The formula for a tower-defence game has been refined and reshaped over the last few years. Both small indie and big-name developers have contributed significantly to the genre that it can be easily accessible, and yet infinitely complex. Dungeon Defenders is no exception to this rule, and it adds its own twist to the genre as well. Unlike most tower-defence games which involve manipulating an overworld maps, Dungeon Defenders bringing in action RPG elements to the table, creating an interesting new experience as a result.
The story is pretty cookie cutter, while goofing off in a castle, young aspiring apprentices of various Hero classes knock over a crystal, which causes untold evils to break free from their imprisonment, and said evils begin to storm the castle. The apprentices are then forced to defend the castle from an unending line of monsters, from goblins, orcs, dark elves, etc. The art style to compliment this story gives it a familiar, yet clean look, devoid of any seriousness, which works in the games favor.
The gameplay, like I said above, is a cooperative action RPG tower defence. An interesting premise at first that excels in execution. You start by creating a character from based on several well-established Hero classes, such as magicians, warriors, monks, and archers. You and three other optional friends are then placed in a part of the castle, where you have to defend a main crystal from enemy attack. To do so, everyone in the match has to fortify the castle, using their character’s specific towers and abilities which will prevent enemies from moving forward. All of this is done in the build phase.
During the attack phase, the doors crash open, and enemies flood the map. You, along with your castle’s defences, have the ability to attack oncoming forces with your own special abilities from a third person perspective. If you are able to survive the round, another building phase ensues, and you can create, repair, or upgrade your defences, while also picking up item upgrades enemies dropped on the map. The match ends when either your team survives enough waves to move on to the next level, or the enemies eventually destroy your crystal in the middle of the map.
Dungeon Defenders is made to be very easy to pick up, yet in the later stages, the difficulty escalates fairly quickly. In one match, you may only have fifty or sixty enemies to defeat, while in other rounds, the count may escalate dramatically to 300. This makes communication a requirement for higher levels of play, as going off to do your own thing could easily result in your team getting run over.
The character you create levels up throughout your entire time in Dungeon Defenders. The way your character’s ability to fluctuate is pretty standard, yet the amount of items available to loot is very reminiscent of Diablo or Torchlight. This gives you the feeling that your character is actually improving overtime, along with your developing strategies you learned as you play the game. To add more complexity to matches, if you have more than one character available, you will be able to switch Hero classes during a build phase, adding some pretty nifty, yet completely optional, strategies to the mix.
When trying to play online, hitting the join match button with out any customizations will leave you aggravated, since most of the time, you will be put into matches that have other players either being too high or too low leveled for a balanced match. You can easily fix this by sorting by hero level, but this only tells you the level of the host. It could have been nice to have a better matchmaking system, but this problem is kind of forgivable.
Dungeon Defenders does succeed at what it wants to accomplish, by creating a absolutely engaging and fun cooperative experience, filled with several layers of strategic depth. While it may look like a generic RPG on the front, on the inside it’s filled with some pretty fun innovations that gives it reason to be lauded. If you and a few friends get together to buy this, or you don’t mind talking to strangers, then Dungeon Defenders is made to be a pretty strong purchase.