Dungeon Defenders is developed and published by Trendy Entertainment and is available on PC, PSN, XBLA and later on in the year, iOS and Android before wrapping up with a PS Vita version in 2012. Dungeon Defenders is a Co-op Tower Defence Action RPG which can be switched from third person to isometric at any point in the game.
The game’s premise is that four apprentices of four masters have to protect the Eternia Crystals from a horde of monsters after accidentally unleashing them. The game has a large number of modes to play but the first decision to make is whether you play it online or locally. Online ranked play uses the TrendyNet service which is the games server interface which you need to be connected to in order to play online and earn achievements. Online ranked play lets you use character you have made specifically for ranked and can use nowhere else, while player matches and local play use the same characters that you have created. You are able to play co-op both online and locally on the same computer and the game allows for keyboard and mouse as well as gamepads.
The game lets you create characters of (initially) four classes: the monk, the squire, the apprentice and the huntress though PC gamers have been given a sneak peak at the silhouettes of two new characters that have yet to be officially announced. You can then name and colour your characters to make them as unique as you can visually as aside from the name, colour, weapons and pets there are no visual differences (like hats(yet)) but there is plenty of statistics to personalise your characters with. You also can customize the colouring on your Eternia Crystals as well as choosing different designs which unlock as you earn achievements.
The characters are hugely unique and have very different playing styles as well as abilities and towers/auras/traps. The Apprentice is the Mage and can lay down magical towers with two towers having elemental damage, two being non-elemental and then a magical blockade that nullifies the element that the attacking enemy has. He also has a magic staff that can either shoot magic bolts which do lowish damage or do an AOE burst which damages and knocks back the opponents. The Squire is a Knight and has a big sword and the ability to block which reduces damage, letting him be the high damage bruiser of the team. Three of his towers cause knockback; the bouncer blockade, the harpoon turret and the bowling ball turret, while the spiked blockade damages enemies that attack it and the slice and dice spins up and tears nearby enemies to shreds (figuratively). The Huntress is an archer/gunman that can fire from afar with crossbows, guns and various other ranged weapons while letting her traps devastate the enemy hordes. Three of her traps just damage with to single or multiple targets while her gas traps stun the enemies and her darkness traps let you evade enemies who walk through as they lose sight of you and carry on as normal. Unfortunately her need for reloading is attached to her second attack. The Monk has a slightly lower DPS than the Squire in melee and also can fire from afar with magic bolts. He sets down auras which make him more of a support character as only his lightening aura damages but his other auras are invaluable. He has a healing aura which heals allies over time within its radius, a slowing aura, an aura which lowers the enemies strength and the enrage aura which causes enemies to attack each other if they are within its radius for long enough.
The main game mode is a standard tower defence split into waves which start with the build phase and when you’re finished with that you can enter the combat phase to bring the enemies into the firing line. There is also a Boss phase on certain levels which pit your towers against a huge onslaught at the same time as you having to defeat the Boss of the level. The build phase gives you the task of being able to quickly build towers/traps/auras as well as upgrade and repair them more quickly. It also is devoid of any enemies so you are safe to roam the map, so long as you don’t jump into: spike pits, lava, off a cliff etc. Chests spawn each wave at the beginning of the build phase so that you can gather mana and loot from them. Mana is the universal currency which allows you to build, upgrade, repair, and use abilities on the field but is also used outside of the battles in the Tavern and Forges where you can buy equipment and upgrade equipment respectively. Enemies also drop mana and while only a certain amount is left on the field at any one point in time any dropped mana from creatures stay on the field until the combat phase starts. You are also allocate defence units for a level which dictates how many towers etc can be placed at any one time, with the higher costing more powerful things using more defence units than others; thankfully upgrading doesn’t affect these numbers. During the build phase you can see what enemies and how many of each type will appear from each entrance; so you always know which lanes to beef up first and which to leave until later. You can have infinite build time but options do allow for set time each round and to begin the combat phase one player needs to activate any of the Eternia crystals on the map (sometimes one sometime multiple). Once a player has activated a crystal a countdown until the combat phase begins, the other players can activate it also, which lowers the time by a percentage and once all players have readied up or the time runs out the combat begins.
The combat phase has an onslaught of enemies coming out of the entrances located around the map. A bar at the top of the screen shows how many enemies in total there are in the wave as well as how many have been killed. Along with a counter at the top showing the wave number, phase and how many defence units have been used against total defence allowed. Enemies will normally take the quickest route to your crystal(s) but some entrances have enemies splitting into multiple directions and if you attack an enemy you gain its aggression and it will follow you so long as you stay within a certain distance of it while damaging it. Enemies do have their differences with the basic grunts being Goblins which are backed up by the larger more powerful Orcs and Dark Elf Archers. Later on you find yourself against Dark Elf Mage which heal enemies and summon skeletons, Wyverns will attack from the skies and get to your crystals easily, Kobolds will blow up structures with their explosive-strapped bodies and Dark Elf Warriors will mercilessly attack you if you get too close and hunt you down for a short period. Aside from bosses there is the more regular appearance from the hulking Ogres which have huge health deposits and will soak up a lot of damage. As you progress through the levels you will come across upgraded versions of each enemy type which are instantly recognisable from the previous incarnations because of their differing colour palate and arrow(s) above their health bars.
Loot and levelling up are also huge parts of the game; levelling begins at level 0 when you create a character and then reaches level 70 which is the current level cap. Levelling up to level 1 is available as soon as your level 0 character enters the game. You can then allocate your skill points into one of the eight perks at the beginning after some levelling two abilities are available to purchase which are both unique to your class. The 8 perks are split into 4 sections with the two perks in each section corresponding to the same principle but one is for your heroes stats while the other affects your towers’ stats. The perks are Health, which also increase length of time on auras and number of detonation on traps. Damage increases damage, Area of Effect is for towers while your hero has Speed. Lastly Cast Time for your hero and Reset Time or Attack Speed for towers. Levelling up also increases the amount of mana that you can carry at any one point and as you get to higher levels more towers become available to you. Levelling is affected by the amount of enemies that you and your towers kill as well as XP for awards and completing a level. Loot plays a large part as you will constantly be picking up items to sell, trade and equip for your characters. Items all have levels of upgrades shown and because there is a system which tells you whether an item is better than your currently equipped item, it occasionally gets confusing. This is a problem with the lower levels more specifically as you won’t have the mana to upgrade items so it is a little misleading when you find an item which does less but the game says it’s better than what you have equipped. Aside from weapons and armour you can also buy and upgrade pets which come with a host of character buffs for you to take advantage of as well as them having special abilities such as attacking enemies or healing you. Upgrade can be done at a forge where you can check your items (equipped or banked) and append mana in order to boost stats of your choosing. As you do more upgrades the mana cost drastically increases so upgrading at early levels is left to a minimum.
There are two tutorials to choose from: the full tutorial and the quick tutorial. The quick tutorial is a video guide teaching you the basics and is more of a quick primer for more seasoned gamers while the full tutorial is very comprehensive and is for gamers who need to play to learn the controls or for people who want the achievement as it nets a new crystal skin.
The other game modes come as a large variety of challenges with all sorts of strange and intensely difficult scenarios. These are one per level of the main game and each one is very different from the last. One sees the roles reversed as you take on the chance to destroy crystals defended by towers and various enemies; another has the crystal warping around the map as you try to protect it and one even has you fight side by side with an Ogre that you have to protect. The main levels can also be set to survival mode where you try to last for as many waves of enemies as possible; a pure strategy mode where you build your defences and let the towers do all the work as once the combat phase has started you can interfere and mix mode gives a random set of enemies in each wave. Add in the fact that once you’ve beaten medium or easy, you still have the hard and insane difficulties to take on. There is also a PVP mode so that you can test your mettle against other players to show who has the best gear and skills.
The game looks beautiful with its colourful and cartoony design and it never slows down when there are hundreds of enemies on screen. Everything is instantly recognisable due to the differing designs and colour palettes that the enemies and items use but the stat differences when equipping items and looting can get a little confusing and clustered.
The sounds are all very encouraging to listen to as they have a wide variety of reward sounds, from the level up noise to the cheer you receive when you complete a level or finish levelling up. The slice of your weapons in melee is very satisfying and the shots and magic you blast out are equally enjoyable and don’t get that repetitive to hear all the way through the game. The music backing each level is always good and it still manages to feel easy-going and fun even when it has a darker vibe to its melody.
Presentation and Audio
It is a well-designed game with lots of fun, colourful visuals with instantly recognisable creatures and objects so that you always know what’s going on in the heat of battle. The sounds are rewarding and encourage you to continue playing and music is light heated enough but does have a darker tone in some themes.
The game plays beautifully with an easy to learn controls which demand little from the player as the layout of towers and purchasing of loot is a more cerebral or luck based task. You will find more and more to do as you slowly scratch away at the surface. Each new level and challenge bring more fun and the difficulties just add to the experience.
This is one of the best tower defence games ever made and even though it’s already overflowing with content, more is still to come. Aside from the odd tweak that is needed to things like the settings being outside of the game and the awkward system for comparing loot there isn’t anything bad to say about the game.
As you may have noticed I really enjoyed this game; I’ve spent almost 20 hours and am about level 36 as a Squire and about level 8 with the others. You find out quite soon who you like the most and although I thought that monk would be my playstyle I soon found the lack of physical objects lacking. I moved to the squire after playing through each character to level 8 in local (don’t play single player at all it’s nowhere near as fun as with other people) as his knockback on turrets (seriously the bowling balls are really fun) and his more combat orientated role won me over. I found that although a balanced team is really effective, you can still do a decent game with all the same character. I do still find the loot comparisons to be annoyingly awkward but it is better than no comparison at all and at least gives you a basic idea on whether to sell or equip an item.
Disclaimer:All scores given within our reviews are based on the artist’s personal opinion; this should in no way impede your decision to purchase the game.