Co-Review: Dungeon Defenders

Trendy Entertainment isn’t well known to the gaming community, but after Dungeon Defenders, they need to be. It sets a new standard for the tower defense genre and has taken many bold steps that refresh it, while adding potential for more innovation. Please note that this game was co-reviewed by VGW’s Phil Aronson and VGW Super Fan, Joe.

0 Co Review: Dungeon Defenders

The more players, the merrier

Joe: I wish we could have gotten two more players for this game, because the difficulty scales based on how many players are in your party. With one player it does its best to give you a challenge, and with two, it makes it necessary to work together to get past any of the levels. With three or four, you basically have mass chaos that was enjoyable in every way. You can play single player and still enjoy collecting armor, improving your character, and buying familiars (pets), but you’ll get the most out of the game by playing the multiplayer.

Phil: The most difficult part about solo play is covering all of the sides of the map at once. On larger maps, that means placing defenses so your vulnerable areas are better covered while you can‘t attend to them, otherwise you can’t move quick enough to keep everything safe on your own.

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Defending your Eternia Crystal is more fun with others.

Joe: Many games are said to deliver “more bang for your buck,” and Dungeon Defenders should be the poster child of that crowd — I was shocked at the amount of content this game had for only $15. Between the content and customization, you’ll find yourself enjoying the grind to level seventy with every character you pick.

Phil: The 3+ GB download is on par with many decent-sized free-to-play mmos, which just goes to show how much they put into it. It also feels polished; the gameplay is smooth and the game itself is mostly bug-free. Future DLC will only add to that size, and if it’s as cheap as the game, we can see players keeping Dungeon Defenders in their regular rotation for a long time.

Unique gameplay and fun boss battles 

Joe: Each character is dynamically different and can be fully customized. Don’t like getting into the middle of the action? Play a mage, upgrade your tower stats, and find gear that adds to it. Love getting in the face of orcs, elves, kobolds, and other nasty creatures? Play the Squire or Monk, upgrade your health and attack damage, and then go forth.

Phil: Most players will find the Squire or Mage to be the best place to start. They offer the most traditional towers, making them easier to learn if you‘ve ever played a tower defense game. The Hunter and Monk offer less-straightforward towers that give differing forms of AoE damage and auras. They require better defensive coordination with your team, which is likely why the game rates them as being harder to play.

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Each character is better at a different role. Mages, like the one seen here, are excellent at support.

Joe:  The boss battles are a great idea as well. I’ve played some World of Warcraft in my time. and I had flashbacks from the entertaining encounters. Each one is unique and can rip apart your defenses if you’re not careful. In then end you’ll conquer the bad guy, feel like a hero, and be handsomely rewarded. For you 40k fans out there, Phil got a chain blade as one his spoils. And yes, it did make chainsaw noises. I was extremely jealous.

Phil: Boss battles are one of the situations where team character composition is extra important. Later in the game, Ogres occasionally showed up, which have high health and heavy AoE damage. If someone didn’t stand in front of him and/or pull him away from your defensive line, he could deal a ton of damage to any clustered towers. While they aren’t a full-fledged boss, the disruption they cause makes them the equivalent of a mini-boss, especially the first few times you face them.

Strong map design and computer-friendly gameplay

Phil: Trendy Entertainment did a good job with map design. Everything feels balanced and never got to the point of feeling unfair when running with just the two of us on medium difficulty, early on. As your character progresses statistically, content naturally gets easier. Players who prefer an easier time can stick to the lower difficulty levels, while those who want a challenge can ramp up the difficulty and still be satisfied.

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As you progress, maps get bigger in size and trickier to defend.

Joe:  The graphics on my computer could be better, but this game still plays well on lower end rigs and runs at a smooth frame rate. This isn’t a Crysis game and it’s meant to be played by a wider audience. Feel free to Google “System requirements lab” and check to see if yours will work. Most likely at this point, you’re seeing the green bar telling you you’re good to go.

Phil: I was impressed to see how smoothly the game played on my laptop. However, I ran into some performance issues when dealing with the Monk’s auras, even when no enemies were around. My laptop did exceed all of the minimum requirements, which is why the slowdown surprised. This leads into one flaw: limited visual options. You have low, medium, and high, with no special customization and nothing in between. The cause of this is assumedly the transition from console to PC..

Too good to be true: a few flaws slowed us down

Joe: The UI is fairly clunky and is built for the console crowd. If you’re playing this on PS3 or 360, you’ll find the menu to be fairly intuitive. If you’re playing it on PC, you’ll find yourself spending more time then you wanted to in the menus. You may miss-click a few times and other times it takes too long to unlock items that you want to sell.

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While navigation can be annoying, more on-screen hotkeys are one benefit to playing the PC version over the other ones.

Phil: The developers released a number of patches, shortly after launch, to fix different bugs and inconveniences, some of which would have been brought up in this review. We were pleasantly surprised to see little changes, like pressing the tab button to close the chat text box in addition to opening it. While most changes were good, there was one major change that disrupted this review experience and can‘t be overlooked.

Originally the Gamespy client, which allows you to play cross-platform, featured a separate set of save files. They updated that so Steam and Gamespy shared the same client, which is a great idea. Unfortunately, anyone who had accessed the Gamespy client at least once had their character data wiped, if they hadn’t removed a certain file beforehand. There was no way to know this unless you actively read the forums before updating. The lost character data can’t be recovered, but they will make you a new one from scratch based on your description. They recreated my character, then added some additional content to compensate for the problem and the potential game time lost. This makes me question what type of internal testing they have. They assured me they would be recreating each reported lost character by hand, and thanks to this Gamespy/Steam merger only being a one-time need, we’re assuming nothing of this scale will ever happen again.

Bring some friends and enjoy yourself

Joe:  Multiplayer may be fun, but like I said before, you need to make some friends. There is plenty of room for griefing in this game. Don’t expect strangers on Steam or Xbox Live to ask you if you could use an awesome weapon drop. They may have another character that would also need it. If you’re not careful, you could have a lot of valuable items taken before you can get there. Obviously when me and Phil played together this was not a problem, but once in a while I would take an item he later told me he could use. Had I been a complete stranger, I might not have given it to him.

Phil: Item distribution was the main issue with multiplayer. I ran a lot of rounds with random teams and other players were trying to grab up the dropped items as fast as possible. With my role of melee and trying to cover multiple waves at once solo, I didn’t have time to pick up drops until after the round was over.

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Juggling between defending the sides and protecting your Eterna Crystal from flying enemies makes this map a blast to play with others. Soloing it is a lot more difficult.

Joe: One last criticism is that the game is not very friendly towards new players. Do not get me wrong, an easy wave is simple for those just starting out, but understanding all the icons and abilities and where they fit could be daunting for a beginner. A simple icon key in the options menu would solve a problem like this

Phil: Players have to go too far out of their way in-game to have a clue what the icons and stats mean. A lot of assumptions were made on how each stat functioned and whether certain stats are more useful for different situations, or if that “better” weapon may not be as good as your current one.

The Bottom Line

If we were to sum up Dungeon Defenders in one sentence it would be this: Trendy Entertainment took every enjoyable idea from the tower defense genre, added customization and action-based combat, then decided it wasn’t good enough and added more content. We could see a game of this quality easily selling at the $30-40 mark. If you have ever enjoyed a tower defense game at any point in your life, and nothing we‘ve mentioned up to this point has made you lose interest, then we highly recommend Dungeon Defenders. This game is only $15 on Steam, XBLA, and PSN, so do yourself a favor and buy it now.

  • Release Date: October 19th 2011
  • Genre: Action RPG, Tower Defense
  • Platform: PC, PlayStation 3, Playstation Network, Xbox 360, Xbox LIVE Arcade
  • Developer: Trendy Entertainment
  • Publisher: Reverb
  • ESRB Rating: E10+

Our Score: 4.5/5

Editor’s note:  Two review copies of the game were provided to VGW by Trendy Entertainment.

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