Ah… tower defense… let me count the ways in which I love thee… but oh, if only one could combine the joys of tower defense and the frenetic action of FPS multi-player co-op, in a perfect mix of both worlds.
Oh! Wait! What’s this? Dungeon Defenders you say? And Orcs Must Die! What? I have two new shiny ones to choose from?
Yes, yes indeed, like an orc infested underground dungeon bus I’ve sat around waiting for one and then two have arrived simultaneously to provide me with a headache and a quandry… which shall I buy? Which is… well… best? Well, I’m happy to say they are both excellent and they both cover slightly different demographics, so worry not fellow vanquisher, for the answers are below!
Firstly, for clarity, you may want to also take a look at our “Orcs Must Die!” review. It’s only fair you have all the fantasy tower defense actioner information at your disposal…
Anyway, let’s get back to Dungeon Defenders, as that is what you came here for after all!
This one really does have something for everyone, you can get your tower defense kicks whilst also enjoying some competent first person mayhem with up to 3 other like minded… well… dungeon defenders.
So, what to expect? Well this looks and feels like a mix between Gauntlet, Torchlight and Defense Grid, which just happen to be 3 of my favourite games of all time!
The basic premise is that there are a fixed number of maps which each have both set spawn points for monsters and fixed “Ethereal Crystal” locations, it is then the players job to place traps, towers and defenses between the spawn points and crystal(s) such that the monsters are not able to destroy the crystals. The crystals are fairly hardy, but at higher difficulties must be constantly monitored and protected. Each game is comprised of multiple “waves” of enemies between which are “building phases” which allow players to build, upgrade or repair their defenses. There, that’s simple enough isn’t it! Well, yes, but of course there is more.
The game really comes alive with the development of your character(s), which you can actually switch in and out during the building phase before each wave, each character has not only skills, but a variety of defenses, powers, a huge variety of equipment options and even the choice of a pet to assist them. Combining the random item generator, for both weapons and armour, with the myriad, and refreshingly frequent, skill upgrade options provides for as lively a “post-game” life as that experienced during play itself, and encourages the maintenance of a “roster” of different characters.
Graphic style is bright and varied without detracting from the task in hand, and whilst things can get very hectic this is still at manageable pace even for those new to the genre, as whilst it is quite possible to go down an “FPS” only route, making your character a one-person killing machine, or specialise in defenses and let your traps do the damage it is best to have a mix of both so that your defenses do the bulk of the work freeing you to respond to any tricky situations, prioritise targets (such as healers & flying units) and focus on bosses when they appear.
It should be noted that whilst most of your tactical work should take place in the “building phase” between waves it is quite possible to deploy, repair and upgrade traps “on the fly” during combat, although this is a much slower process mid-fight, prone to frequent disruption / interrupts and a fairly dangerous pursuit in the heat of battle.
The main combat mechanic centers around the destruction of the invading monsters, which then drop crystals, which you auto-pickup when nearby, providing you with resources to manage your defenses, use skills (including healing yourself) and, in the meta-game, buy and upgrade equipment.
The game gracefully auto-scales to fit your party size and power and with the rich choice of character classes provides a veritable feast of co-op mayhem, last-second saves and enjoyable teamwork. As I’ve already mentioned however, if you are keen to ensure your single player experience is the best possible you would do well to at least consider & compare “Orcs Must Die!”… our review of which will be linked to tomorrow in the fourth paragraph at the top of this page…
Anyway, when developers get the simple things right the complex things then tend to work well and add to the experience, this is certainly a game where simplicity is king, but also one where I, for one, spend almost as much time comparing looted equipment stats to actually defending any dungeons!
Graphics – 4/5: Beautiful, if a little cartoony for some, but, in reality, this only adds to the charm and clarity of what could otherwise be total confusion.
Sound – 3/5: It’s all there, and ship-shape, special mention for the Tavernkeep who ranks up there with the merchant in the Resident Evil 4 for enjoyably trite one liners…
Gameplay – 4/5: There’s towers to be built, weapons to be selected, stats to be tweaked, pets to raise, your very own tavern to kick back in… good times people… good times…
Longevity – 4/5: Might have scored a 3 here, had it not been very clear that Trendy are totally committed to adding to the game on an ongoing basis, with almost MMO levels of content being added since release long may this continue…
Overall: 4 waves out of 5
Whether you prefer tower games or shooters, RPG or FPS, MMO or single player there really is something for everyone… just remember that in the heat of battle a repaired defense is worth 2 or 3 newly built ones, be it your own or another players… be a mender amigo… and you will enjoy great victory and defend… many… a… dungeon?