The first thing you should know about this game is that it’s a bully, a big mean bully, it picks on you the player and makes you feel like nothing. Now much like dealing with a real life bully there’s only two ways to sort it. The first is to cry and never return to a mile radius of said tormentor, the second and better option is to gather a few friends to beat the crap out of the bully.
Dungeon Defenders is a tower defence game. This is a genre that passed me by for the longest time. One of my first forays into those murky waters was due to this very site when I review Dead Block. For those that are uninitiated in this field it’s a relatively simple concept. You the player have something to defend, lets say for example a “tower”, with traps or weapons you must fight back waves of enemies from destroying said “tower”. Now imagine this “tower” was in a “dungeon”, and now you have “Dungeon Defenders”. As far as I can tell tower defence games are a brutal genre, they give you the impression you’re in control or stand a chance at winning but one small slip up at any point in the onslaught and you will get swarmed in enemies like you just took a whizz on a wasp nest.
The story of Dungeon Defenders isn’t honestly relevant to the game itself, it’s actually much like a 1980s kids film at its most basic level. Four legendary defenders of good capture a big bad and trap he/she/it in a giant crystal. The warriors of light then get called away on a quest in foreign lands so the castle and it’s contents are left in the hands of their children. Whilst mucking around the kids break open the evil crystal and all hell breaks loose. You must now protect what remains of the prison prism and keep the hordes of Goblins, Ogres and Elves at bay.
You as a player pick one of the four sprogs to play as, you have a choice of the mage, the easiest choice apparently, the squire, the elven huntress or the slap head monk. Each class can there be customised with the choice of colouring in their outfits/skin/hair with different paints. The classes are given a difficulty rating, and to an extent they are very accurate, but as I implied in the first paragraph, anyone you choose to play as in single player is a mistake because quite simply this game will love you like a prison bunk buddy.
Each class has their own style, the knight is best at charging into the mix and just chopping up anyone who stands in his way, whilst his traps are mainly based around a strong defence with spiked walls and turrets. The elven huntress with her crossbows stands back from the fight but in the build time runs around laying various iterations of a basic mine. The mage is all about quick to build and cheap to run turrets that do jack all in fairness. The shiny headed monk is basically a bragging right, if you can get this character up to any level then you can go online and show him off to the world.
Each level starts with a build round, this is your chance to run around and lay your defences before the fighting begins. The levels are quite well designed, with the right mind set you can either spot or create choke points or force the enemies down certain paths towards an impressive trap array. There are a number of different levels each with their own thematic style, you have your gold rooms, dungeons and boiler rooms all in a medieval fashion. Studying the map at first is your best bet to keeping that crystal in one piece with well placed strategies and luck.
The games art style is a pseudo-cell shading with bright colourful auras around pretty much everything. It is a nice looking game, the style rings true all the way through the experience and mixed with the fantasy soundtrack the aesthetics and feel of the game work well. The child characters are cute in nature and have suitably fun voice work. The sound effects and music show a real skill in the design of this piece.
This game has something that many developers have been ignoring recently, and to me this is the most fun aspect of the game, split-screen co-op. As much fun as online multiplayer can be it’s nothing compared to sharing a sofa with a couple of friends and working out strategies, and as will be required in this game plan B’s. The single player in this game is just too hard, even on the easiest difficulty once your past the first few levels you will get to overwhelmed by enemies. Having four points the horde can come in from and only a set number of traps you can lay means you are always going to be spread too thin. With a buddy you can not only be covering more of the level with your physical presence you can also compliment each others traps. Whilst playing as the knight and my friend playing as the huntress we were able to set up almost pin-ball bouncer like defence that would send the enemies flying into proximity mines nearby we were able to combine our skills to produce a good set up around the levels.
Even in multiplayer this game is tough, it produces a real challenge that when you get past it you feel like you really have achieved something special. This game to me is something special, with a simple concept but with the addition of RPG elements of levelling characters and upgrading weapons and armour there is a reason to replay this. The game is fun, it requires well known action elements and skills when your in the thick of it but also needs the player to become a strategist and come up with an initial plan.
With this game being as good looking and fun as it is, and with a online and local co-op for four players this is worth picking up. New players and old can work together and although this isn’t a party game it is more fun with more people around, if nothing else to help you get past a couple of the tougher levels. Just try not to throw your controller across the room when one of your blockades falls and the enemies destroy you crystal like Godzilla in a cardboard city.
-Makes you feel smart
-UI hard to read