‘Dungeon Defenders’ PSN Review – Genre Mixing At Its Best
An ambitious game by any standard, Dungeon Defenders melds together various genre mechanics to create something quite unique. Trendy Entertainment took bits and pieces from other games and created their Frankenstein: a third-person, action-RPG, tower defense game. It blends together rather nicely, offering a multiplayer experience that is hard to find anywhere else.
With the multitude of great tower defence games it has become hard to grab the attention of consumers. Dungeon Defenders hasn’t had that problem. Through intriguing visuals, strategic depth, and an enjoyable hybrid of gameplay types, Dungeon Defenders has quickly grown to become a fan favourite.
While the story is fairly uninteresting and shallow it is overlooked in favor of great gameplay. The core of that gameplay involves setting up your defence, much like you would in any other tower defence game. Defences are easy to use and effective if placed well. Each tower will cost you mana, which you find from defeated foes and scattered chests. Once the build phase is complete you’ll soon find that the fun is just getting started. You will have to use your hero to directly defend your crystal. While the combat is perfectly functional it does lack a feeling of satisfaction about it. Certain classes fare better in battle than others but the game fails to deliver the excitable action quite like Orcs Must Die manages to, for example. Regardless, the RPG elements work beautifully, adding customization and depth to a genre not known for either. This innovative take on tower defence helps set Dungeon Defenders apart from the rest.
Maybe innovation is too bold a word. After all, the game is essentially just borrowing mechanics already used in other genres. Ingeniously balanced is a far more fitting description, as the game balances all of the various genre mechanics artfully, never leaning too heavily towards any one.
Unfortunately, the RPG elements also come equipped with one of the unwelcome trappings of RPGs: slow level progression; specifically, the weak state of your hero for the first 20 or so levels. The game simply feels too restrictive early on, making it harder to enjoy the game when you first jump in. Your speed is so low that you will probably check the controls for a run key. The early gear is useless, variety in defences lacking and the hero incredibly weak. This feeling of restriction makes the earlier levels less enjoyable and far more difficult. If enough time is put in, the later levels with a stronger hero can be an absolute blast in comparison.
The visuals are inviting, with vibrant colourful images and cartoony character art. The audio reinforces the fantasy theme quite well, with tunes that invoke action and adventure. The entire presentation makes Dungeon Defenders an audio-visual joy to play.
The game is best when played with friends or even strangers online. Using each of your characters strengths to better your defences is a great feeling. If you have 4 players, all with unique towers and abilities, it can feel like a real team experience. That being said, single-player is a far less enjoyable affair. The story is paper thin, difficulty too high, defences lacking variety, and characters devoid of personality. Let’s face it; games like these are always better with friends and Dungeon Defenders is no exception. It lends itself perfectly to cooperative play. Trying to cook up a defence, whether in split-screen or online, can be one of the better experiences to be had. You will find yourself chaotically running around trying to keep your defences in tact, yelling to your partners all the while. Do yourself a favour and convince a friend to purchase it with you, or play split screen. The game simply does not deliver quite enough in single-player.
What Dungeon Defenders does deliver is depth, and it does so in spades. The game features levelling, mana usage, pets, equipable gear, and character abilities. Add in the fact that there is a maximum defence units that forces you to place towers responsibly along with an unforgiving difficulty level, and you have got a game perfect for strategists and grinders.
For better or worse, that is what Dungeon Defenders boils down to. If the idea of diving head first into an incredibly deep, challenging, and hard to master tower defence, action RPG sounds like a good time; then you’ll be hard pressed to find anything better. At the same time, if you’re looking for something you can breeze through with a high emphasis on the ‘action’, look elsewhere. I recommend playing with others as it will alleviate many of the problems. That being said, if you aren’t looking for a deep, strategy filled game, friends will only help for so long. Dungeon Defenders isn’t for everyone, but for those that it does fit, it fits like a glove.
You can find out more information about Dungeon Defenders at its official website and you can purchase it on PSN, Xbox Live Marketplace, Steam, iOS and Android.
Review summary Pros:
Visually pleasing, fun co-op multiplayer, RPG elements add a lot of depth and content
Not enjoyable when played alone, weak story, slow level progression