Review: Dungeon Defenders (XBLA)

Review: Dungeon Defenders (XBLA)

Etheria’s heroes have captured the Old Ones within Etheria Cores, preventing them from spreading their evil across the lands. With the kingdom at peace, the adventurers have set off to confront other dangers, leaving their younger siblings behind to guard the realm. Through unfortunate accident, the evil hordes become aware of the Etheria Cores and begin a merciless onslaught bent on freeing the Old Ones and raining death and destruction across the world. All that stands in their way…is a group of four young adventurers-in-training, the Dungeon Defenders.

Dungeon Defenders is an action-RPG tower defense game that does one thing other games of this genre so far, to my knowledge, have not: it provides phenomenal multiplayer, and makes it a core element of the game. In each of its categories (action-RPG, tower defense, co-op multiplayer), it excels. When they are combined, they create euphoric delight. This is a tower defense game. There are multiple towers, both offensive and defensive, available, with each character type having its own unique set. The tower defense element is very recognizable, and very well done. This is an action-RPG game. As you play, your characters earn XP to advance in levels, up to 70. With each level comes attribute points which can be put towards your character’s direct stats, your bonus abilities, or towards your tower defense stats. Another major mainstay of action-RPGs, the loot, is extremely present. There will be a lot of loot, with a lot of different statistics, and a lot of different ways to level said loot. That’s right, loot can be upgraded by spending mana. This is a co-op multiplayer game. Granted, that’s not much of a genre in the same way that action-RPG and tower defense are, but it is the glue that binds everything together and what makes this a truly fantastic game. With drop-in/drop-out multiplayer, and the ability to have local players host an online game (which is a feature that is sorely lacking in games lately), Dungeon Defenders shines when you’re playing with others.

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When you first start playing Dungeon Defenders, you are presented with the option of a full tutorial, a quick tutorial, or no tutorial at all. If you haven’t played, do yourself a favor and run through the tutorial. There are a lot of seemingly minor abilities and functions that you will want to be familiar with in order to maximize your effectiveness as a player. You’re able to choose from four available classes, with each class having a different level of difficulty associated to its gameplay. This isn’t to say that playing one class will make the game harder, just that it requires more skill to play that particular class. The Apprentice dons his robe and wizard hat to bring magical attacks and towers/defenses to the game. The Squire suits up and provides tank-like melee and physical damage/defense towers. The Huntress slinks around and uses ranged attacks in conjunction with her traps and explosive defenses. The Monk has put aside non-violence to apply area of effect status effects to enemies, as well as party healing. Each type has its strengths, and when played together in a multiplayer game, they become quite a formidable team.

What if you’re playing solo? How are you supposed to gain the benefit of the well balanced and blended party when there’s just…one of you? In my opinion the greatest thing about Dungeon Defenders is how the solo gameplay was built to allow, if not an identical experience to multiplayer, at least something fairly close. Between waves, you can head to your Forge, which is generally located near your Etheria Core, and swap between any of your characters. Mana and items (when not class-restricted) are shared between all of your characters within your Item Box. Do you really like playing as the Apprentice, but desperately want some status effect traps and physical defenses to help take the weight off? Switch to your Monk to place the effect traps, switch to your Squire to build your physical defenses, then switch back to your Apprentice and continue the next wave, with a more varied defense than your single character type could have put up on its own.

There’s more to Dungeon Defenders than the main campaign story levels, however. PvP, Challenge Missions, Survival Mode, Pure Strategy Mode, and Mix Mode, along with replaying the story mode on harder difficulties, all provide new and different experiences that really extend the life of the game, while providing advanced loot and experience for returning to the campaign mode with. Challenge Missions require you to beat a level with a certain condition enforced, such as playing with no towers, for example. Survival Mode throws endless waves of enemies your way, and scores you on how well you perform long-term. Mix Mode modifies Survival Mode by randomizing the types of enemies that come your way. Pure Strategy Mode strips you of your personal offensive capabilities, from your basic attacks to your special abilities, and requires that you beat the rampaging hordes of evil in a purely tower defense manner. There’s also a PvP mode to pit yourself against others and see who the most daring dungeon defender is!

Finally, stats. I am the kind of guy who LOVES statistics when playing games. If a game offers me statistics of what I did, how I did, etc., I get almost as excited about reading through them as I was for actually doing what was being tracked. Dungeon Defenders has one of the most wonderful stats systems in recent memory. Not only can you see wave by wave line graphs detailing enemy spawns vs. kills by player, but you can see what kinds of enemies each player killed, how the enemies were killed (whether directly by the player’s hand or by a player-owned defense), and so much more that I could write an entire review just on the stats system. It was pure nerdvana.

Dungeon Defenders offers one of the most entertaining multiplayer experiences of the year. I’m generally not the kind of person who will go on and re-play a game anytime soon after I’ve already beaten it. There are too many games, and not enough time. There are, however, a few exceptions, like Neverwinter Nights, Super Mario Bros. 3, Sonic the Hedgehog, Spider-Man 2…and now Dungeon Defenders. The game is just so incredibly fun, and overwhelmingly full featured, that you can’t help but keep playing. For 1200MSP, a game like this is an absolute steal. This has been a fantastic year so far for XBLA games. With only two and a half months left, Trendy Entertainment may have given me one of my top 3 favorite XBLA games this year.

Review

ProsCons
ExcellentLocal split-screen requires adjusting the scale
of the user interface (menus, inventory screen, shops, etc).
Results in difficulty seeing stats and information.
Rating
99 out of 100
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