Published on October 31st, 2011 | by Derek Strickland, Contributor
Dungeon Defenders XBLA Review
Title: Dungeon Defenders
Developer: Trendy Entertainment
Genre: Role Playing, Strategy & Simulation
Release Date: 10/19/2011
MSRP: 1200 MSP ($14.99)
Trendy Entertainment’s Dungeon Defenders delivers an incredibly original and enjoyable gameplay experience that makes use of many fan-favorite genres, complete with a robust fantasy story arc that’s full of mystic wonder and hours upon hours of infinitely replayable gameplay. Players can enjoy the tower-defense action time and time again–locally via splitscreen or with friends on Xbox LIVE–and not ever have the same experience twice.
With a blend of horde-style survival action and traditional tower-defense strategy, this title pits gamers in a series of strategic battles where waves of enemies spawn en masse to destroy sacred Eternia Crystals. Gamers must use their unique character abilities and skills to stop the evil mobs as they swarm and threaten to overwhelm our heroes.
Dungeon Defenders has a massive treasure trove arsenal of weapons and armor that are dropped randomly, which is similar to such titles as Torchlight or even the Diablo series on PC. When a weapon or piece of armor drops, players can easily compare the item’s stats with the currently equipped item on-the-fly without having to enter the inventory menu. This is very helpful and allows players to automatically equip better armaments whilst in-battle. There are many grades of equip-able gear, from worn to torn and even unique items that have fixed stats.
Created with the technology of the Unreal Engine, Dungeon Defenders makes use of impressive and colorful graphics that imbibe gamers with a true sense of fantasy. There are certain parts of the game that are cell-shaded, giving the characters and their weaponry a cartoonish look that’s akin to Torchlight or even the massively popular World of Warcraft series. The visuals and environments are highly distinguished and all contain the stylish flair that is associated with this title, and each level is completely unique in it’s appearance and layout.
The heart of this game’s enjoyability lies in the emphasis of co-operative gameplay and teamwork. Gamers are dependent upon their teammates in many ways, and they have to work together as a team in order to vanquish their foes without losing the Eternia Crystals. Each character has a role in combat, however players can customize their specific class in a number of ways by distributing skill points and equipping weapons and armor that give bonuses.
Dungeon Defenders distinguishes itself from any other game on the marketplace today with it’s combination of features from many fan-favorite genres. This mashup isn’t your standard turn-based RPG, nor is it your standard strategic tower-defense game: instead this title ties a number of elements together with it’s use of action-packed gameplay. Players still make use of tactics, yet instead of it being an intimately thought-out strategy, it’s more of a arbitrary decision that doesn’t affect the entire scope of the game.
Throughout the game players can make use of one of four different character classes–Apprentice, Huntress, Squire and Monk–that each have their own specific skills, defenses, and melee attacks to be used in battle. The classes can be further customized through level-up bonuses so players aren’t limited to a single designation or role during gameplay. The four classes and their roles in combat are:
- Apprentice: Donning his robe and wizard hat, the Apprentice is eager to delve deeper into the world of the arcane. Under the guidance of the Grand Magus, the Apprentice has learned the art of conjuration. While summoning towers of mystical defense to aid him, he blasts his enemies with waves of magic from a far.
- Huntress: Trained in reconnaissance, the sleek and slender Huntress deploys deadly traps and explosives, but don’t let her physique perplex you. This elegant she‐devil is trained in ranged weaponry and is sure to always hit her mark. Raining down arrows and ammo from above, the enemy never sees her coming.
- Monk: The Monk, a once peaceful and passive student, has been called from his solitary meditation and forced to take up arms in the defense of his land. Only he, through his expert spear fighting skill, can avenge the death of his master. Channeling his aura energies to heal allies and cripple foes, the Monk is the ultimate team asset.
- Squire: A brave knight‐in‐training, the Squire upholds the honor and nobility of his kingdom with every slice of his blade. Building defenses of brute force the Squire prefers melee weapons as his instruments of justice. Bludgeoning spikes and whirling blades unleash the rage he bestows upon his foes.
The varied blend of gametypes assure that Dungeon Defenders has something for everyone. RPG fans will love the online multiplayer through Xbox LIVE and the PlayStation Network, as well as the expansive level-up system and class-specific combat roles; fans who love action-packed combat will love the fast-paced and frenetic melee battles; and gamers who enjoy utilizing tactics and strategy in tower defense RTS titles will have a blast laying traps and auras to annihilate oncoming foes.
One of the most unique elements of Trendy Entertainment’s Xbox LIVE Arcade title it’s traditional role-playing game aspects. Like most RPG’s, when a character levels up players can assign a pool of points to power-ups and bonuses–each of which fortify certain aspects of the character. Sometimes it may take a bit of trial and error to get an idea of how the upgrades impact in-game combat, and it’s always a good idea to strategically plan out upgrades that pertain to a player’s specific playing style and class type.
As gamers level up, they not only earn skill points but can also unlock powerful new Defense skills–which culminate the tower-defense elements of the game–that are essential to later levels and stages. Along with new powers players will also be able to wear higher grade armors and use stronger weaponry in combat. This linear progression is an element that nearly all RPG’s make use of, making the player feel as if they’ve broken new grounds and have become stronger in various ways.
With a myriad of game modes to play, gamers will have plenty to keep them busy and entertained in Dungeon Defenders. Gametypes such as Pure Strategy and Survival Mode add a whole new level of replay-ability and interactivity to the game as players can team up with friends on Xbox LIVE. These modes and the optional side-missions offer impressive rewards like unique weapons and armors for completing set challenges–however they are quite difficult and are recommended for high level characters.
The controls in this title are a bit tricky to get the hang off right off the bat, so it’s best that players pay attention to the tutorial or try out a few campaign levels before jumping into an online match. Studying the button layout scheme on the options menu helps out as well, however the controls themselves aren’t over-convoluted and feel fluid during gameplay.
The general interface in Dungeon Defenders is packed full of information and can be a bit distracting at times. As a gamer who’s used to having a radar that shows nearby enemies, I personally make use of the in-game map screen which shows all enemies on the entire level as well as other information such as the location and condition of laid defenses and traps, and the location and status of teammates. Once gamers become acclimated with the on-screen HUD they will find all the info quite useful when making strategic decisions like defense placement or funneling enemies into a certain area.
The in-game radial menus are very nicely designed and are user-friendly for inexperienced players. Getting used to the layout at the start is a good idea, but before long you’ll be using the wheel without even looking at it–especially if you’re used to RPG’s like the Mass Effect or Dragon Age franchises.
Like most tower-defense titles, in this game enemies move on a set trajectory or path. For the most part monsters are quite slow and shambling, giving players precious time to prepare for the oncoming waves. Avoiding getting overwhelmed is very important in this game, and dividing up teammates to handle certain quadrants and sectors of the map can be a useful in-game tactic.
For all of you achievement hunters out there, I’m sorry to say that Dungeon Defenders’ achievements are very hard to unlock. Like all XBLA titles, this game offers a total of 200 Gamerscore to unlock…however to achieve them all it would take a considerable amount of playtime and expertise.
Final Truth: Dungeon Defenders is an expansive and robust massive online multiplayer action RPG/tower defense title where gamers can team up with friends around the world to take down hordes of goblins and monsters in a mystical medieval fantasy world. With an impressive story arc that defines the mythical land and a cast of unforgettable heroes each with their own customized roles and abilities, this game shines and provides hours of enjoyable gameplay.
From the huge variety of weapons and armors to the freedom to customize your character as you see fit, players feel a sense of true power and wonder that defines games of this kind. Trendy Entertainment delivers a truly remarkable and original release that blends a number of highly coveted genres and elements into one action-packed gameplay experience that pays for itself ten times over with it’s sheer level of infinite replay-ability.
+ Huge emphasis on online co-operative play
+ Variety of game modes
+ Massive arsenal of weapons and armors
+ Mashup of multiple genres including RPG and tower-defense
+ Entertaining, fun & enjoyable
– May take some time getting used to the controls & gameplay dynamics
– Playing alone is quite challenging and ill-advised
Dungeon Defenders is now available on Steam, the PlayStation Network, and the Xbox LIVE Arcade Marketplace for 1200 MSP ($14.99). For more information please visit the game’s official website.