Dungeon Defenders

Overview

Developed by Trendy Entertainment, Dungeon Defenders is an action RPG style dungeon-crawler infused with a tower defense game. Trendy Entertainment began with Dungeon Defenders: First Wave for iOS and Android, and have continued with the release of their first title for PC, XBLA and PSN. It is also slated to be released on the PS Vita, most likely around the same time the handheld launches in 2012. The mobile version has the same type of gameplay but with simplified controls. To me, I usually see most tower defense games as time consuming and repetitive. I admit that I don’t devote much time to these types of games, but I can definitely say that this has changed my mind about the genre. The RPG and tower defense elements used are actually the parts I enjoy from each genre. It seems to be an even mix of mind-bending tactical mana-ness.

Gameplay

You are the next generation of heroes that must save the land of Etheria from an Ancient Evil called the Old Ones. The Eternia Crystal provides the jail to where the Old Ones dwell in, but there are several waves of enemies looking to break them out. Your parents are the champions that defeated the Old Ones and imprisoned them. When your parents leave on a quest, you are left with the dungeon duties while Evil decides enough is enough and starts to fight back. Now, you must defend the Crystal at all costs or you die, everyone else dies, your pet dies and the game is over. If not for yourself, please do it for your pet. It’s a Liger.

Choose from four different character classes: the Huntress, Squire, Apprentice and Monk. These are the basic classes and a strong element of being an RPG. I chose the Squire since I love beating the crap out of ogres and imps on a daily basis.  You have a choice to join an online or local co-op game and utilize the skills you have to plan out the right defenses. Select local and venture out alone into the abyss of dungeon creepies. You either can try the survival or challenge mode, and get through all the levels at different difficulties. I chose the all-out survival mode at Hard and nearly died at the end of each level. After pulling my hair out, I switched to Medium and it worked out perfectly with my slow response times and shoot from the hip attitude. I normally don’t do well in FPS because I sacrifice myself for the team. Alas, there’s no team here.

The duration of each round can be determined on the length of build and difficulty. Want an infinite amount of time to build? Easily deselect or select it from the difficulty level screen. The build phase of the level allows you to set up your defenses by how much mana you have. There are chests along the walkways of the dungeon that carry mana, health, and character specific items, such as armor and weapons. You have the ability to level up your character as in regular RPG games, where you can add the skill points to whichever ability you’d like to upgrade. The items you collect are kept in an item box. I haven’t met the capacity of it yet due to selling all of my items at the Tavern. I liked the idea of having a basic item box where I didn’t have to maneuver my items or drop them if I didn’t have any room. I just picked up the loot, finished the level and sold it to the Tavernkeep. You can lock items and sell the rest easily, instead of going page after page of useless stuff. The Tavern area was great to break the monotony of the tower defense gameplay.

The Tavern is available during the beginning and end of the levels once you complete them. You are able to forge weapons, buy and sell any loot you’ve acquired through the waves of enemies. You use mana as a currency as well. During the combat parts of the level, you are given a certain amount of mana points for clearing waves and for a quick setup. Pets are available as well and I just had enough mana to purchase one, since I normally need a buddy to assist me at times when I get too frustrated with having to respawn. Right now, I have a dragon-like pet that I plan on helping me with the Wyverns, which are pteradactyl like creatures that bother the crap out of me when my towers are useless to fight them. Their aerial attacks frustrate me the most. There are several types of enemies that keep you busy throughout the combat phase and each one can infiltrate your defenses quite easily if you leave a worn down barrier up.

Graphics

Using the Unreal Engine 3, this cartoon-esque attention grabber keeps you enthralled in both the build and fight elements of this game. The art style does the story telling as you venture through the introduction. It reminded me of Torchlight and gave you the feeling of being able to play this for more than an hour without hurting your eyes. Okay, I’ll admit it. The art style is almost entirely like Torchlight.  All I could think about was Torchlight after playing this game and that I haven’t played it in a few weeks.

Fun Factor

I noticed I was kept on my toes thinking of what to put next and what to do in order to make the barrier stronger. The type of enemies helped me decide as to where my towers would work well and which weapons I can use in order to make an efficient blockade. You can either sit back and beat up the ones that get through your lines, or you can jump in and assist the blockades. Your armor and melee weapon are upgrade-able and are greatly needed if there is just one enemy trying to use a bow and arrow to destroy a barrier that won’t simply be defeated. The available online or local co-op play was also a great point of interest for me. You can either join in on a ranked or unranked game. Use each others weaknesses and strengths as to what would work and argue over who gets what loot and what barriers should be used. You can have a pet, or familiar, like Fable II and many other RPGs. This pet can assist you in fighting, level up to 36 with mana and against those aerial attacks. The pet is expensive, but I would say it’s a great investment. There are special familiars such as the Animus Familiars can only be equipped by what their matching hero type is. You can also trade your familiar with other players.

I liked the AI because it made you work for your mana. The waves of enemies can also easily get you frustrated  with the ways they just come up and easily pummel your barriers when you decide that the insane difficulty setting is a great idea. The enemies never gave up and made the game challenging, regardless of what difficulty. With the up close fighting style I usually take, the enemies looked great and were tactfully maneuvering around me to break down the barriers.

Overall

I was definitely surprised when I downloaded this game, since I haven’t played many tower defense games. It kept my interest as I was able to level up and use my defenses to fight off the incoming waves of enemies. The fact that there is a pet called a Liger makes this for interesting gameplay. Trendy Entertainment surely has raised the bar on tower defense games and have given RPGs a well-constructed challenge. All of the elements of this game seem to mesh together and present a hell of a game. However, the graphics could only remind me of Torchlight. I want to remember the game I’m playing, not the one I’ve been missing for the past week or so.