Dungeon Defenders Review

Developer: Trendy Entertainment / Publisher: D3 Publisher / Played on: Xbox 360 / Price: 1200 MSP ($15) / ESRB: Everyone 10+ (Alcohol Reference, Fantasy Violence, Animated Blood)

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What’s going on here? Two tower defense mash-up games for the Xbox 360 in one month? And they’re both pretty darn good to boot? Coming hot off the heels of Orcs Must Die! is Trendy Entertainment’s Dungeon Defenders, a combination of the tower defense and action RPG genres. With an emphasis on hacking and slashing through foes instead of strategically placing towers, Dungeon Defenders places you in the middle of the action as hordes of enemies storm your castle.

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Gameplay

When looking at Dungeon Defenders it’s hard not to compare it to the similar Orcs Must Die!, but the two games are like the two sides of a coin. While Orcs Must Die! has a strong strategy element and more of a focus on placing defensive towers, Dungeon Defenders has a stronger focus on action and cooperative play. There are four character classes to play as in Dungeon Defenders: the Apprentice is a jack-of-all-trades who balances strengths in tower placement and fighting skill; the Squire has more significance placed on fighting than tower placement; the Huntress is a stealthy class that uses poisonous attacks and moves quickly; and the Monk is a healer who can fight and aid teammates. There is a huge emphasis placed on co-op play, so picking the right class to form a formidable team will lead to victory. Your character can level up to level 70, and you’ll gain skill points to use to enhance damage, health, tower strength, and more (think Diablo II). As you slay foes they will drop loot for you to pick up and equip. Finding new weapons, helmets, armor, and boots with slightly better stats will increase your overall strength much as they would in other RPGs. Weapons and armor can also be leveled up and customized by infusing them with mana that you earn from slain enemies. You have a lot of malleability in creating a character just as you want.

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Each level can be played either solo or with up to three other players locally or via Xbox Live. Playing solo is a great way to learn the ropes for your character but playing with friends is what the developers had in mind. After an initial set up phase to scope the arena and set up traps and towers the horde will begin its crawl to the Eternia Crystal that you must defend. After you beat the enemies back there is another setup phase followed by another attack phase. Repeat that until you’ve defeated each wave and the accompanying boss monster at the end of the final wave and you’ve beaten the level. Beating a level isn’t easy. You will see many, many defeats before claiming victory, and a lot of that has to do with the nature of the game. If you’re not playing with four players you’re already at a disadvantage as the game doesn’t do a good job of scaling enemies down for solo play. Environments are fairly large with more than enough entry points to defend. Being too low in level can also spell instant defeat as you simply can’t keep up with onslaught of enemies making their way to the Eternia Crystal. Dungeon Defenders trudges heavily in the land of the grind. You’ll kill enemies over and over only to gain a level or two and try again when you’re properly equipped. Be warned: If you don’t like grinding to victory, you won’t like Dungeon Defenders. On top of this the game in incredibly difficult: the default difficulty will kick your ass unless you’re leveled up well. I ran through the game on easy mode and still got my butt handed to me more often than not. This all stems back to the game being a grind more than anything else.

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Multiplayer

Although Dungeon Defenders boils down to a grind-fest, it’s still fun to play with friends. You can jump in and join a game already in progress to lend your help, or you can set up a custom match to meet specific preferences such as level requirements and which stage to play. The game is easily at its best with four players: not only is dealing with all the enemies much more manageable, but you’ll find better loot and more mana. Certain towers can benefit from being placed near another player’s tower. For example, placing the Squire’s defensive spike wall in front of the Apprentice’s offensive magic missile tower spells doom for most all enemies. You can also heal and upgrade your own towers as well as your allies’ towers. I liked the co-op gameplay a lot: it’s a nice blend of action and strategy in a genre that otherwise wouldn’t have action, strategy, or co-op at all. Dungeon Defenders is a good game to have a group of friends to play with.

Control

The controls are a mishmash of good and bad. Moving around, placing towers, and attacking is fairly simple. Skills like healing yourself and repairing towers are mapped to the D-Pad for quick access so the spotlight stays on the action. An auto-targeting system locks you in to attack the nearest enemy. This is a cumbersome feature as you cannot switch to a different enemy until you either kill the one you’re locked onto or move far enough away. The camera can be controlled manually but it will adjust automatically to try and give the best view on the action, ultimately negating any manual input. The camera will frequently get locked in awkward angles that obscure your eye on the action. Combined with auto-locking, the camera can become a bigger enemy than even the colossal ogres you’ll be fighting. Menus are also needlessly complex. Navigating through inventory, stat, and character screens can give you a headache with all the options, words, and preferences to choose from. Although controlling your character is simple, most everything else will give you trouble.

9

Bottom Line

Analogy time: Dungeon Defenders is to co-op and customization as Orcs Must Die! is to solo play and strategy. The amount of customization in Dungeon Defenders is high: leveling up to 70, increasing stats, and finding and improving weapons allows for the creation of a very refined character. A grueling difficulty and intense grind hamper the otherwise stellar multiplayer experience. Though the underlying action RPG mechanics are well done, constant grinding through improperly balanced levels brings the game down a couple notches.

6 / 10

  1. Pingback: Review: Dungeon Defenders « SlickGaming

  2. i dont get how this can get a worst score then orc must die. yes the maps are unbalanced but its the unbalanceness (if this is even a word) that made it challenging. i truly think this deserve more then a 6. it might not look good or fun at the start but when your playing high level games on insane and hard it makes orc must die on nightmare a mere childplay. orc must die took 8 or 9 hours from me and that will be it. dungeon defender came out last week and i spend 50+ on it already and i will continue to do so for another few hundred hours. that is battlefield 3 dont take those hours from me.

    to me and my friends this game out shine orc must die and from all the events coming next month i still think it deserve at least a 7 or even a 8

    try playing a charactor to level 70 and maybe you guys will see the other side of this game

    sorry for all these personal thoughts :D

  3. personally i would give it higher score just because it is a fun enough co-op game to play for 10 min to 3 hours i just wish they would balance squire and buff ranger her needing to reload ruins entire balance when monk does same dmg and does not need to reload plus he has melee and his aura stay up longer than her traps

  4. I think reviewers shouldn’t compare games, while Ocrs and Dungeon Defenders are a similar genre they are very different games. If “two games are like the two sides of a coin” why would you compare them or even mention them in the same review? I also find it weird that Dungeon Defenders got a 6/10 seeing as Orcs got a 9/10 and the overall review sounded pretty positive.

    Dungeon Defenders has TONS of loot and character customization including a pet system and 4 player online/split screen co-op, Orcs is short and can be beaten in one sitting “the game can be completed in around five hours, and after completing each level there’s little incentive to keep playing.” -Jason Jasicki

    For the same price why would you buy a game that has no replay value, co-op, loot or character customization??? I would figure a game with more content would get a better score, it seems like DD is getting knocked down a peg because it has more content and isn’t a simple easy to play “iPhone-esque” game

  5. That’s what you get for playing the xbox live version of the game because everybody loves it on PC sense you can actually mod the game. But then again you guys apparently don’t know what a PC is….sad really but oh well

  6. From reading this review, have to say I think that Mr. Jasicki kind of missed the point. Especially when he discusses the importance of towers vs. the importance of heroes.

    “While Orcs Must Die! has a strong strategy element and more of a focus on placing defensive towers, Dungeon Defenders has a stronger focus on action and cooperative play.”

    I’ll admit, my experience has been somewhat limited. As soon as I finish these papers, going to sit down and play this game for a week straight. But from what I HAVE seen, heard, and experienced for m’self, the reviewer has an…unusual, not-mainstream view of the importance of towers vs. the importance of heroes and the way that whole system interacts. Can’t outright say for sure if that’s wrong, but the matter is CERTAINLY debatable. It seems like on extremely easy and straightforward levels/difficulties, you can rely on either your autoattacks or your towers, if you so choose. Using both will make it a breeze. But as the game gets harder and harder, you have to damn-well make sure you’ve got both working together. I honestly think that the role of the heroes, most of the time, is to support and buy time for the towers to properly do their job, though that varies by game mode, I suppose.

    And I feel this review completely failed to capture or even hint at this level of interaction–in fact, it hinted at the opposite.

  7. I stopped reading this after ” With an emphasis on hacking and slashing through foes instead of strategically placing towers, Dungeon Defenders places you in the middle of the action as hordes of enemies storm your castle.”

    This article is a fucking joke and the author should realize that these scores factor into a metacritic score – Hence you should play the entire game before giving a piss poor, and obviously uninformed review.

    What a fucking joke.

  8. Seconded, it sounds like the review was written on the basis of a very limited experience of the game and little research.

  9. I’d have to say it seems like the scores for DD and Orcs should be reversed. Orc 6/10 Dungeon Defenders 9/10.

    I have been playing this game like crazy and must say it is fun playing both Solo AND Multiplayer. I have a level 52 squire and level 35 apprentice, have beaten the game on medium and am two levels away from beating it on hard…all done on solo. I guessing that give me a little credibility and saying that more emphasis is placed on action rather than strategic defenses is basically a formula for failure. Even on hard difficulty, strategically placed towers are key and if properly placed, my only job is to make sure they are healed.

    I can see why the reviewer had to constantly grind…he was relying on his character’s attack to finish a level rather than his defenses. Too bad he didn’t play the game enough to realize how wrong he is and the amount of false and misleading information is unsettling:

    “With an emphasis on hacking and slashing through foes instead of strategically placing towers, Dungeon Defenders places you in the middle of the action as hordes of enemies storm your castle.” – Not True!

    “Dungeon Defenders has a stronger focus on action and cooperative play” – DD is much more strategic than Orcs

    “If you’re not playing with four players you’re already at a disadvantage as the game doesn’t do a good job of scaling enemies down for solo play” – Untrue if you know what you are doing…maybe he should have watched the tutorial…lol. Also, playing on multiplayer adds at least 75% more enemies per each wave.

    “Dungeon Defenders trudges heavily in the land of the grind” – Not if you use your towers…this is a defense game at heart…not an action hack n slash

    In Multiplayer section: “Certain towers can benefit from being placed near another player’s tower. For example, placing the Squire’s defensive spike wall in front of the Apprentice’s offensive magic missile” – YOU DON’T NEED TO PLAY MULTIPLAYER IN ORDER TO COMBINE DEFENCES…you can switch during the build phase at the forge.

    Dungeon Defenders is to co-op and customization as Orcs Must Die! is to solo play and strategy – WHAT?!?!?!

  10. CAPTA1NRAG3 I just want to say you really need to wake up and realise what you just wrote. Sad or what? someone get him a hanky please I beg

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