Dungeon Defenders: Action-strategy, fantasy-fantastic

October 31, 2011

We like tower defense games, but the formula is getting a bit stale these days. We also like multiplayer action-RPGs, but they’re all blurring into each other lately because nothing stands out. Why not mix the two, then? Developer Trendy Entertainment did just that with Dungeon Defenders, a hybrid game that, despite some peculiar elements, cures the ills of both genres.

Starting out, players select one of four classes, each with strengths, special weapons and different sets of towers, and head into defending their “Eternia Crystal” from attackers. There are little dudes, big dudes, ranged dudes and flying dudes. (We did say this was a tower defense game, after all.) Each wave is preceded by a Build Phase, which allows you to place, repair and upgrade defenses before the next group arrives. Once you’re set, you trigger the wave and start taking things on yourself.

Dungeon Defenders‘ four classes each offer different strategies. The apprentice has the most traditional towers, shooting enemies with fire, lightning and other projectiles, and is essentially a roving tower himself with his ranged magic attacks. The squire sits at the other end of the spectrum, with strong melee swipes, high armor and physical defenses like spiked bumpers. The huntress fires piercing arrows and sets limited-use traps for foes, and the monk strikes swiftly as his spherical auras slow, stun or damage enemies that pass through. You should make sure to use the class you like best, as though you can make a character of each class, each levels separately (and that progression can take a while).

Though you can play this game alone, it’s not really intended for that. The four classes work well together, and if you can gather the people (locally or online), it’s the best way to play. Coordinating a battle plan has a feel similar to popular MOBA games like DOTA and League of Legends, as players shift around to cover different paths. You usually have just a bit less than you need at any given point, and the scramble to cover the holes in your strategy is simultaneously invigorating and panic-inducing.

Dungeon Defenders borrows heavily from World of Warcraft for a lot of its aesthetic and progression. You’ll be collecting and sifting through loot, buying pets to supplement your stats and attacks and using them to hold off orcs and such in environments that are a slightly cartoonish take on fantasy. It works well for a downloadable game, and since it derives its fun from its core mechanics, the surrounding elements are just fine in a tried-and-true, borrowed form.

You’ll get through the game’s main levels after a while, but there’s always more Dungeon Defenders if you want it. Each level has Survival Mode, Pure Strategy Mode (with no attacking and all towers) and a special challenge with different restrictions and goals. what if your crystal kept moving around? What if you had to protect an ogre for some reason? You can find out, if you’d like. Everything has leaderboards, special awards and four difficulty levels, and for a lot of it, you’re really going to need to reach the maximum Level 70 to have a chance. And probably with every character.

There are a few things we’re hoping to see fixed in the future, though. The single-player experience, while still not recommended, could be greatly improved with a function that picks up all loot (which we know wouldn’t work in multiplayer, when fighting over who gets what is an issue). The auto-targeting system works well, but there are times when we’d like to have manual control to take out certain enemies (like, say, big bosses or ones with resistance to our tower’s elements).

Dungeon Defenders is a multiplayer game that’s great for just having fun, as well as one that can leave a dedicated group engrossed for weeks. You should probably get it. We guess that’s what we’re saying.

Pros: Great defense, action and progression elements put together
Cons: A few tedious tasks, and single-player is a big grind

Score: 5/5

Questions? Check out our review guide.