game are interesting because they are more powerful than you would assume looking at them. When i first saw them added to the game I thought they were like the pets you get in in WoW that don’t really do anything except for look cool. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Most pets can put out a decent amount of damage. It’s not crazy… like right now my warrior can do 22K dps and my pet does 2k. So it’s not winning any battles for me, but you better believe that the 2k comes in handy over the course of a battle wave. There are tons of pets and they all have different side abilities, which is where they really excel. Some pets will bolster or repair defense, knockback enemies, heal you or do other cool shit.
Pets are usually the last thing you can equip, as you wont start finding them for a long time (unless you got them buying the game) and they usually have a level requirement of 20+. But once you find one it’s worthwhile to level it up. It’s also just fun to collect them and see what they all do.
Leveling multiple characters:
Once you get going you will get to the point where you can beat levels without having to do any personal DPS at all. Not only does this make you a tower defense savant (congrats!) but it also means you can start power leveling the other classes much easier.
You can do it earlier, but what i did on both the PS3 and when I changed over to the PC was level up my squire until he was able to run The Ramparts (12th or so level) on hard (usually around level 40+) with ease. And I would spend the first two waves setting up my defense and collecting mana to upgrade said defenses and then between waves I would go to the Forge and select Swap Characters and choose a lowbie.
The lowbie, obviously, can’t do much of anything once the next wave starts, but he can stand there and collect experience out the wazoo for what the towers put down by the higher level guy is killing.
Another option is to use a second controller and go split screen and just AFK the 2nd controller guy somewhere safe. But be warned that playing with more players at once means it’s a bit more difficult than solo.
Deciding what you want out of the game:
Dungeon Defenders is a great game and will give you back what you put into it. If you want to go hardcore you can, as evidenced by my 40+ hours on the PC and 50 or so hours on the PS3… and i have friends on the PC over 200 hours at this point. But, if you don’t want to spend the rest of your life playing you can take a more casual approach and still feel rewarded.
Assuming you just want to beat the campaign, my suggestion is to stick with one character (or two, preferably, if you have the time) and just make your way through the campaign. It’s fun, it’s a decent length (maybe 5-7 hours?) and you will feel satisfied by the time you beat the final boss. And you will finish with a fairly strong character that won’t be amazing by any stretch but if you wanted to play with a friend online you would be able to contribute.
If you want to go the more hardcore approach, you really need at least one of each class (or one of each class and a second of whatever class you want to dps with… so 1 tower build of each class and 1 DPS of a single class). And beating the campaign is just the beginning. You will want to do it on every level, get every achievements, beat every challenge) play survival mode for hours at time, pour over the dungeon defenders forums for info/strats… and play an absolute ton online.
Have a question? Leave a comment. I will hopefully add more to this guide as time goes on.
*Don’t forget to level up your weapons damage!
*Don’t neglect run speed, some of the bigger maps are impossible if you are moving slowly. And having a huge DPS doesn’t mean crap if you are spending more time getting place to place.
*Don’t feel bad knocking down the difficulty or doing the same level over a couple of times to ‘grind’ up some levels. The game is challenging solo and this will help ease that.
*After playing for a while when you feel like you are starting to understand it watch the tutorial video again, there may be a little bit of info that you missed that will make sense to you now.