Dungeon Defenders PS3 Review
It’s hard to pinpoint exactly when Tower Defense games became as popular as they are right now; while current genres thriving today can be attributed to the mainstream success of a debut title (Modern Warfare for First Person Shooters, Guitar Hero for Rhythm Games, etc), but aside from the Warcraft III custom expansion DotA (which will soon be released as a “real” game by Valve), there isn’t a clear progenitor for the number of Tower Defense games.
Nevertheless, they’re here, and they’re expanding on all platforms, even going so far as to appear in other genres (namely Gears of War 3’s improved Horde Mode). Many are trying to make their mark as the penultimate ‘TD experience’, with games like League of Legends growing more popular by the day. So where does Trendy Entertainment’s Dungeon Defenders fit into all this? Let’s find out.
In the world of Dungeon Defenders, a group of heroes are renowned across the land for their brave deeds and mighty abilities…but you won’t be playing as them. Instead, the story revolves around their youthful apprentices and prodigies, pint-sized heroes in training who would rather play around than do their chores.
Typically, their horsing around knocks over a magical crystal that unleashes a demonic horde right on their doorstep; with the grown-up do-gooders away, it’s up to the youngsters to fend off the impending horde from reaching the sacred Eternian Crystal. Thus begins the tale of the Dungeon Defenders (It probably would have been more appropriate to call them Crystal Defenders, but Square Enix beat them to the trademark, and they’re already on thin-ice with Mattel).
The story is your average cookie-cutter Fantasy drivel, but thankfully does not advance beyond the intro; players choose between one of the four classes, from the melee-focused Squire to the magic-wielding Apprentice, to the support-driven Monk and the ranged-attacking Huntress. Each character features a different play-style and unlockable abilities, and the game allows multiple slots to allow players the chance to test-drive all of them.
The goal in each of the different maps is to protect the Eternian Crystal from multiple waves of hordes (six in each area). Before the monsters invade, you are given a Building period, which allows you to multi-manage your character’s equipment (as well as upgrade them), along with building devices to help fend off the enemies. Such devices include spiked blockades, magical towers, mounted crossbows and other defense structures that are exclusive to each class. These structures can be upgraded, repaired, and built as many times and wherever you choose, so long as you have the Mana for it. Mana acts as the primary currency for nearly everything in Dungeon Defenders, from upgrading your equipment (as well as purchase new ones from the local Tavern) to building and upgrading your structures. Fortunately, Mana can be obtained in chests, which also contain loot that can be auto-equipped, as well as from fallen enemies.
But don’t presume that you can go on a spending spree; you can only hold a certain amount of Mana at a time, and the sheer number of enemy forces require smart thinking and frugal spending in order to keep the crystal safe from harm; knowing what to build and where it can hinder enemies the most is a key strategy, as well as keeping your own custom character well-equipped and powered-up to help take out each wave in succession. When collecting enough experience points (which are awarded at the end of each wave), your character will eventually level up, unlocking new structures, personal abilities, and the chance to put points into strengthening one’s strength, speed, and other stats in addition to the stats of their defense structures.
Let’s make one thing clear: this game is no fun playing alone. Choosing to stick to singleplayer not only makes things more difficult for players, it also means they will level up and earn Mana at a snail’s pace. Instead, the core of the game is reliant in its multiplayer mode, in which players can instantly jump into any game or set up a specific amount of parameters to search for whatever map or rule set they’re accustomed to. The good news is that regardless of your level, players can prove as useful in dispatching enemies and building structures as fellow adventures that are significantly higher-leveled. Unlike other games like Borderlands that scale their enemies to the highest-level player, a level 1 can join a group of level 50s and not feel like the odd man out.
With multiple people working in tandem, Dungeon Defenders quickly shows off its charm; hundreds of enemies swarm all sides of the area, requiring co-operative planning and a determined trigger finger ready to mash that shoulder button for hours on end. Fortunately the learning curve is easy enough that any random group could form up and quickly learn the best methods to securing their crystal….provided you can suffer through the wordy, often excessive tutorial as well as the cluttered inventory screens, two factors that make the game seem more complicated than it actually is.
Also working against it is a spotty camera that tries to angle things just enough to fit in all the chaos, but also works against you by getting stuck in corners as well as obscuring a bottomless pit or two. There are multiple angles that can be cycled with the R3 button, but it’s a clunky mechanic all around that suggests that the game would be most suited on the PC, especially with the limited number of hotkey shortcuts you can use (only four, corresponding to the PS3’s D-pad). Interestingly enough, the game also supports the Move controller, but it’s only a minimal improvement (worse yet, the tutorial does not conform to the Move’s button layout, adding further confusion).
Like the playable heroes-in-training, Dungeon Defenders is rough around the edges, but has the makings of greatness. The gameplay is simple to pick-up and play, and there is a sizable amount of loot to obtain (even if, sadly, only the weapon changes reflect the character model) as well as WoW-like pets to collect and upgrade. It may not be the penultimate Tower Defense game this generation, but it’s a sufficient time-waster all the same.
Editor’s Note: Check out the HD footage of Dungeon Defenders below!