Dungeon Defenders Review

Dungeon Defenders

Surprisingly, as first-person and over-the-shoulder shooters continue to populate the video game landscape, tower defense games have become somewhat commonplace. However, with Gears of War, Call of Duty and other big name franchises using a tweaked version of the formula in a more adult setting, it’s refreshing to play a game like Dungeon Defenders. Gone are the turbulent dystopias laden with debris and hopelessness. Gone are the meat-head exchanges and the arsenals of really big, really powerful guns. What’s left is a cartoony medieval romp.

Think Gauntlet Legends meets Chibi character models. It plays a tune befit for RPG lovers, delving into the casual side of things now and again. Here we have the bulky squire character (warrior in RPG language); here is the favorable apprentice (mage in RPG language); and here are the other the other two characters that were clearly afterthoughts (more on that later).

Enemies are laborious but slow. They saunter out of the gate rather than charge head-on. Take “The Two Towers” ending battle, cut the speed in half and spill a children’s book color scheme on top. Voila! Dungeon Defenders. It may sound boring at first glance, and, well, it kind of is. The game crawls toward you at the outset. If you’re like me and skip all the tutorials on what’s what, it can seem a bit layered. It’s like looking at a Seurat painting with a microscope. If you step back a bit, take a wider view, the simplicity of the game will present itself. Which is exactly what I love about it.

Along with the squire and apprentice, there’s also a huntress and a monk available at the start. Each of the characters has their own tower defenses. The squire and apprentice use more offensive towers that attack enemies directly. In other words, they’re the easiest characters to use. The huntress, who is the only female character in the game, combines a crossbow with bombs/trap defenses. She’s a difficult character to master as her arsenal is limited in its amount of uses. And the monk… er… the monk has aura defenses; auras that slow enemies down, auras that cause damage, auras that, even when backed by the monk’s haste and versatility, fail to do anything truly effective.

During battles, your objective is to protect a large crystal, or several crystals, depending on which level you play. The logistics are simple: enemies come from different entry points. You defend those entry points. You kill the enemy, pillage their corpses for troves of weapons you’ll most likely sell and move onto the next level. Ob-la-di, ob-la-da.

There doesn’t seem to be a lot here to keep your attention. But think about it: how many rounds of zombie mode would you play until you got bored? Sometimes a concept is enough for a game to thrive on. Dungeon Defenders thrives. The variety of level design behooves strategy (my roommates and I would literally pull up the map, sit in front of the TV and point where we’d want to put defenses). The inclusion of pets and weapon customization is old news, but it plays to the heart of neurotic and covetous RPG fans. The same can be said for the Survival and Challenge modes, which teem with hours of perfection hunting and record breaking.

Bring friends, though. This game is not meant to be played alone. Either from your own couch or online (preferabably the latter as the split screen does not compliment this game well), Dungeon Defenders excels when you’re fighting over who gets the last treasure chest. The game’s bar or central hub only adds to this sense. There you can test out weapons, sell or buy items, and swap out characters.

One of the problems with Dungeon Defenders is the inconsistent difficulty. On the game’s default Medium, you can get away with playing mechanic and simply maintain your defenses each round. Your sword doesn’t even need to be bloodied. Hard, Insane and Master modes, meanwhile, are infected with such a volume of enemies that you’ll lose your character amongst the stampede.

Another issue is the swarm of armor and weapons collected at the end of each level. Your inventory will fill quickly. More likely than not, those items won’t benefit you in any way and will wind up sold for cash. It’s a monotonous process reminiscent of Mass Effect‘s bloated inventory system.

The field of action-RPGs has become an odd mix of casual hardcore games. It’s a genre mutt that often tries, and sometimes fails, to blend the statistical nature of RPGs with the mindless glee of action games. Dungeon Defenders may not escape its experiment with the formula sans a few singed hairs, but its lighthearted nature and addictive simplicity are a fun concoction. Also, the downloadable content for the game, including characters, maps, equipment and modes, will offer plenty more to come back for in the future.


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Author: Greg Galiffa View all posts by
Greg Galiffa is an Associate Editor at GamerNode. He's also an apologist for the first TMNT film. You can follow him on Twitter @greggaliffa

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